As a supporter of the Network of Enlightened Women (NeW) who has spoken at and attended their events, I’m glad to see their new campaign unveiled today called, “This is What a Conservative Looks Like.”
College campuses can be lonely places for a conservative woman. Truth is, diversity and inclusion often stop at the gates of political ideology — even as campuses profess to focus on economic, gender, religious or ethnic diversity.
During my time as a graduate student at Harvard, I often felt stifled and mischaracterized by the rhetoric of some classmates who painted conservatives broadly as backward, narrow-minded and misogynistic. This conflicts with reality. For example, pollster Kellyanne Conway pointed out last year that of the six women Republican senators, three are pro-life and three are pro-choice. Yet 100 percent of female Senate Democrats say they are pro-choice. The GOP truly allows for ideological diversity on the question of abortion while Democrats require absolute purity, contradictory to the nuanced approach that Gallup and others tell us women actually want.
I agree with NeW’s vision: it’s time for young women to stop hiding their conservative views. The group’s new campaign is intended to foster a positive community for young conservative women and recruit more of them to speak out. Starting today, NeW supporters are flooding social media with the hashtag ShesConservative, posting across Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.
Throughout the coming week, NeW is encouraging the public to participate by taking a selfie and posting a note about why she’s a conservative with the hashtag. You can also check out NeW photos and read the essays by NeW student leaders, including extended essays collected this summer.
Emily Hall, a student at Harvard, shared her thoughts for NeW:
“Before college, I had never really been challenged in my political beliefs. I went to Catholic school for 14 years, and most of the people I interacted with agreed with me, at least on most of the issues that I knew and cared about.
“All that changed when I started my freshman year. Many of the people I met were disgusted with conservatism, had misconceptions of what I, as a conservative, might believe, or simply didn’t think that a college-age woman might disagree with modern feminism and liberalism. I quickly learned that I would need to be able to defend every last concept of my long-held belief system.
“The denigration of conservatism extended from other students to my courses, from the hub of on-campus volunteering to the Christmas — no, holiday — decorations in the dining hall, which during my sophomore year included a placemat guide to discussing politics with potentially backward and conservative family at home. I was bombarded with liberalism, and I didn’t know how to stand up against it. I found that what I needed was more education, more speech — I needed to hear the perspectives that I wasn’t getting from my professors and peers. Educating myself on a number of issues allowed me to remember why I am a conservative and develop logical, factual arguments against the pop-culture liberalism that’s so popular on campus.
“I believe in our Constitution, I believe in personal responsibility, and I believe in defending our freedoms. Today, it’s not very popular to believe in these things — but I’ve found a community of people at Harvard and in NeW who remind me that I’m not alone and help empower me to speak out against the liberalism of the university environment.”
My hope is that these young conservative women who take part in #ShesConservative will feel empowered to express themselves openly and proudly. That’s what true feminism looks like to me.
Cross-posted from Opportunity Lives.
Carrie Sheffield is the founder of Bold. She is passionate about storytelling to empower and connect others.