Since its inception, feminism—an ideology which professes gender equity across social, political, and economic lines—has been closely associated with the political left. A clear example of this is how both Democratic presidential candidates have embraced the label, while their Republican counterparts couldn’t distance themselves more from it.
But for Sherrie Gibson, a small-business owner from Colorado Springs and member of American Conservatives of Color, along with Sabrina Schaeffer, director of Independent Women’s Forum, a right-wing think-tank—the left doesn’t hold a monopoly on feminism.
Gibson and Schaeffer made their case at Pomona College’s Rose Hills Theater on Tuesday night. Billed by the Pomona Student Union (PSU) as a chance to “hear the perspectives of women who operate within conservative political spaces,” the talk, entitled “Conservative Feminism(s),” touched upon various topics concerning conservatism’s relationship with women and the future of the Republican Party.
When asked by the moderator how identifying as women influenced their politics, the speakers differed in their answers. Gibson, an African-American woman who previously ran for County Commissioner in El Paso County (Colorado) District 2, reflected on how “there aren’t a lot of spaces for women” in politics, especially in more historically conservative parts in the country. Schaeffer, on the other hand, downplayed the role her gender played in her political formation.
“I never thought my gender affected my political ideology, but then [after reading Wendy Shalit’s A Return to Modesty] I decided it does—but not like radical feminists that push a rhetoric of ‘the personal being political,’” she said.
Throughout the talk, Schaeffer continuously criticized what she referred to as the ‘woman-as-victim mantra.’ According to Schaeffer, liberals, academia, and the media have all championed a narrative that makes it seem as if “sexism is lurking around every corner.” Instead, Schaeffer believes that women should embrace both the difficulties of “being grown-ups” and the “natural” differences between men and women. She offered an anecdote of her son “being completely different” than her older sister—even though they both play with dolls—as proof of her assertion.
Gibson and Schaeffer went on to criticize what they see as the media’s misrepresentation of the Republican Party as being anti-woman. Both speakers readily admit that the Republican Party has “room to grow,” but insist that party’s views of “limited government and economic freedom” are consistent with those held by millions of women across the country. Furthermore, both Gibson and Schaeffer suggest that the ‘culture wars’ over same-sex marriage and abortion should not detract from the Republican Party’s overall framework.
When asked why they believe single women predominantly lean liberal, Schaeffer posited that it is because the Democratic Party has dedicated more resources toward attracting women to the party. Gibson agreed, adding that “the breakdown of traditional family roles was a harder transition for conservatives,” ultimately alienating women who seek to work and be independent.