by Elizabeth Campbell
Young conservative women are craving something more. That’s the message we’ve consistently heard since the beginning of 2018 at the Clare Boothe Luce Center for Conservative Women. Thousands of students have heard the conservative message through our student programs, campus lectures, and Florida Summit. Time and time again at these events, that message dominates the feedback.
At CPAC, a packed room of young women heard from a successful journalist, mother, and wife – Molly Hemingway. Molly talked about the personal side of life: how to find a good husband, and why finding a good husband was a key to Molly’s success as both a mother and journalist. Dating, marriage, having a career and being a good mother dominated the Q&A.
It seems these young women are not being exposed to these topics anywhere else. They finally felt like they were in a safe environment at our luncheon to talk about issues that probably are not widely talked about, or accepted, on their campuses. Many of the young women have been told to focus on their career first and a family second, but the women we work with crave something different. Conservative women want more than just a career, they want something lasting.
We noticed this again when we had a packed room of women at our Florida Summit. Rachel Campos-Duffy kicked off the event with a speech about why conservative women are happy warriors and it really boiled down to the fact that conservative women care about family, faith, and freedom. Conservative women find purpose through the joy their family brings them and they don’t feel like they need to blaze through their careers before they can think about settling down and starting a family. Instead, conservative women want to have both, and most do manage to have both a thriving career and successful family life – many just do so at different points in their and their children’s lives.
The hunger for advice on balancing career and family is a startling reminder of the void young women find on college campuses. The college campus is so engrossed in the hook up culture and transient emotional connections that it has stifled an atmosphere that enables dating, healthy relationships, or thoughts about a spouse and raising a family.
I know this to be true from firsthand experience on a college campus. No one talks about marriage and families. It’s almost taboo to be in a serious relationship in college anymore, and going on dates is almost non-existent. The dating scene is now the hookup culture, not a trip to the movies or going bowling.
This is why now, more than ever, it is important for conservative women to be champions of conservative values on their campuses. And that is exactly what we have seen this semester. The CBL Center for Conservative Women has had more campus lectures this semester than ever before, and we are continuing to see this trend of women wanting to promote a strong family to the young women on their campuses.
One woman at our Florida Summit told us said:
Conservative women are particularly disliked on campus, and many people wonder how a woman can be conservative, not a feminist. Going to an all-women’s conference not only teaches us about conservative ideals but also teaches about how to effectively deal with conflict as a conservative woman. As Marji Ross said at the Summit, “If being a good wife means being a bad feminist, than they’re probably jealous of you being a successful woman who is a good wife,” and advice like this might not happen at just a conservative conference. It is special to have a group of women with whom I can converse about politics.
This speaks volumes to what women desire, and miss, on a college campus. They want a more traditional discussion of female empowerment – you know, the one where you do not have to choose one life or the other. They want to be able to talk about how public policy, career, and widely discussed issues play into being a mother, wife, and career woman.
Conservative women definitely do not fall into a special category of just stay at home mothers, or just successful career women. Many conservative women enjoy a little bit of both. However, as the quote from Marji Ross emphasizes above, the modern feminist movement kind of writes off the notion that women can have both. They do not normalize large families, or women taking time from work to raise their children. This is quite different from the conservative woman’s perspective of being a successful woman and being a successful wife and mother.
Another student commented:
I think it’s special that we can gather & recognize our strengths as women not under a social justice narrative, and realize our empowerment is found as individuals and not within the limits of feminism.
Women are becoming tired of this feminist narrative that women cannot have both, and that they should just blaze through their careers. I would say they mask the ignoring of a healthy life balance by calling it “independence” and “empowerment,” but how is being told to pick one or the other empowering? Is that not what women have been fighting against for so many years?
CBL’s goal is to continue to empower the women we work with by exposing them to women like Mollie Hemingway, Rachel Campos-Duffy, Marji Ross, and many more leaders in the conservative movement who are not only successful within their careers, but have also raised wonderful children and are good wives.
These women do not let their careers be the end all – be all of their lives. They know the important role they have in raising the next generation. They understand that being a good wife and good mother means sometimes saying no to different professional opportunities. And these women do not feel guilty about that. They feel empowered to make decisions for themselves, and that naturally leads them to spending more time with their families and maybe lessening their work load so that they can spend time with their children and husbands.
This discussion is becoming increasingly more vital as more and more women are having children later, putting their family lives on hold until they reach a point in their career where they want to be. This seems to be less and less desirable to women, whereas finding a balance between family and career is becoming more desirable.