February 4 2016
New Boston Post
By Kara Bettis, New Boston Post
WASHINGTON – At American University in the nation’s capital, a division has emerged among the college’s female students between those who regard themselves as progressive feminists and those who align themselves with feminism’s more conservative wing.
The controversy arose earlier this year when the university’s chapter of Network of Enlightened Women (NeW), a conservative women’s group, posted an announcement for a talk on Feb. 8 by Independent Women’s Forum (IWF) executive director Sabrina Schaeffer.
The IWF, whose staff members contribute regular columns to the NewBostonPost, is a nonpartisan, educational organization that advocates “equity feminism,” a term popularized by philosopher Christina Hoff Sommers to distinguish “traditional, classically liberal, humanistic feminism” from “gender feminism,” which rejects the idea that biological differences between the sexes should have social or political significance.
According to NeW’s Facebook event page, Shaeffer plans to discuss “conservative feminism, the wage gap, and gender politics on college campuses” in her remarks at American next week.
Conservative student newspaper The College Fix obtained Facebook screenshots of American students who slammed the event as damaging to women’s causes.
“When I hear ‘conservative feminism’ I think ‘white feminism’ – empowerment when it’s convenient and ignoring POC [people of color],” one female student reportedly wrote, “Plus the added horror of supporting those who trample on reproductive rights.”
According to the Fix, another female student shared the network’s Facebook page on her account, stating: “Sure NeW, you can ‘enlighten’ me through your ‘Gentlemen Showcase’ or tell me abortion as a right is unnecessary, but I will just call this group out for what it really is – telling women to be content with inequality and be brainwashed into thinking conservatism is empowering.”
In a statement on the organization’s website, NeW’s American University chapter president Krista Chavez said, “We do not choose this path because it is ‘convenient. We uplift each other and debate in an environment where we do not insult or undermine each other.”
Although the women of the network are mostly right-of-center, they nevertheless consider themselves “feminists,” something Chavez thinks makes perfect sense. “The idea of conservative being pro-woman is certainly not ‘oxymoronic,’” she said in her statement.
“Identifying as a conservative does not make us ‘brainwashed’ or ‘content with inequality.’ It actually means that we have considered both sides of the issues, analyzed the arguments, and come to different conclusions that may not identify with modern liberalism or liberal feminism.”
The university’s chapter of conservative feminists also plans to co-host a lecture by conservative political strategist Karl Rove with the university’s college Republican group, an event that has also been heavily criticized, including by student news website The Rival.
Chavez joined the Republican group’s president, Stuart Algood to defend their event on Facebook.
“We very proud to bring different conservative speakers to create a message that encourages free speech, intellectual diversity, and civil discourse among all AU students. A person must hear from all sides of the issues in order to form a proficient argument,” the two organization leaders wrote.
“There is nothing wrong with hearing a different point of view, and we hope that all critics and supporters will join us to create a constructive discussion about political strategy.”