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September 12 2016

Conservative Women Are The Underdogs On Campus

Forbes
Karin Agness

In a recent interview on the popular blog Humans of New York, Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton described one of the obstacles she has overcome in her long journey towards the White House. While taking the law school admissions test at Harvard, Clinton was one of the only women in the room. “I was feeling nervous,” she explained. And a group of men heckled the women with comments such as, “You don’t need to be here” and “There’s plenty else you can do.” One even warned her that she was threatening to take his spot, which would result in death from being drafted to Vietnam. “And they weren’t kidding around,” Clinton said, “It was intense. It got very personal.”

In the early 1970s, it is easy to imagine that a go-getting woman like Clinton might draw hostility from college men who were threatened by her ambition. Back then, women made up just 10 percent of first year students enrolled in law school. This type of treatment fanned the flames of feminism in the 1970s as women looked for camaraderie and to change the system.

But in 2016, it is difficult to imagine that many women on college campuses today feel similar pressure. After all, women make up almost 50 percent of first year enrollment in law schools and earn a majority of bachelor’s degrees.

Unfortunately, bias and even harassment remains a real problem on America’s college campuses. In many cases, it’s conservative students who are the subject of unwanted pressure and hostility from their fellow undergraduates and faculty. The irony of the current underdog story on college campuses is that it’s Clinton’s feminist standard-bearers who are often to blame for marginalizing conservative women.

I was laughed at by a staff member when I asked our Women’s Center at the University of Virginia if they would be open to cosponsoring an organization for conservative women.

As the leader of what became a national organization for conservative young women, the Network of enlightened Women (known as NeW), I hear stories semester after semester from women who are frustrated that their campus feminist counterparts mock them, insult them and try to shut them down. From peer attacks on Yik Yak, an anonymous social media app, to very public organized protests against conservative female speakers, conservative women receive the message that they don’t belong.

Conservatives need to take a page out of the playbook of the 1970s feminists who transitioned from “consciousness raising” groups into a larger public movement to cause change and recruit new members. It is time for conservative young women to stop hiding their conservative views and shout their conservatism.

To facilitate this, today NeW is launching the #ShesConservative social media campaign as part of a national effort to create a community for young conservative women. The initiative gives women a platform to share their stories of why they are conservative. In a campaign video, the students interviewed mentioned being called, “unintelligent,” “ignorant,” “uneducated,” “anti-women,” “stupid” and “heartless” when asked how people respond to finding out they are conservative.

The #ShesConservative campaign shatters stereotypes about what young women believe today and who makes up the conservative movement. Not all young women are liberals. As part of the effort, students took photos in a “This Is What A Conservative Looks Like” t-shirt and submitted essays.

Paige Lisicki, a student at American University, wrote that she knew she was conservative, “when I received my first paycheck at age 16 and found out the government didn’t think I was smart enough to save for my own retirement and forced me to pay into social security, a failing big government program.”

Ashley Sheek, a student at Western Carolina University, wrote, “I am a God-fearing, free-market-loving woman who doesn’t need government to be strong and successful.”

Harvard student Emily Hall wrote that she is conservative because she believes in the Constitution, personal responsibility and “defending our freedoms.”

These young women are the faces of conservatism.

Over and over in her campaign, Clinton has said that her victory will ensure that girls know they can do anything they want to do. Well, these young women speaking out are letting other women and the world know that young women can be pro-woman and conservative. This might encourage their detractors to at least come to the table for dialogue, rather than automatically dismiss them.

Independent Women's Forum is an educational 501(c)(3) dedicated to developing and advancing policies that aren’t just well intended, but actually enhance people’s freedom, choices, and opportunities. IWF is the sister organization of the Independent Women’s Voice.​
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