Feminists Come Home – Feminism in the GOP
Feminists Come Home – Feminism’s Place in the GOP
A 32-year-old, self-described “radical” feminist finds fault with recent feminist movements and hopes to inspire other feminists to come home to the Republican Party – where feminism first found its voice.
One afternoon in 2014, I came across an article in the New Yorker. The article, written by Michelle Goldberg, was titled, “What is a Woman? The dispute between radical feminism and transgenderism.” It was an article I would typically have overlooked (I don’t often read the New Yorker anyway). With time to kill, I thought: what the heck?
I had never described myself as a feminist during my youth. As an only child, I was a bit of a tomboy. I have fond memories of fishing with my dad and watching him change the brakes on our Dodge K car. I wanted to be like him. Not a man, of course, but I admired his ability to fix anything. Toys, cars, electronics, even plumbing – he was the best.
Growing up, I struggled to accept my femininity, often feeling awkward in dresses or playing with dolls. I think that issue became more apparent after my parents’ divorce when I was 10. In 5th grade, I remember wrapping my chest with an elastic bandage so that boys wouldn’t notice how I was “filling out.” Most of my friends were boys, and I died thinking that they would now see me as “different” than I had been a few years prior. I knew the “different” was only going to get worse and it did.
Goldberg’s article in the New Yorker opened my eyes to a struggle that I hadn’t even realized was occurring. I read it, re-read it, called my mom and made her read it, made my boyfriend at the time read it, and began obsessing over it. In a nutshell, the article discusses a growing rift between “radical” feminism and the transgender movement. It identified the question – can a man truly become a woman or vice versa? When I read it, I agreed with all the positions of the “radical” feminists quoted in the article. I believed that a man cannot truly say he is a women based on the fact that he feels female and I believe that prostitution should be banned because it exploits and hurts women. Did that make me a “radical” feminist?! As a Republican, I thought those views were merely common sense.
So, let me talk a little bit about feminism as I see it. Nothing irks me more (ask my friends) than when people lump all feminists into the same basket. There are many different veins within modern feminism and a historical context that must be examined to see where feminism has been and where it is going.
The US feminist movement really first kicked off in the mid-1800s. In May 1851, female black abolitionist and human rights advocate, Sojourner Truth, gave her now infamous “Ain’t I a Woman?” speech at the Ohio Women’s Rights Convention in Akron, Ohio. At that time, women were not only working on the abolitionist movement; Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton were also working to secure equal rights for women, too. The 13th Amendment abolishing slavery was ratified in 1865 and that’s where a divergence between giving black men and all women the right to vote began. The 15th Amendment, ratified in 1870, granted black men the right to vote. However, women’s rights had been cast aside. Fifty years later, in 1920, the 19th Amendment was finally ratified giving women the right to vote. Let me pause here to note that all of the above amendments were Republican initiatives. The efforts of women like Truth, Anthony, and Stanton constitute “first-wave” feminism.
“Second-wave” wave feminism has its roots in the 1960s. Second-wave feminism’s goal was to further issues like pay equality and women’s reproductive rights, and to draw attention to problems like domestic violence. Now, many people get this twisted and think that because Republicans and Democrats disagree on some of these issues, one party must own the movement. This is not true. I think the differences have become exaggerated for political purposes. No one, whether they’re a Republican or Democrat, thinks that women should earn pennies on the dollar to men or get beaten. Reproductive rights are a subject I won’t touch here because I will get off topic, but I recognize that this issue has been pulled between two very extreme Republican and Democratic viewpoints possibly unnecessarily.
“Third-wave” feminism got its start in the early 1990s and was focused primarily on sexuality and gender. This is where I feel feminism began to go off the rails. Within the various feminism waves, this is the wave in which men became confused about feminists’ goals. Everyone (regardless of whether they are male or female) understands what it means to have pay equality or voting rights. However, men cannot understand the social realities of being female in modern American society, because they were socialized as males (it’s ok – it’s not their fault they’re male). The problems women in this feminist wave were fighting against were not recognized by men as being problems because men had never experienced those problems.
Even with third-wave’s good intentions, somehow something got horribly warped. Third-wave feminism promoted female power through, among other things, sexual promiscuity. What some feminists were trying to teach women during the third-wave was that the double standard between how men and women were expected to behave sexually was unfair. They suggested women should take as many partners as some men often do. It asserted that women should become “players” and asked women to be critical of the roles of motherhood and spouse. It promoted “reclaiming” the words bitch or slut as self-descriptors for women. While I understand the point behind this movement, I disagree with many parts of it. How is encouraging women to submit to being used as sex objects by men beneficial for women? Women generally think differently about sex and relationships than men do, so it is illogical to expect women to feel comfortable acting as men in this area. Some of the differences in thinking between men and women come from the differences in hormonal responses (oxytocin, for example) surrounding sexual experiences. I’m afraid the results of this wave were actually harmful to some women – I speak from personal experience.
Which leads me to what I call “fourth-wave” feminism. The actual definition of fourth-wave within modern feminism is fiercely debated. In this recent wave, we as feminists, are not bound together in a common goal of suffrage or pay equality, instead, we are becoming increasingly divided. In my opinion, we are becoming divided on what it actually means to be women. Many of my fellow feminists, manipulated by the extreme liberal wings of the Democratic Party, have lost their way.
Generally, I like to deal in truths. The cold, hard facts. To me, my biological sex is a truth. I am female. However, what my expected role in society is (or my gender) is a choice. To say one is masculine or feminine is pointless to me. I see no value in the gender hysterics being pushed by liberal groups today. If a man wears a dress and says he is embracing his “inner woman,” I feel insulted. I’m wearing pants today – so am I less “woman” than the man wearing a dress? Don’t ask Glamour Magazine.
Glamour Magazine named Bruce Jenner “Woman of the Year” in 2015. Were there no biological women out there deserving enough to be named “Woman of the Year” more than a dude in a dress and heels? What does that say to women these days? It is the embrace of the same harmful gender stereotypes that women in the first- and second-waves of feminism fought so hard against.
I believe reducing gender identity to regressive gender roles is harmful to our society. By classifying the female role as a choice, then women lose their protected status. Did you know the highest paid female CEO used to be a man? When men can choose to be women, then where does the glass ceiling go?
After the election, I had a very hard falling out with an older female family member. As a Democrat, she was angry that I voted for Donald Trump. In addition to revealing to me that she thought to me that I was a Republican because I must be “obsessed with losers”, she also accused me of being stupid, racist, and a liar. When I asked her how I was a liar, she explained “You said you were for women.” My reply: “I am! And I always will be.”
She shrieked about Trump and his Access Hollywood tape and said that voting for a man like him was outrageous. “All men talk that way,” I said. “All men and don’t you deny it.” She paused. She knew I was right. All men say things about women they would never say if a woman was around. I spent seven years in the Army and an additional six years in a male-dominated field. I’ve overheard enough “locker room talk” to know that generally many men talk like that, and it is unfortunate. She couldn’t disagree with me. It doesn’t excuse Trump, but like I said, I prefer to deal in facts.
I told my angry relative that I may not have voted for Hillary Clinton as the first female president, but not because I never want to see a female president. I didn’t want to see Hillary Clinton, someone who is (in my opinion) not a champion of women, become the first female president. I voted for a female Republican for Senate, Kathy Szeliga. I voted for a female Republican for Baltimore City Council President, Shannon Wright. And I voted for a female Republican Baltimore City Councilman, Christine Digman. I told my relative that she couldn’t pull my woman card, because I had actually voted for more women than she did in the last election. All of the women I voted for are strong, Republican women that have found a balance between being a wife and mother and being a tough advocate for their respective future constituencies. To put it another way, in Hillary Clinton’s own words, they “could have stayed home and baked cookies and had teas” – but they chose to do that and so much more.
A close friend of mine and I have a fun argument going on what feminism’s place in the Republican Party is. She sometimes feels, like my Democrat relative, that you can’t be a Republican and a feminist simultaneously. I am proof that you can be. As a Republican feminist, I’m happy to be part of a political party that was the first party for women. I can respect the Republican Party’s stance against abortions as a form of birth control. I can respect the Republican Party’s promotion of family values which would reduce the number of single, unwed mothers and fatherless children. I can respect the Republican Party’s refusal to accept anti-discrimination laws based on gender identity, because gender identity is a fluid, ever-changing concept that has no basis in objective fact.
Fiercely independent and self-sufficient, I pride myself on not needing a man in my life, but still recognize that relationships with men are valuable. I don’t expect men to be more like women. I respect the differences between men and women. Not only the biological differences, but differences in socialization that is inherent in our society even if I don’t always agree with it. What I’m trying to say is: I’m not a man-hater. Most feminists aren’t. I’m comfortable letting men open pickle jars and kill spiders.
For all the feminists out there that may have lost their way and happen to stumble upon this post: it’s time to come home to the Republican Party. The Republican Party is not asking you to come home to lock you, barefoot and pregnant, in the kitchen. Republicans, like me, are asking you to return to the political party that respects you and believes it has to earn your vote. The party that expects you to vote your values, not just vote for the first candidate with a vagina that’s tossed in front of you. The party that respects the difficulties women face in choosing between careers and family – pick what you want, or try both. The party that hopes you don’t force little nuns to give you free abortions, but would rather provide a strong economy in which you can find a job and independently buy your own birth control. The party that doesn’t mansplain to you, but cherishes you. Instead of being forced into gender identity designators (cisgendered, genderqueer, gender non-conforming), the Republican Party encourages your independence – just be whatever type of woman you want to be. Remember the words of Susan B. Anthony, “Independence is happiness” and find your way home.