Three years ago I attended the Conservative Political Action Conference and was struck by something I later concluded was probably a figment of my imagination. This year I returned, and, rather than having my recollection dispelled, it was confirmed.
The young women who attend CPAC are spectacular. No kidding: What’s up with this concentration of incredibly attractive young, conservative women? It’s noticeable and remarkable. They are beautiful and stylish in the way French women often are, which is to say in their own way, not in a conforming or predictable way. They all look like the girl the high school quarterback wants to date, and they are confident, relaxed, and smart, joking amongst themselves.
This becomes even more glaring when juxtaposed with the young guys, who all seem to be trying out for the part of the overtaxed congressional aide in this season of “Veep”: wrinkled dark suits with scuffed brown shoes, power-walking this way and that, their noses buried in their smartphones, and that’s not even to mention an alarming incidence of pillow head (not a lot, but, let’s be honest, no pillow head is the goal).
I spent years in the photography business, which causes me to reflexively notice what things look like. On the Left, however, you can’t say these things just because they may be true, or, more accurately, especially if they’re true. In other words, okay, I noticed. So sue me.
This can’t be an accident. Something must be driving it. So I began to ponder it, and here’s the best I can come up with.
Perhaps Social Pressure Affects Men and Women Differently
It is not easy espousing conservative views at any time or place, given that the overwhelming response of the culture, the media and academia is ridicule and dismissal, but it has got to be especially so in those beehives of social approval: high school and college. A young guy who “identifies” as a conservative might just as well identify as an “absolute zero” as far as the cool kids are concerned (and maybe a lot of the teachers, too.)
That’s why they’re so admirable and, actually, so very cool: They have courage and character and, in their spare time, represent the last, best hope of mankind. The football players are too busy being football players to be doing much else. Life is good. Politics? Saving the world? Later, baby.
Young guys who are politically active on the right side of the fence have a lot to lose, most especially any possibility of being regarded as a member of the social elite, and it may be that quite a few of them—not all, by any means, but yes, a great many—who find their way to a conservative worldview at an early age do so because they aren’t distracted or seduced by the possibility of being homecoming king. They aren’t giving up the possibility of being the host of the weekend kegger, because that wasn’t going to happen, anyway.
Liberated from the siren song of peer popularity, they can instead go deep, emerging to their everlasting credit as constitutional conservatives, maybe even libertarians, able to withstand the onslaught of blame America Howard-Zinn-ification they are assaulted with every day. Instead, they have the time and inclination to figure out how the world really works, and to wonder if maybe the way the world works isn’t a little bit different from what they’re hearing from their teachers and the movies and the news outlets.
In time, if their inquiries are diligent, honest, and fearless, a lot of them wind up in the land of the Constitution, God bless them, and of those, a contingent winds up at CPAC—along with whole squadrons of the prettiest, smartest girls, who, in contrast to the boys, have also found their way not because they have no hope of being in the in-crowd, but because they have no fear of being ejected from it, since the popularity of an attractive young woman can survive almost anything, including being a conservative.
Now, for a Woman’s Explanation
Does that explain it? Maybe. It made some sense to me, but didn’t sit well. Implying they embrace conservative views only because they have nothing to lose diminishes the very real accomplishments of these young women, and those of the men, all of whom seem to be warriors for the cause, possessing an inchoate nobility and clear courage that might serve as nothing less than the lifeblood of a better future.
It is, indeed, so insulting as to be, for that very reason, unlikely to be true about people who are otherwise so clearly driven by a fullness of character. Or, even if it’s true in part, it is probably not the primary causality: These impressive young people would undoubtedly find their way to this place, anyway.
I sought counsel from my wife. She is European. She spent many years living in Paris and Brussels. I like it when people ask me if English is her second language, so I can say, “No, it’s her fifth.” I told her I was working on this piece, searching for an explanation. I told her that the young women of CPAC reminded me of the women you see on the boulevards of Paris, and I asked her why women over there were so famously stylish.
Women of great traditional beauty, but also those who would not be described that way, all had the ability to move through the world with manifest and undeniable élan, self-confidence, and personal style, some of the ingredients of a world-renowned attractiveness, so much so that it has been remarked upon for centuries. Her answer was immediate, as if it was obvious, or should be. “It’s because they enjoy being a woman. And they’re glad they’re not men.”
Oh. Maybe it’s that simple.
The Women on the Right Are Free
The women of the Right are allowed to believe things that the women of the Left are not. They are allowed to believe there is a difference between women and men, female and male, and that those differences are real, not a false cultural construct imposed by a self-interested, manipulative patriarchy. Unlike Gloria Steinem, they can express their femininity in any way they choose to, without fear of being accused of a calumnization of the sisterhood.
Even more, women of the Right are allowed to accept obvious things rather than engage in exhausting psychic gymnastics to get to a place that is politically correct, while preposterous. If a thug murders a pregnant woman, he should be charged with two murders, not just one, and women of the Right feel no compulsion to weary themselves by filing amicus briefs on behalf of the murderer to nullify the second killing because the unborn baby does not qualify as human life.
Even further, they have no difficulty with the notion that the woman in question had every right to effectuate her own protection, if she chose, with whatever weapon she preferred to use, for the easily understood and non-controversial purpose of blowing the thug away before he could murder her and her baby. It’s not tiring to get to that conclusion; it’s tiring to get to the opposite one.
They are allowed to love their gay friends and want all good things for them, but still believe it’s a bad idea to start redefining marriage without being labeled a bigot by those same friends, and that, too, removes a burden. They are allowed to go through life treating people—all people—with dignity, respect, and friendship, and not be concerned about being called racist, even if they are called racist, because they know they are not.
They do not feel compelled to lug around a basketful of mea culpas for being an American, unlike the overburdened worldview of, say, Lena Dunham, millennial poster-child for all-in supporters of Hillary, the creative force behind HBO’s “Girls.” Here’s some actual dialogue from a recent episode:
SCENE: A Tokyo bistro. Shoshanna is having a casual conversation with her Japanese friend over drinks. The friend has just discovered that Shoshona is not, in fact, rich.
JAPANESE FRIEND: You seem very wealthy because of your spoiled attitude.
SHOSHANNA: That’s just how Americans act. We’re kind of a**holes.
That Shoshona is played by Zosia Mamet (charmingly), the daughter of celebrated playwright David Mamet, who not too long ago nailed his 95 conservative theses to the door of the Progressive Church of Hollywood, might make for some interesting dinner conversation, but, in any event, carrying around this sort of self-perception as an American has got to be exhausting. Women of the Right are not required for their backstage/all-areas life passes to have this particular self-abnegation ticket punched, which is, yet again, liberating.
Conservatism Liberates Women to Be Their True Selves
Maybe it is for these reasons and many similar ones that the women of CPAC walk with a bounce in their step and a light in their eyes, and maybe that is the engine of their attractiveness, the source of their ability to light up the room. They don’t mind being—no, they revel in being—attractive and stylish and a woman in any way they choose to do that, and they make short, confident work of the notion that they ought to, instead, get hip to the struggle and head for gender studies class.
Whatever it is, it is real, and when you get down to it, what it looks like is redemption. Check it out: It will make you feel good about America.
All of this leads to the obvious: I am entirely wrong; my premise itself is faulty (something my wife would not find surprising). It’s not that a lot of attractive women, for some reason, find their way to conservative views; it’s that something about holding conservative views causes women—all women, across the spectrum—to become particularly attractive.
Put another way, maybe what I’m noticing is simply women who have been liberated by their worldview to be who they are, uniquely and confidently, unabashedly and apologetically, unencumbered by the politically correct constraints imposed on women of the Left, and the result is a kind of essential womanhood that, far from being oppressive, as the Left would have it, is instead, miraculous and quintessential, and, you could say, God-given.
As for the young men, equally impressive in their own way, c’mon, guys, get those shoes shined, if only out of respect for the phenomenal women you’re surrounded by. Do it. Right now. Then go change the world. We’re counting on you.