In a recent op-ed for The New York Times entitled “The Myth of Conservative Feminism,” so-called feminist Jessica Valenti contends that conservative women cannot be feminists due to their beliefs. In her diatribe against conservatives, Valenti fails to acknowledge that her hypocrisy regarding feminism is on display for all to see.
Feminism as a movement has morphed dramatically over the decades. Predominantly Christian and pro-life, first-wave feminists like Susan B. Anthony and Alice Paul likely wouldn’t identify as feminists beholden to the sexual revolution of the 1960s and ‘70s or today’s rallying cry of abortion on-demand and without apology.
Despite drastic changes in the broader societal connotations of feminism and its portrayal in popular culture and media, the core definition has remained the same: Feminism is “the doctrine advocating social, political, and all other rights of women equal to those of men.”
Nowhere in this simple definition do we find references to abortion, birth control, casual sex, transgenderism, or “environmental justice”—a few of the unity principles outlined by the Women’s March group, the progressive left’s standard-bearer of today’s allegedly feminist movement. Based on the universally recognized definition of feminism, it’s logical to conclude that if you support the advancement of “social, political, and all other rights of women equal to those of men,” you are, indeed, a feminist. But Valenti disagrees.
“The truth is that while feminism need not be complicated — it’s a movement for social, economic and political justice — it is not for everyone,” Valenti writes. “You cannot be a feminist and go along with the White House’s newly announced domestic gag rule, a mandate that would withhold funding from any health care center that helps patients find abortion services.”
Feminists like Valenti are attempting to usurp the true definition of feminism via any means possible and write their own rules in the process. They are attempting to make clear to all women that if you don’t fit neatly into a politically and socially progressive box, then you are not welcome. You are not a feminist. Your voice doesn’t count.
By doing so, Valenti and other self-proclaimed feminists are marginalizing the very people they claim to be supporting: women.
I have always considered myself a feminist in the traditional sense of the word. I believe in empowering women so they have the tools and the confidence they need to contribute as they see fit to their families, lives, jobs, and society at large.
However, as a feminist, I also believe abortion perpetuates violence against women—both mother and child. I believe easy access to abortion and the widespread acceptance of hormonal birth control as a panacea has created a culture in which casual sex and the lack of meaningful, committed relationships is wreaking havoc on the wellbeing and happiness of women.
These are topics that need to be discussed and addressed, but leftist feminists aren’t having any of it. They prefer instead to tell me I’m not a feminist and that my values damage women. Meanwhile, they ignore the hundreds of thousands of women who are devastated every year by abortion, condone sexual behavior that endangers women’s emotional and physical health, and employ rhetoric that invites vulgar and offensive attacks on women who espouse a different brand of feminism.
There are many issues on which right- and left-leaning feminists can find common ground. Preventing violence against women; ending sexual assault and harassment; addressing the disturbing statistics on maternal and infant mortality, particularly among women of color; and supporting young, single, or otherwise vulnerable mothers are just a few.
Unfortunately, it will be difficult to come together to solve important issues like these if certain women continually marginalize and exclude others. Women are strongest when we all have a voice in discussing the issues that affect us, our friends, our mothers, our sisters, and our daughters.
Valenti closes by writing, “We’ve come too far to allow the right to water down a well-defined movement for its own cynical gains. Because if feminism means applauding ‘anything a woman does’ — even hurting other women — then it means nothing.”
I would counter that we’ve come too far to allow any one group to own feminism. Excluding women from a movement meant to empower them is the very definition of hurting other women. Let’s make sure that feminism truly means something. That begins with ensuring all women have a voice at the table.