She may not be a feminist, and that’s OK. But let’s get a few things straight.
Many words can describe counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway, but “feminist” isn’t one of them. Just ask her.
Speaking at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), Conway discussed what it was like to be the first woman to manage a successful presidential campaign. The discussion, facilitated by conservative commentator Mercedes Schlapp, eventually centered around the label “feminist,” and whether Conway considered herself one. She doesn’t, and she suggested that feminists “in a classic sense” are “anti-male” and “pro-abortion.”
Speaking of feminism from an objective viewpoint, Conway’s probably right not to claim that title for herself.
Prior to working for the Trump campaign, Conway’s most well-known client was then-Representative Todd Akin from Missouri, a man who torpedoed his shot at winning a Senate seat when he justified his opposition to abortion, even in cases of rape and incest, by saying, “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”
In the past, Conway also suggested that “femininity is replacing feminism as a leading attribute for American women,” and she has said, “If women really want to be taken seriously in the workforce these days, looking feminine is a good way to start.”
More recently, Conway has suggested that perhaps mothers shouldn’t take roles in the White House. She also criticized a 17-year-old girl for asking how Conway rationalized working for someone facing multiple sexual assault accusations, and she “didn’t see the point” in the Women’s March on Washington.
If she doesn’t want to call herself a feminist, that’s fine. What’s not fine is the mischaracterization of who feminists are and what they stand for.
First off, feminists (as a group) aren’t “anti-male.” Maybe some individuals are, but that’s not some core requirement. Conway once said, “I challenge anybody to show me where [man-hating] is not part and parcel of the feminist movement.” And, while some feminists may very well call their views “pro-abortion,” a more accurate view of the broader feminist population would be that they believe decisions about what people do with their bodies are best left up to them — and not the government.
Nor do feminists, as a group, see themselves as victims of circumstance, something Conway has said on multiple occasions. Feminists simply acknowledge that obstacles remain in the fight for gender equality. The pay gap, sexism in the workplace, and a host of other issues stand between the world we live in now and a world with gender equality.
None of this is to say that it’s impossible for a woman to succeed in the world. Conway is proof that, yes, women can find success and achieve their goals.
But just as Obama being elected president didn’t close the book on racism, a handful of successful women doesn’t signal the end of sexism.
Conway doesn’t have to be a feminist. But the rest of us won’t give up until we’ve reached true equality for all women of all ages, all races, all religions, and all sexualities.