Intersectional Feminism Within the Women’s Movement: Does it Account for Conservative Values?

*For clarity and size management some of Baileys words were edited, and or rearranged.

 

I was scrolling through my Facebook feed not too long back, when I stumbled across a video of a group of women sharing why they don't feel included within the notably influential women’s movement currently spearheading change regarding gender inequalities within the United States and abroad. I’ve always felt proud to be a feminist, and while my ideals do represent more liberal notions, I felt ashamed that I hadn’t considered a place for other women and feminists who have conservative values within the women’s movement. It is not a secret that the mainstream media celebrates feminist activism that fortifies liberal narratives. While this notion is amicable in reinforcing my values, it excludes a great deal of women who have the right to be heard and included. Any antithetical suggestion reasoning such exclusion is an issue for me personally—and should be for all feminists who have the hope of attaining equal representation in our future. If women are feeling dismissed by political pettiness, then there is only so far our activism can go.

In response, I decided to call up one of my best friends, Bailey Konarski, who was at one point a “mega- liberal” (her words, not mine), but through recent life transitions has acquired more conservative viewpoints on controversial topics. One such topic is her pro-life sentiments i, which is at the heart of feminist divisiveness. Together, we wanted to create an open dialogue on challenging the exclusion seen within the women’s movement today. We do so by analyzing the intersectional dynamics between pro life sentiments, womanhood, Christianity and social media, in regard to feminism. So, with all this in mind we got to talking. Just two girls, two very different perspectives, realizing how easy it is to find common ground in the midst of contrasting ideologies.

 

E: Okay, so first question, just really generalized— what does being feminist mean to you?

B: Feminism, to me, is derived from my Christian beliefs. When I say I am a follower of Jesus Christ, this directly translates into having feminist values. There is not one without the other, they mean the same thing. I believe that God created all of us equally— loving women and men the same. It was never God's intention for men to be viewed higher or have special privileges to women. It makes me sad that people think those two things (Christianity and feminism) are separate. Feminism to me is Christianity. It simply embodies the equality of men and women.

 

E: In your opinion how is advocating pro life being a feminist?

B: Abortion is a final decision that can never be revoked. If I am being honest, and I say this with care, because I know this is a nuanced subject, and there are women out there that are hurting from their abortion decision. However, in my opinion abortion is killing and not something I take lightly.

I have a close friend who’s gone through this, so I have seen the pain in real time. I would say that there are many abortions that happen because babies are viewed as being an inconvenience. Or women and men just don't feel ready in their lives to have a baby. While, these fears are very real, the reality of abortion to me is that there are so many developing girls (and boys) who’s lives get terminated unfairly without ever being afforded the chance to have lived.

I think being feminist means fighting for the life of these girls and boys, who are in their mother's womb growing and developing, who in turn could very well one day be great activists of our time if only they had been given the chance to be. As women we should be fighting for the rights of other women, and in my mind that means their right to live. These are innocent little girls being robbed from the gift of life, quite frankly, because they are being viewed as an inconvenience, in most cases, and that just breaks my heart as a human being and a feminist.

 

E: On the flip side of that, because you view being pro-life and feminist as a conjoining force, do you in turn regard pro-choice women non-feminists?

B: I totally understand women who are pro-choice, because I was that woman who was pro-choice while having strong feminist beliefs a few years back. So, I know that women who are pro-choice and feminist do not have malicious intent.

This narrative that the conservative media has portrayed pro-choice believers to be is unfair. At the same time, do I agree with pro-choice being the dominant account of feminist ideology? No. But I definitely do not think women being pro choice makes them any less of a feminist than me. There are so many other subsections that make someone a feminist besides being just pro-choice or pro-life. To me, we are talking about life and death, this is bigger than just being a feminist.

 

E: So, do you believe that the definition of feminism may need to change in order to account for the different notions that influence feminist ideals?

B: No, I would say that the definition of feminism should always stay the same. I would just say that we don't have to agree on all the sub categories entailing the feminist narrative in the women's movement. Like being a Christian, for example, there are so many different subsections of Christianity, but at the end of the day were all Christian and we all believe in Jesus. Same idea goes for feminism.

 

E: Would you say that your party affiliation has to be conservative just because you have a pro life approach, or can you have an intersectional mix of both liberal and conservative ideals?

B: Well, If I had to label myself one way or the other, I would say that I am a progressive conservative— however, economically I align more so with liberal notions. Socially, however, is where my conservative values take forefront, you know, I would never vote for abortion to be legal— if anything I’d happily celebrate if it was illegal. To me, because abortion rights is a social issue regarding life and death, it elevates the gravity of the issue more so than other conservative social agendas.

 

 

E: It’s interesting because you say that there are values within you that would fall on both the liberal and conservative side. Which just goes to show that women shouldn't have to be on one side of the spectrum wholeheartedly to be included into the feminist movement.

With that being said, in your opinion do you think the political constructs that pair with pro life and pro choice notions are harmful or helpful to the overall feminist movement?

B: For starters I think there are many problems with the aggressive right versus left notion today. There's this conviction that if a Republican doesn't believe in everything a conservative stands for then they’re not Republican, or that if a Democrat doesn't believe in everything a liberal stands for then they’re not a Democrat. With this thought process, there are plenty of women who could consider me not a feminist, which really is just letting petty politics get in the way of what matters. Specifically, abortion rights being politicized just hurts more than it helps. The mentality that your either with us or against us, that’s so prominent today, is just harmful and never affordes people the opportunity to discover other ways of thinking.

When I was a “mega-liberal” (haha), I was always afraid of exploring new ideas, or understanding what and why conservatives had stake in other values. I was afraid that the community that I was in would, basically, kick me out or call me names or make me feel like I was stupid for even considering another point. Now, since I’m in this teeter-totter point between liberal and conservative, I have this freedom, from not fully identifying with a party, to be liberated to think and say what I am drawn to— without the outside pressures of having to fit into a certain belief.

 

E: Do you feel like there are these sort of constraints on women's movement ( #MeToo, #TimesUp and other women's organizations driving feminist ideology), where you do really have to choose what political side you are on in order to be included? Do you feel like it’s harder to be accepted in the women's movements if you don't have liberal ideals straight down the line?

B: Oh yeah, 100%. I feel a level of exclusion from the women’s movement, really, I am ostracized from the community because I don't have all liberal ideologies. Modern day feminism in America is undervaluing the opportunity to educate. For example, we’re so quick to jump at someone or call someone names on social media if they post a comment or question that we disagree with. Instead of taking the opportunity to explain, hey, this is why I disagree with you, or this is why your comment was upsetting— instead people just immediately revert to being rude to each other. Especially in regard to the liberal community, who prides themselves on being the political side of inclusivity and open mindedness, it surprises me how fast they can turn and be mean to people who don't agree with them. Which breaks my heart, because there are so many good things about the liberal community which I still agree with, but the liberal narrative is dropping the ball on what it means to be a welcoming group. Taking the time to sit down and educate someone as to why you believe the things you do helps start open dialogue.  

 

E: I agree with you, in regard to the fact that there needs to be a greater interest in attempting to understand and educate oneself on the values that you may not have yourself. I think too, that when you use hate and negatively to go against something you don't believe in, it only elevates the side that you disagree with more. When really, it can just be an opportunity to educate and create some sort of neutral alliance, in order to find common ground on issues that matter. So, I guess the next question should be, how would you like to see the women's movement change? How can we account for more intersectional feminism within these women organizations— and I say intersectional feminism in regard to being a feminist and having conservative values like pro-life.

B: One thing that I would definitely like to see is public inclusion of pro life women. I see these women marches going on and I just get the notion, again, that I am either fully with them or completely against them. I would love to see the feminist movement take on more complex issues, like sex slavery, and disregard petty politics. The feminist movement is getting caught up in miniscue disagreements. Let's instead come together and stand against pinnacle points in reaching gender equality. I want all feminist to work on finding meaningful work that brings us together and does not divide us.

 

E: Personally, I think one of the big issues that the women's movement faces today is that conservative feminist do not feeling accepted and included within what is suppose to be our mutual narrative as women. It hurts our progress toward a gender equal world.

In order to reach equality we don't need more division between women, we need women to come together as a whole no matter who or what they represent to fight for equal representation. I also think if women aren't together on this and continue to be divided were never going to be taken seriously by men either. With this being said, what do you propose the movement does in order to look over the petty politics to reach greater inclusivity?

B: Yeah, no, I agree we won't be taken seriously if this doesn't change. I think conservative women themselves need to step up into leadership positions within the feminist movement. We need to be open to working together with other feminist who have different ideas than us, and not judge liberal feminism based off the labels conservative media gives them. Additionally, liberal feminist needs to provide room, a safe space essentially, for conservative feminists to explore and publically voice their beliefs in contrast to their own.

 

E: Do you think one of the reasons why liberal feminism and conservative feminism are hesitant to be receptive of one another is because people may begin to question the concrete values that define the movement. Perhaps they fear it could undermine the stability that strict, cohesive, common values give a movement. You know, how do we respond to this fear?

B: I would say that this is the beauty of feminism. It's about the uniqueness of the people who are apart of the movement. I think we get caught up on what we each believe, but I think feminists, no matter conservative or liberal, share the common understanding that all women have value and equal equity in society. Even though we might believe different things about certain points, as a woman, I am still going to value you and I still believe you deserve to be held in equal regard in our society, and I still believe that you matter just as much as anyone else does.

 

E: So, what your saying, is that the concrete of feminism can be fortified around the simple and sole base that all women matter have equal value and should be represented equivalently in society and in our world. This is what can and should mold us together as our undisputable common belief?

B: Yes, that is the foundation we should all be standing on.

 

Closing remarks: It is quite clear to me that there is a common thread pulling us all together, if only we were to stop our stubbornness and give way to the tension of unifiable force. I believe we must start to renounce this notion, rooted in today's societal norms, that there are only two possible answers; right or wrong. This concession within our society only confines your own personal curiosity and growth, and inhibits our most primal ability to connect.

The opinions stated in this piece are those of the author and interviewee and should not be considered a reflection of Her Campus or Her Campus MSU’s values.