Players: Nina Burleigh, American author and journalist who wrote Elle magazine's "The Best and the Rightest" which profiles "a new generation of conservative women" and their popularity; Ashley Sewell, Karin Agness and Carrie Lukas--the women she profiled for the Elle piece.
The Opening Serve: "The Best and The Rightest" appeared on Elle's Web site on August 12, showcasing a new generation of conservative women, "Baby Palins" as Burleigh calls them. "Behold the new face of conservative womanhood," Burleigh writes. "The sisters [Hannah and Regis Giles who she profiles] are just two of thousands of young women in cocktail dresses who professed their love for guns, low taxes, and red meat at the Conservative Political Action Conference 2011, an annual gathering of 10,000 political activists, more than half of whom are college-age, nearly all of whom are white." Burleigh goes on to detail these women's politics and their marketing strategy. "Feminist bashing remains the surest way to earn cred in the conservative movement, and 'feminist' is an easy, all-purpose insult, eclipsed perhaps by only the dread 'liberal.'" She adds: "Thanks to the bankability of the telegenic, witty right-wing blond willing to trash the 'identity politics' of feminism, young women...have a bevy of bright, sassy women in their own age group to emulate." After profiling several of these women across the country Burleigh was left with this assessment:
The young women I interviewed for this article share almost every goal of feminism. They want to be—and in many cases, already believe themselves to be—“empowered”: educationally, financially, sexually. But they resist any effort to put advancing their fellow women front and center.
That means opposing everything from gender-based affirmative action, such as government-mandated quotas for female athletes under Title IX, to equal-pay-for-equal-work laws. So on the one hand they may lament that there are only a handful of female CEOs at Fortune 500 companies and only 17 female U.S. Senators—“It does matter,” [Ashley] Sewell says. “A woman’s perspective is different from a man’s.” But on the other hand, they’re not going to take to the ramparts to try to increase the numbers.
The Return Volley: It turns out the "Baby Palins" weren't too thrilled with the moniker. "I was totally shocked and pretty horrified by the way I was characterized by this Elle piece," said Carrie Lukas, the executive director of the Independent Women's Forum, to The Daily Caller. "This idea of putting people in this Palin box is a liberal caricature of what all conservative women are like...There are a ton of conservative women out there…The idea that everyone is following a trend of Sarah Palin is really demeaning." Karin Agness, founder of Network of Enlightened Women, aired her grievances via the National Review:
While an interesting read, this article turns out to be less a commentary on conservative women and more an example of how conservative women are viewed by women on the left. To them, we are all "Baby Palins."
Rather than try to understand how some women could be conservative and the arguments we have against feminism, it is often much easier to explain us all away as “Baby Palins” following in Palin’s footsteps. With the “Baby Palin” label comes the Palin brand. The Palin brand has been so damaged by the media that the “Baby Palin” label serves the purpose of quickly stereotyping and delegitimizing us at the same time. Would a typical journalist call someone a “Palin” as a compliment? Ultimately, categorizing us as “Baby Palins” is a way to dismiss us.