Conservative Women Steal the Show: Feminism 2.0?

Musing on the victories of Whitman, Fiorina, Haley, and Angle

This article is from the archive of our partner .

As multiple news outlets are noting, women were the "big winners" in last night's primaries. In particular, the night was dominated by conservative women, providing endless cocktail conversation fodder for sociologists, conservatives, and disgruntled liberal feminists alike.

  • Finally!  "I've written before," says Jill Miller Zimon at The Moderate Voice, before the primaries, "about what appeared to be a lack of conservative women running for office. So it’s with great satisfaction that I read and listened to not one but two stories from NPR on the statistically significant increase in the number of conservative female candidates in this year’s election cycle."
  • Why It Happened  In one of the NPR stories Zimon cites, Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the pro-life Susan B. Anthony List, credits Sarah Palin for women's success thus far this year. She's "the wind in the sails for this election cycle." But Rutgers professor Ruth Mandel has a different idea: the key is that women are finally getting successful enough in business "to be able to plow millions of dollars into their own campaigns," as men have long been doing. Those successful women "happen to be Republicans."
  • What It Means for Feminists  Mandel also discusses how the success of Republican women highlights a matter troublesome to the "Women's Movement" even at the outset: "what kind of women do we want to get in? And some of us would say you can't open the door just a crack. You have to open it very wide. You have to encourage young women to dream about public life and public leadership, and you have to keep the door wide for all kinds women. And that's what we're seeing now: all kinds of women." Hanna Rosin explores this matter further. She says the candidacy of Nikki Haley, in particular, signals a "brand-new species ... redefin[ing] women's progress as we think we know it." Haley runs on rage not just against Washington, but "against the patriarchy." In other words, liberal feminists should take note:
Haley could turn out to be a pro-life, sexually liberated, part-Indian, anti-patriarchal powerhouse with a husband in the military. She could hate the word “feminism” and yet turn out to be an inspiration to millions of women whose backgrounds and ideologies similarly don’t really add up, and yet seem to set them on fire. This crew could end up ushering in the Year of the Woman in a way none of us expected or wanted.
  • 'Palinistas'  National Review's Robert Costa makes a case for the term: "Haley and Fiorina are examples of what Palin last month called an '[emerging, conservative, feminist identity' in the GOP. In other words, the rise of Palinistas: smart, pro-life conservative women who succeed with style--and a dash of controversy." He notes, too, that Palin's endorsements helped many of these candidates.
  • A Number of Trends Last Night  "Women under siege" and "big money" did well, summarizes Jill Lawrence at Politics Daily, while "labor and the liberal netroots" aren't looking so good. Palin gets a mixed scorecard--two of her favorites won, one lost--as does the whole anti-incumbent narrative.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.