Women in Leadership: A Letter to Michele Bachmann and Sarah Palin

14 Nov

Women in Leadership
Molly Cunningham
Editor in Chief



In a previous iteration of this blog, more creative pieces of work on gender issues became a series called “Letters from a Girl”. These epistles from my imagination are respectful, but the tone does occasionally verge on the sarcastic or the amused. These pieces are intended to question and to challenge the imagined recipients. I enjoy the letter format, and I hope the audience enjoys them as much as I enjoy writing them!

This is companion letter to the letter to Hillary Clinton. Since I covered the more liberal perspective, I must now address Michele Bachmann, Sarah Palin, and all conservative women. Without further ado:

Michele Bachmann and Sarah Palin Are Feminists…
Whether They Like It or Not!


A Letter from a Girl

To the Conservative Women of America,

There is a strange phobia infecting the conservative women of the United States. If we narrow our media consumption to the more conservative programming of Fox News, the Washington Post, and other publications to the right, the problem becomes somewhat evident. However, there is a debate between more liberal and more conservative publication about this fear

This phobia? The phobia of feminism. Or more, accurately, there is a fear amongst conservative women of being labeled “feminist”.

Feminism, succinctly, is a collection of movements devoted to the equal rights of women in society, in politics, and in the economy. Historically, the movements are associated with other movements for equality, including civil rights movements and gay rights movements. Feminist theory supports the movements through academic explanation of inequality. Between the movements and the theory, feminists are credited with ensuring reproductive rights of women worldwide, creating universal female suffrage in the Western Hemisphere, and advocating for equal pay for women.

A movement dedicated to female equality seems an odd target for women. So, why are you, conservative women who exemplify many of the values of female equality, afraid of being called feminists?

Some of this fear is understandable in context. The conflation of feminism with liberalism could make any conservative woman nervous about adopting the label. Social conservatives like Paul Gottfried argue that more liberal forms of feminism “… has been a social disaster that continues to take its toll on the family”.  The emphasis of social conservative ideology in the modern Republican Party has institutionalized the fear of liberal ideologies demanding equality. Feminism has become a victim of partisan politics within the United States.     

Paul Gottfried

But what does this mean for conservative women? Approximately forty-two percent (42%) of Americans consider themselves “conservative” according to Gallup Polling. However, polling also indicates there are more men than women in the conservative movement and in the modern Republican Party. Despite the prominence of Republican women within Congress and within state and municipal politics, men continue to dominate the political, economic, and social scenes frequented by conservatives. Women in the social conservative movement quietly preach the deference to men in defense of “tradition”, “values”, and “the family”. 

Could conservative women be under siege from their male counterparts to oppose feminism?

Unfortunately for that argument, conservative women appear to be expressing distaste for feminism independent of men like Paul Gottfried. No two figures have exemplified this trend more than former Alaskan Governor Sarah Palin and current Minnesota Congresswoman and Republican Presidential candidate Michele Bachmann. To quote Ms. Bachmann and Ms. Palin on feminism is to see the apparent phobia towards the identification “feminist” despite being the beneficiaries of feminism. 

In Going Rogue, Ms. Palin claims to disdain from “…the radical mantras of that early feminist era, but reasoned arguments for equal opportunity definitely resonated with me.”

Sarah Palin in Going Rogue

In speeches, Michele Bachmann has drawn from Scripture to command women to be “submissive” to their husbands.

Michele Bachmann and Her Husband Marcus Bachmann

Both women claim a disdain for feminism. Both women, however, are beneficiaries of female suffrage, a crucial goal of early feminist theory and early feminist movements. Ms. Palin and Ms. Bachmann receive the same benefits of their male counterparts in politics, largely because of gender equality movements and legislation.

The source of this fear and this disdain for feminism appears to come both from the conflation of feminism with liberal causes and from the rise of social conservatives and Christian conservatives within the modern Republican Party. Feminism in its original form as a message for female equality and gender equality has lost conservatives in its socio-political message.

Thankfully for conservative women Ms. Palin, and Ms. Bachmann, feminism is listening.

It would be reasonable to conclude that conservative women are feminists, concerned with equal opportunity and female empowerment. Instead of complaining and distancing themselves from feminism, conservative women should embrace their status as beneficiaries of feminism. Perhaps, in the future, conservative women could serve as critics for the contemporary movement?

So, my conservative sisters, there is room within the movement for female equality in society, in politics, and in the economy. Meghan Daum succinctly welcomes conservative women into the feminist fold. Any conservative women who”…has the guts to call herself a feminist, then she’s entitled to be accepted as one.”

Meghan Daum

As for Michele Bachmann and Sarah Palin, the leaders of this female conservative awakening?  Ms. Bachmann and Ms. Palin, you’re feminists whether you like it or not!

A Girl  




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