Conservative women have made Elle magazine’s “biggest fashion issue of the year,” the 554-page September issue. In an article cleverly headlined “The Best and the Rightest,” reporter Nina Burleigh strings together interviews with a half-dozen conservative female leaders under 35, including S.E. Cupp of Glenn Beck TV, Dana Loesch of BigJournalism.com, Regis Giles of Girls Just Wanna Have Guns, Ashley Sewell of Smart Girl Politics, Alyssa Cordova of the Clare Boothe Luce Policy Institute, and me. It is nice to see the magazine acknowledging and covering women on the right.
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.”
The subheading says it all: “A new generation of conservative women is stepping forward to dis feminists and cheer low taxes, guns, and motherhood. Nina Burleigh reports on how these ‘Baby Palins’ are going to reshape the 2012 presidential election.”
I have never heard anyone claim to be a “Baby Palin.” Of all the interviews in the article, no one self-identified as a “Baby Palin.” In fact, S.E. Cupp and Dana Loesch both cited 9/11 as their inspiration to jump into the political debate, and I started the Network of enlightened Women (NeW) four years before Gov. Sarah Palin hit the national stage. Palin is only mentioned five times in this almost 4,000-word article. Why then try to associate us with Palin and create a unifying narrative around her?
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.
In her “Editor’s Letter,” Roberta Myers describes us as “young, angry, and brimming with conviction, proudly shoring up the flanks of the Republican party under the banner ‘Baby Palins.’” She must have forgotten that her reporter was the one who created the banner. The most humorous part of this coverage is when Myers refers to us as “Baby Ps.” Watch out J. Lo and P. Diddy.
I know this was Elle magazine and not the Washington Post, but it is important to evaluate media coverage of conservative women, especially since we could have two conservative women in the 2012 race.
— Karin Agness is the president of the Network of Enlightened Women and a lawyer in Washington, D.C.