Politics & Policy

The Progressive Double Standard on Feminism

Kellyanne Conway talks to reporters at Trump Tower, November 2016. (Reuters photo: Shannon Stapleton)
Female accomplishment is not praised when the woman is conservative.

While dining at the White House with President Trump last week, House minority leader Nancy Pelosi reportedly remarked, “Do the women get to talk around here?” Perhaps Pelosi should’ve directed her question to Sarah Huckabee Sanders or Hope Hicks, who hold the two top posts on the White House communications team.

Like most liberals, Pelosi is always ready to praise empowered women who have risen to the top . . . except for when she isn’t. In this instance and countless others, Trump’s rise to power — facilitated by a handful of evidently talented women — has revealed how hollow the progressive obsession with “feminism” truly is.

Left-leaning media outlets and commentators never tire of glorifying powerful women who supposedly outstrip men on their rise to the top. But that praise is utterly contingent on whether or not those powerful women hold the progressive-approved point of view on every issue. As soon as an accomplished woman fails to fall in line with the preferred Democratic agenda, the feverish applause for female accomplishment immediately dies out.

This has perhaps never been more apparent than over the course of the last year, as Donald Trump’s victory last November brought several polished and professional women into the spotlight. Where were the Vogue and Glamour magazine features for Trump’s campaign manager Kellyanne Conway, the first woman to lead a winning presidential campaign?

If Conway had run a victorious campaign for a Democratic candidate, she undoubtedly would’ve received glowing front-page treatment in every pop-culture magazine in the country, and journalists would’ve fought for the right to churn out fawning profile pieces on her stunning success. Instead, one opinion writer accused Conway of “playing ‘the woman card’ all wrong” and progressive celebrities soundly rebuked her for kneeling on a couch in the Oval Office.

With the Trump administration entrenched in Washington, women have continued to ascend. Conway has retained a high-profile role, turning down the president’s offer to serve as press secretary to serve instead as one of his senior advisers. Trump’s daughter Ivanka holds a senior-adviser role, too, and yet she has received nothing but abuse from journalists, celebrities, and comedians.

Several other women have taken hold of the reins of power in very public administrative roles. Following Sean Spicer’s tumultuous exit, Sarah Huckabee Sanders replaced him, making her only the third female White House press secretary in the role’s history. (One of the other two also served during a Republican presidency: Dana Perino for George W. Bush.) Recently, Hope Hicks officially took over the position of White House communications director after holding a prominent role in Trump’s campaign. Melania Trump’s communications director is also a woman: Stephanie Grisham.

Outside the White House, United Nations ambassador Nikki Haley goes more or less ignored by the media, despite the fact that she is both a highly successful, articulate female and a member of an ethnic minority. Meanwhile, Education secretary Betsy DeVos likely wishes she could fly under the radar instead of being savaged by left-wing pundits and accused of hurting children in public schools and protecting rapists.

Neither of the choices available to conservative women is very attractive. On one hand, they can remain relatively unknown and never receive public praise for their success — like Hicks, Sanders, and Haley. But the other option is perhaps even worse: being falsely accused of various atrocities and being called traitors to their fellow women and the feminist cause, often simply because they’re associated with the Trump administration.

There is pervasive insincerity among liberal commentators when it comes to promoting feminism.

But the problem extends past Trump. A piece in Cosmopolitan this summer highlighted seven women who are supposedly “generating 2020 buzz,” and every woman on the list was either a Democratic politician or a public figure committed to progressivism. During the 2016 presidential primaries, left-wing pundits who normally love to gush about influential women fell silent at the opportunity to praise Carly Fiorina, the sole Republican woman running for president in a pack of men.

There is pervasive insincerity among liberal commentators when it comes to promoting feminism. No one in the media or politics should feel obliged to praise every woman in public life simply because they’re female. But too many progressives constantly “virtue signal” about their deep commitment to feminism only to turn around and viciously attack any woman who dares to express a conservative opinion.

Such an attitude is highly inconsistent. Either every successful woman deserves to be praised for furthering the goal of female empowerment, or public figures should be judged based on the content of their accomplishments rather than their gender. It is intensely hypocritical for those on the supposedly pro-woman left to demand that all women swear utter fealty to progressivism or risk complete destruction at the hands of popular culture. A truly feminist approach wouldn’t force conservative women to make that choice.


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