Being ‘right’ Conservative women, speak up!

Veronica Prout

Two weeks ago, Whitman College Republicans elected their new leaders. As I sat at the table in the back room of Prentiss surrounded by this group of males (there were two non-voting visitors, both female: one being my friend, the other, a guy’s girlfriend), I realized something that had previously escaped my cognizance: I am the only female in this organization.

This recent dawning of my sole presence in the College Republicans led me to question why that was so and to question whether it was even an issue of enough relevance to be addressed. In fact, in the past I’ve joked about it with friends. I’ve made fun of it with club members. But I never really considered the implications of my lone female status until the election meeting. And now it weighed heavily on me.

It got me thinking, Where are the conservative women at Whitman? Am I the only one?

I have talked with a lot of people since my Elaine Brown column who have agreed with my suggestion for more political dialogue on campus. I have also received e-mails thanking me for pointing this out. To everyone who contacted me, thank you very much.

What’s interesting and meaningful to me, however, is that everyone with whom I’ve recently spoken about elevating dialogue are 1) mostly liberal women, 2) a few liberal men, and 3) those who have conservative leanings happen to be all men. A gnawing observation, I have yet to speak or meet an openly conservative woman here on campus.

Are all Whitman women cut from the same liberal cloth sharing identical political ideology? This of course cannot be so. It must not be so. However, I cannot dismiss my inclination to believe the vast majority of women at Whitman are liberal. Although not all. Nothing is ever all.

So then, I am driven to inquire, if there are conservative women on campus, where are they? Why are they so invisible? Besides me, why has not a single one joined the Republican Club? Have we scared you away? Are we irrelevant to your college experience? Have we made you feel unwelcome? Are you afraid of openly owning and expressing your intellectual and political convictions?

As someone who has placed herself directly in the line of fire, I promise you two things: 1) there are worst things in the world than having an unpopular opinion, one being to perpetually stifle yourself in an effort to get people to like you, and 2) I encourage you to speak out and be free of stultifying fears that rob you of public political expression, because I will stand with you.

If you are a woman who tends to lean on the pro-life side, know this, I am with you. If you are a woman who feels as if feminists have distorted issues, I am with you. If you are a woman who believes in fundamental conservative values (not necessarily current Republican values) of small government, low taxes, and states rights, I agree with you. If you are a woman who is told “you are wrong” for your conservative views, I will be “wrong” with you. If you are a woman and describe yourself as a conservative, know that I am a woman and I am a conservative. I AM A CONSERVATIVE WOMAN.

Please stand up. I need to hear your voice.

Like everyone here, I am an on an intellectual journey and though I may make a wrong turn every now and again, I am actively out there, searching for answers and trying to engage and find my place in the world, especially politically.

I want Whitman students to begin to engage more in their political world. When I said that I wanted Whitman to begin truly thinking by engaging with the “other side,” that being the conservative side, I meant it.

Next year, I intend to start a new club for members of all political leanings: a club for all of us to freely discuss all political topics of interest. I want this club to be the liaison between the Whitman College Republicans and Young Democrats. This club will solely work to provide forums in which all Whitman students can share in the issues of the day, even conservative women, and be welcomed. This club will seek people who have willing ears to listen to both sides, will do its best to attend not only the conservative political conferences but the liberal ones as well, and will work towards fostering debate through the use of bringing in diverse political speakers. This club will keep the dialogue going.

Conservatives and liberals alike need to start talking with one another instead of hating each other for their differences. Tolerance works both ways. Diversity means ideas: not just skin color, ethnic roots, or economic background. Frequently, I’ve noticed in my own life that sometimes I say I believe in something because that’s how I was raised or that’s what conservatives are supposed to think. People do this all the time. Let’s stop that. Let’s search for the answers and listen to the sides before making a decision. Let’s work towards being open to varying ideas rather than what is considered “conservative” or “liberal.”

With the creation of this club, I will not, however, leave the Whitman College Republicans, because I will not allow this organization to represent my ideologies without having a single, female representative. So right now I am inviting and urging conservative women to rise up and be heard. Our club needs you and so does our college community.

If there is a liberal out there who agrees with me on this one thing only: dialogue: then please contact me and let’s work towards making this club unbiased and helpful to the Whitman community. And the last thing I want to say is, Young Democrats, get it together. Our college community needs you to begin to be active again. The Republicans are ready for the debate. Let’s get it on!