As someone who enjoys a fine fashion spread, I was pleased, like my friend Katie Pavlich, to see Elle magazine highlight “the next generation of conservative women” in an article today. “The Best and the Rightest” briefly profiles notable female conservative activists and pundits, from S.E. Cupp and Dana Loesch to Smart Girl Politics’ Ashley Sewell and the Clare Booth Luce Institute’s Alyssa Cordova.
The article’s treatment of Cupp and Loesch, in particular, betrays its author’s admiration of these women, both of whom boast impressive accomplishments, and the piece strikes a curious, even slightly puzzled tone — as though the author, in true journalistic fashion, sets out not so much to advance an agenda but to answer a question, “What makes these women tick? And what is it about them even I — an Elle writer — find so appealing?” Cupp seemed content with the coverage, tweeting her thanks to Elle for its inclusion of her in the spread.
But subtle digs scattered throughout the article make it clear the writer doesn’t want readers to think she shares a conservative worldview — or even to think she’s neutral. She’s careful to remind readers that some perceive young conservative women as the “ungrateful” daughters of the feminist movement. She writes conservative women might use birth control to delay motherhood themselves, but object to federal funding for Planned Parenthood, “which allows poor women to do the same.” At the end of the article, she mentions mother-of-19 Michelle Duggar in connection with conservative push-back to Eve Ensler’s The Vagina Monologues — and she can’t seem to resist a crude reference to the stories the star of Ensler’s play could tell about Duggar.
But the article contains none of the vitriol that conservative politicians like Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann have had to face — and, for that reason, seems notable. We’ve come a long way when the adjective “fair” means merely “an absence of unnecessarily cheap shots.” (To be, um, fair, though, snark seems to have become an indispensable part of commentary these days — it’s just frustrating that mainstream fashion mags, like the rest of the MSM, purport a degree of sanctimonious seriousness that transcends low blows and refuse to admit a bias. Better to just acknowledge the angle!)
More importantly, though, the article seems not to have fully educated its author. Toward the end of the piece, S.E. Cupp makes the keen point that conservative women completely uphold the main message of feminism. “The point of feminism was to give women a choice,” Cupp says. “If women choose to work, fine; if they choose to stay home, fine. Seventies feminism judged, took away one of those choices.” The Elle piece, while a start, doesn’t fully reflect the range of women who comprise the conservative movement: Instead, it seems determined to cast all conservative women in the same mold, calling them “baby Palins” (are all liberal women “baby Hillarys”?) and emphasizing their gun-toting, red-meat-eating, sports-watching credentials. But, just as conservative women respect the right of women to choose to work or to stay home, they don’t dictate tastes or hobbies, either. In other words, conservative women, like conservative men, stand for freedom, for the right of individuals to pursue happiness as they see fit. Yes, it’s cool that conservative gals are comfortable with their index finger on a trigger, that they finish their meal when a date orders them an expensive steak and that they’re open to the all-American pastimes of football, baseball and NASCAR. But none of that is essential to conservatism — standing for the right to enjoy all of that (along with more traditionally “feminine” pursuits) is.
Which brings me to my last point: Conservatives, in some ways, have unnecessarily ceded other elements of American culture to the left. In the U.S. today, the world of arts (music, movies, literature, dance, fashion) rarely reflects a conservative worldview for the simple reason that conservatives rarely go into these fields or weed themselves out when they encounter a liberal bias in the arts establishment. That could be because conservative parents are apt to encourage their children to enter careers in which they will assuredly be able to provide for themselves. But Breitbart talks about this and I agree with him: We don’t need “conservative” movies, “conservative” music, “conservative” books, (or a “conservative” fashion magazine that features an article paying respects to “liberal” women) etc., etc. We need conservative filmmakers, conservative musicians, conservative authors. Artists who, like any artist, create for art’s sake, but who bring a different set of raw materials and nascent creative ideas than their liberal equivalents. Who knows? If that happened, we might someday encounter a fashion magazine article that made no mention of Cupp’s conservative credibility, but, instead, highlighted her trademark sharp square-frames and beautifully blended peach blush.