Review: "Fire From the Heartland," a Documentary About Conservative Women
Women like Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann are really the unintended consequences of the women's liberation movement. For liberal feminists, this is not what they bargained for. We have successful, strong-willed, independent women who stand up for conservative, traditional values. Women are leading this movement because they've been raised to be unafraid. Completely balls to the wall unafraid. What to they have to run from? I didn't grow up feeling oppressed. I didn't grow up feeling like a victim. I'm not beholden to anyone. I'm don't have to carry water, and I don't have to act like I'm am the result of someone doing me a favor. -S.E. Cupp, author Losing Our Religion
Fire from the Heartland: The Awakening of Conservative Women, a new film from Citizens Uniteds series on Tea Party documentaries, explores the legacy and values of conservative women. Premiering last night to a packed movie theater in Georgetown, the film explores the legacy, passion and influence of women in the conservative movement.
The all-female cast included Congresswomen Michele Bachmann, Jean Schmidt and Cynthia Lummis, as well as Ann Coulter, Michelle Easton, Michelle Malkin, Deneen Borelli, Janine Turner, Dana Loesch, S.E Cupp, Jenny Beth Martin, Jamie Radtke, Sonnie Johnson and Michelle Moore.
The Unifying Theme
As I left the theater, I thought one word: grit.
Janine Turner and Ann Coulter used the word several times to describe American women. It was a unifying theme throughout the film, which was more of a conversation developed through edited one-on-one interviews.
The film began with a salute to the American woman and examined why the history of women in this nation serves as the foundation of American Exceptionalism. Drawing from Alexis de Toqueville's Democracy in America:
...if I were asked, now that I am drawing to the close of this work, in which I have spoken of so many important things done by the Americans, to what the singular prosperity and growing strength of that people ought mainly to be attributed, I should reply: To the superiority of their women.
Fire from the Heartland celebrates how the rich legacy of mothers transmitted moral values, a strong work ethic and the gritty determination to prosper and succeed. Their legacy made the American Experiment thrive over the last 233 years.
Despite how some liberals try to paint conservatives as elitist fat cats, nearly every woman in the film shared how the challenges they faced influenced their conservative values. For example:
- Michele Bachmann, often vilified by liberal bloggers and media, described how she started babysitting at 12 for lunch money after her parents divorced. Her formerly-middle class mother was left to raise a family on $4,800 a year. Bachmann later earned a post-doctorate degree in tax law from the College of William and Mary by working her way through school.
- Michelle Malkin's parents immigrated from the Phillipines in the 1970s during the communist rule of Ferdinand Marcos.
- Sonnie Johnson, who nearly stole the film, was born to a woman she described as a "crackhead," and was raised by a friend of her father. She realized early in her life that she was not a victim and refused to take part in liberal ideology, which she believes leads to victimhood. She became a conservative after casting a ballot in 2000 for Al Gore and then discovered that she disagreed with most of his platform.
- Jenny Beth Martin, co-founder of Tea Party Patriots, and her husband lost their house in the financial crisis. Rather than declare bankruptcy, she and her husband started cleaning houses to pay their bills. She started organizing tea parties by talking with other conservatives on Twitter and became an unlikely leader. She was recently listed in Time as one of the 100 Most Influential People.
- Michelle Moore, one of the founders of Smart Girl Politics and commentator, was raised by a single mother and then became one herself.
These were not voices of women from rich and elite backgrounds. These were women who relied on faith, personal responsibility, work ethic and passion to achieve success.They were elected officials, bloggers, pundits, writers, homeschooling moms, single women, women without children, young women, old women, middle-aged women, black women, white women, influentials and grassroots activists. They captured the rich variety of women who are drawn to the Tea Party movement because they want to ensure the America they love is preserved for their children and grandchildren.
Before Sarah Palin
If a liberal woman had accomplished the following, wouldn't she be celebrated today?
- Self-publishes a biography of a Senator and failed presidential contender, which sells more than sold 3 million copies, from her garage
- Works her way through college in a munitions factory and tests firearms before they are shipped to active members of the military
- Earns a law degree while raising six children
- Mobilizes millions of women to take political action and single-handedly takes on the establishment to fight prominent legislation
Who could this woman be? Would you guess Phylis Schafly?
Michelle Malkin nailed it when she said, "If feminism could move beyond slavism to leftist ideology, they would celebrate Phylis Schafly."
Before Sarah Palin, Phylis Schafly was enraging liberals. Many use the image of a polite, delicate, older lady to convey stereotypes of conservative women and downplay Schafly's remarkable experiences. (At the premiere, Schafly's zingers got as many laughs as Coulter's.) However, she always viewed motherhood as her best accomplishment. In my notes I wrote, "Phylis Schafly is a badass. Who would have though that?"
During the film, Dana Loesch comments, "Motherhood is political. Period." to describe the concept of mama grizzlies. That line summarizes Schafly's life and achievements.
While the film also highlighted the contributions of Margaret Thatcher and Clare Booth Luce, I found Schafly fascinating. She's usually the target of so much hate, yet she was truly a pioneering female leader.
All Issues Are Women's Issues
After I got home last night, I realized Fire from the Heartland spent scant time discussing traditional women's issues. Abortion was mentioned in passing, and feminism was only discussed in relation to attacks on conservative women. These women were able to convey their independence and passion without resorting to messages of oppression, victimhood or calls for big government programs. They didn't focus on the "evils of the patriarchy," but the legacy of the American Dream and the doors opened by America's capitalist system. They focused on what they could do as individuals, not what their government should do for them.
This film captures the passion and spirit that women have brought to the conservative movement. They aren't mired down by quotas, affirmative action or dependence on government programs. They're the culmination of a women's movement that taught them to be leaders and a legacy of freedom and limited government. Fire from the Heartland comes closer than anything else to capturing the values, beliefs and ideals of this concept the media is just now beginning to acknowledge: the conservative woman.
Watch the trailer below.
Adrienne Royer fights for conservative values daily and writes at Cosmopolitan Conservative