Starting a Conversation on Feminism and Conservatism on Campus

Ten years ago, when a woman stepped on campus she found chapters of the National Organization for Women, Women's Studies departments and Women's Centers not open to supporting all women. That is partly why we founded the Network of enlightened Women, known as NeW, to serve as an alternative to campus feminism and provide a home for conservative women on campus.

During the summer of 2004, I had the opportunity to intern in Washington, DC. Rather than throwing out Republican and Democrat one-liners, my female colleagues were eager to talk about nuanced arguments behind legislative proposals and how the issues of the day affected women. It was exhilarating to hear speakers and staffers explain how a 500-page bill would affect me as a young woman.

I returned to the University of Virginia for my third year of college that fall and tried to find a similar environment. On my way home from class one day, I walked by a building called “The Women’s Center.” I figured it would be open to all women. I took a tour and at the end of it I asked, “Would the women’s center be interested in cosponsoring a group for conservative young women?” The women’s center faculty member looked at me like I was crazy, chuckled and said “not here.”

This was the beginning of NeW. Soon after NeW was founded at UVA, students at other universities heard about it and wanted to start chapters. NeW has expanded to campuses nationwide. In addition to the chapters, NeW hosts a National Conference each summer in DC, anniversary celebrations and a Gentlemen's Showcase.

We are excited about a number of new chapters starting this fall. The Daily Iowan recently featured a story on the NeW chapter starting at the University of Iowa, Conservative women's book club developing on campus. Chapter Founder Mary Kate Knorr said,

"The whole point of [Network of enlightened Women] is to create a dialogue about how conservative women go out into the world while maintaining the conservative thoughts and lifestyles they want."

NeW has started a conversation about feminism and conservatism on college campuses.  Interested in learning more?  Watch this video describing the NeW movement.

What issues do you think could be uniting issues for campus feminists and conservatives?

Recent Posts by Karin Agness

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