A “Conservative” by Any Other Name…

June 17, 2008 | NeW Staff

       Recently, I have become obsessed with language. There has arisen in me a newfound interest in both playing with words in English and discovering words in other languages. (This has manifested itself in constant crossword puzzles, a preoccupation with puns, and the reading of my Spanish-English dictionary in my leisure time). In addition, I have become increasingly aware of the inadequacy or even inappropriate nature of the labeling of political parties and stances. Perhaps this stems from my fondness for vocabulary, but it is definitely influenced by the augmented importance of political views during election season in D.C. As if people in this town wouldn’t already prefer to know your political connections or voting record to your first name, now there is a ‘legitimate’ reason to ask your political party.

         The problem with this is that the label doesn’t always adequately explain or even match one’s beliefs. I have previously referred to myself as a “conservative” woman. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines conservative as: “the tendency to prefer an existing or traditional situation to change”. The irony is that I do want change! I wouldn’t be writing right now if I didn’t. Further, many of the areas in which I would have previously considered my views to be “conservative” are the areas that most need change. 

        For example, the many misconceptions and expectations concerning sexuality, especially among women on college campuses today stand out in my mind. Sure, many people would describe my stress on modesty and respect as ‘conservative’, but I prefer neither the existing nor the traditional situations! For centuries the role of women in the home was less than desirable, but the “sexual liberation” (another misnomer) of women in recent years is no better. The understanding of roles and sexuality needs to change by moving forward. This desire for sexual innovation doesn’t make me “conservative” but would in fact classify me (according to Merriam-Webster) as “liberal”: “broad-minded; especially: not bound by authoritarianism, orthodoxy, or traditional forms”. 

         To make things more complicated, often people who call themselves “feminists” (again, misnomer) believe the polar opposite of my ideas, and traditionally, they are some of the strongest “liberals”. Maybe this definition dilemma will never be solved, as it comes from man’s continual need to classify and compartmentalize people and preferences, which will always be diverse and different. For now, I think I’ll stick to labeling myself simply as “left-handed”.

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