This op-ed was originally published on NorthJersey.com on November 15, 2019.
Election Day was always a big day in my house, and I loved going to the polls with my mom. One year while we were standing in the polling booth, I looked up at my mom and asked, “do the police come and arrest you if you don’t vote?” My mom laughed and told me “no, it is a choice, a right, an opportunity and your civic duty, but you don’t have to vote if you choose not to.”
In 2016, I executed that powerful right and pulled the lever for the first time. At 19 years old, I proudly cast my first vote.
Soon after Hillary Clinton’s defeat, she blamed her loss on women who supposedly were unable to make their own decisions and instead voted the way their husbands, fathers, and sons, had told them. This statement was upsetting for many reasons. I thought back to that day at the polls where the strongest woman I know told me voting is a privilege and an opportunity.
Who was Clinton to tell me I am not strong enough to determine how to vote?
Today, three years later, a similar stage is being set. The 2020 election has five women competing for the Democratic ticket. As a young female, I am proud to see women making history on the debate stage.
However, I will not be voting for any of them. I am not anti-woman, and my vote does not exclude me from the feminist movement. I am a capable, independent thinker and nobody tells me how to vote. I choose to vote based on policy, not gender. I am just as excited as the next girl to see the first female president, but I will wait until it is a woman who I can stand behind and who will make decisions for America that I can proudly support.
Unfortunately, as a conservative woman in college today, I have been made to feel guilty for thinking this way and began to question my own politics in this regard. Is it wrong that I am not supporting a woman candidate in 2020? Am I betraying my gender and hindering women’s rights? This guilt exemplifies the feminist ideology the left is pushing, the idea that women cannot be conservative.
My involvement in the Network of enlightened Women (NeW) has had a tremendous impact on me through these trying political times. Being a conservative woman in college is difficult, and constantly having to defend my political views is frustrating. It has become commonplace to be adversarial with those that are conservative. Should we not support all women — even conservative women?
I am a strong, motivated woman. NeW has provided me with a group of women who empower me and constantly remind me to be proud of myself and my political beliefs. This group strengthened my beliefs and is proof that yes, it is possible to be a female and to be conservative.
Women voting conservative is helping to drive the feminist movement, not hinder it. We are proof that women are courageous, independent and willing to step outside of a stereotype.
In that voting booth at the age of 10, my mom instilled in me a sense of duty and responsibility to use my voice. Even then, I struggled to grasp how anyone would not want to have a say in who represents them. This is why I will continue to proudly speak out and always believe in myself.
Michaela Hebbeler, from Franklin Lakes, NJ, is studying political science and media studies at The Catholic University of America. She is a Student Media Fellow with the Network of enlightened Women (NeW) this fall. This essay is part of the NeW #ConservativeWomenVote campaign, showcasing that conservative women should be part of the 100th anniversary celebration of women winning the right to vote.