"What it’s like to be a conservative woman at AU" by Madison Bollweg

October 26, 2020

This piece originally appeared in The Augustana Mirror on October 8, 2020.

A person would think that being a conservative woman on a college campus would not have its struggles; however, that is not necessarily the case.

What I’ve learned in my almost two years on campus is that intellectual diversity is absent, feminists aren’t for all women — based on the way they treat conservative women — and one may be disliked for views and beliefs. For all of these reasons and more, I brought an organization to campus this fall, Network of Enlightened Women (NeW), which serves as a network of conservative women to help educate, equip and empower other women to be principled leaders of a free society.

College tends to be the time in a person’s life when they start to figure out who they truly are, what they want to do in their life and what they believe in. Many times, their own families will have a huge influence on many of those decisions, and other times, they stray out on their own path and decide for themselves.

I grew up in a conservative family with a few family members working in federal and state government, one of which was the secretary for George W. Bush. As I grew older, I participated in government clubs, got involved in parliamentary procedure, paged in the state Legislature and worked on many successful campaigns, including for our new governor Kristi Noem.

As I headed off for college, it never crossed my mind that being a conservative at a private university in South Dakota, a primarily red state, would have its struggles. I was wrong. It all began as I started working as an intern for the state party doing small jobs here and there, as well as some small speaking events.

A common question I would get was, “Where do you work?” I would respond with, “I’m an intern for the South Dakota Republican Party.” The most common response I would get back is, “How could you ever support them? They are racists and white supremacists.”

The first couple times I heard these remarks, I was in awe and completely shocked. I always thought that those people were jealous and to never let what they said get to me. Then it started to become name-calling, losing friends because of political affiliation and being known as “the conservative woman on campus.”

Again, I thought it wouldn’t get any worse until the summer of 2020 when the riots and Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement started to take root. I had gotten messages on my social media outlets asking why I didn’t support BLM and even ended up with a message, stating, “If you support the president and what he’s doing, you’re a racist, bigot, and full of hatred. We will find you and come hunt you down.”

As I continued to get blasted for my beliefs, I realized the one thing I could continue to do is to be bold, be confident, stay true to my spiritual beliefs, promote intellectual diversity (which becomes harder to do on a private campus) and speak the truth.

Being a conservative woman on a liberal campus and speaking up for what I believe in is a minority in itself. This is just my story, and I know there are more of these bold and confident women on campus. It’s just how willing they are to come forward and not be afraid to speak up and speak out despite how unpopular it may be.

Despite our political affiliation, we must all remain respectful of each other’s beliefs and remember the importance of intellectual diversity and how great it is that we are all unique and have our own perspectives.

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