If a man you just met asked if you felt welcome in the conservative movement as a woman, how would you respond? Some would surely opt for anger or indignation, as the inquiry subtly suggests you’re some sort of “other” within your own ideology. Others might dismiss the question as a refusal to acknowledge “identity politics.” I, however, relish the opportunity to speak candidly about why I feel embraced by the conservative community as a female.
At the very center of conservative doctrine is the belief that a person can achieve their own goals and live life according to their own design. Characteristics like self-reliance, industriousness, and responsibility are attainable to all; everyone in society has an equal opportunity to create their own success. Regardless of one’s status in society, a conservative can take comfort in the fact that they are in control of their future. Dignity lies in independence and individuality, and these principles form the cornerstone of my pride in conservatism.
An ideology that views someone as independent is empowering because of what that independence implies. As a conservative, I am free to be held accountable for my actions and have a legitimate claim to my accomplishments. I have the ability to choose the direction of my life and succeed, or fail, on my own merits. When I succeed, I can take ownership of the work that led to my accomplishment. More importantly, I can own my failures and understand why I made particular mistakes. I can grow as a person through self-reflection, or I can ask for assistance if I feel I need it. But I can seek that help on my own terms, which gives me the ability to determine when I need it and how much is appropriate.
The notion propagated by the left that I am somehow disadvantaged and require institutional assistance because of my gender is insulting. It assumes I am somehow less than my male peers. Often when women are seen through a lens of leftism, they are seen as a minority in need of protection. That view implies that I have some sort of weakness that needs to be compensated for by someone else. I have no disability simply because I am a female, and to say otherwise would be to deny my inherent equality to men.
I take pride in belonging to conservatism because it views me as an equal. As a woman, I am not disadvantaged nor in need of assistance, but an equal intellectual contributor to society. The conservative philosophy allows room to acknowledge that I am biologically different from my male counterparts, but because I am viewed as an individual, differences are just that. My lack of achievement in an area should be attributed to my own circumstances, not those of an entire group of people who happen to share a common characteristic. I reject the notion that there is some sort of systematic, oppressive force that creates a need for me to care exclusively about “women’s issues.”
In fact, women constitute over half of the United States’ population. My economic, social, and political issues are the country’s economic, social, and political issues. To presume otherwise would be to imply that I should care more or less about certain issues because of my gender. Conservatism rejects this way of thinking in favor of one that allows me, as an individual, to choose which issues matter. Viewing every issue through the lens of one identity is dangerous because it prevents someone from empathizing with others who think differently. By deciding for myself how I want to view issues, I can consider more perspectives and work to create better solutions.
Conservatism boldly declares that such individuality stems from my intellectual and personal characteristics, meaning that I am valued for the contributions I make as a person. On an equal playing field of opportunity, I have as much potential to succeed as anyone else, man or woman. I can fulfill that potential in any way I see fit. As a conservative, I am not marginalized when those values cause my life’s path to diverge from those typically taken by women.
Conservatism sees me as more than a member of a group to be categorized and exploited for the purpose of identity politics. When people are baited into identity groups by politicians and other leaders, they become nothing more than a tool to those leaders. They're no longer individuals with specific needs, lives, and desires. To partition and exploit people in that way reduces their humanity. I believe that a core piece of being human stems from the value of each person individually, and their freedom to act independently. I am proud to belong to an ideology that values me as an independent individual, no matter my gender.