Being a conservative woman on a college campus means that some will dislike you solely based upon your political beliefs. I have experienced it personally; students and faculty have openly criticized me for being “ignorant” and “brainwashed”, without ever getting to know me. They see something inherently contradictory about being both conservative and pro-women. But rather than getting to know my politics and understanding what it actually means to be conservative, they hide behind insults.
But I am not the first, nor will I be the last woman to experience this fate. In fact, conservative women have a history of facing heavy criticism. But many of these women became the first females to serve in their positions, including Jeanette Rankin (the first woman ever elected to Congress), Sandra Day O’Conner (the first female Supreme Court justice), and Clare Booth Luce (the first woman to hold a major U.S. ambassadorship abroad). When I become frustrated with those who attack my political values, I think about my favorite conservative hero who endured taunts throughout her career. She was assertive and aggressive, with nicknames that reflected this; she was called “milk snatcher” and “Attila the Hen”. Yet, she did not back down from the insults; instead, she embraced one and transformed it into her mantra: the Iron Lady.
Reading Margaret Thatcher’s autobiography was a transformative experience for me. Her legacy is marked with hostility from her political opponents. Thatcher was demanding, ambitious, and strong-willed. She broke apart labor unions that were crippling Britain’s economy and fought tirelessly to defend the free market. Fighting for capitalism made her many enemies. Her adversaries tried to discredit her at every opportunity. She took the abuse in stride. After a particularly powerful speech against socialism, Thatcher’s opponents began calling her the Iron Lady. They hoped the nickname would make her to back down from her beliefs. But instead, Thatcher took on this legendary nickname, saying: “Yes I am an iron lady…if that’s how they wish to interpret my defense of values and freedoms fundamental to our way of life.”
Thatcher recognized that sticking to her values was more important than pacifying her constituents. She understood that defending conservative values would sometimes mean enduring disrespect. She wrote that, “If you just set out to be liked, you will be prepared to compromise on anything at any time, and would achieve nothing. Since reading her words, I have been inspired to defend my values, despite the insults that may come my way. Some liberals, particularly those on college campuses, use personal insults to stifle the speech of those with difficult political views. They attempt to shame students into silence by defaming our reputations. Thatcher’s answer to this problem is particularly felicitous: “I always cheer up immensely if one is particularly wounding because I think well, if they attack one personally, it means they have not a single political argument left.”
I am proud to be a conservative woman because it means I can stand up for free market and free speech, which is what our country is founded upon. It means I can work hard for the things I have. It means I am part of a legacy of women who have changed the world and can become a part of future change. Conservative women have a proud history of success. They look past the opinions of others and work towards the greater good. It will not be easy. Thatcher endured criticism her entire life; even her funeral procession was protested. Yet, she warned us not to give up. “You always have people who take the soft option. The apparently easy way out is the way that gets you into the deepest trouble. The lesson is, you don’t soften fundamental principles. You positively push us forward into the future.”