The glory of feminism, which engulfed waves of young women in the 1960s and ’70s, has increasingly lost its luster with today’s generation, many of whom have observed its radical swerve to the left. Today’s feminists have embraced an increasingly hostile and denigrating view of the male half of the species, bitterly viewing them as a hindrance to female liberation. Not surprisingly, radical feminists today also devalue the institution of marriage (after all, empowered women don’t need men), and view motherhood with contempt.
Many collegiate women have observed the detrimental effects of such attitudes, and just aren’t buying them. Being feminist is as out-of-style as crimped hair and big bangs; conservative college women are exposing today’s feminism for what it is: entangling ideology that needs to be toned down.
Karin Agness, a college senior at the University of Virginia, has become a leader of this endeavor. Tired of feminist propaganda, she founded the Network of Enlightened Women (N.E.W.) to foster education and leadership and advance conservative principles among university women.
“Prior to founding the group, I couldn’t find any other collegiate conservative women’s organizations in existence,” Agness told Concerned Women for America’s Beverly LaHaye Institute (BLI). “I think it’s important for women to have a network of other like-minded women. The growth of N.E.W. has been exciting, and there has been a lot of enthusiasm among the members. I believe that women have to stand up and fight feminism because it is much more effective and persuasive if women are the ones who do it.”
Agness says N.E.W., which grew from five to 25 members in just one year, is designed to create an environment that empowers women, where they are able to engage in political discussion, learn about women’s issues, sharpen debate skills, and participate more in public policy and political activism.
“We embody the most dangerous threat to the feminists because we engage them intellectually. Instead of using feminist tactics such as protesting, rudely interrupting, or writing inaccurate commentaries, we develop leadership through education,” Agness says.
Book-club style discussions are one of N.E.W.’s methods. Most recently, the group read Danielle Crittenden’s book, What our Mothers Didn’t Tell Us: Why Happiness Eludes the Modern Woman, which describes how feminist ideology has victimized young women.
Agness believes the discussion is valuable for college-age women who are often surrounded by feminist influences that devalue the virtues of motherhood and elevate a career. “Conservative women aren’t being suppressed by a patriarchal society, as feminists allege,” she says. “Women will be happier when they recognize the need for balance and realize the importance of the family is just as valid as having a career. Both are great choices.”
Dr. Janice Crouse, senior fellow of BLI, agrees. “Our research indicated a couple of years ago that a new trend seemed to be emerging. Current data proves that it is a solid trend; for the first time in over 50 years, young mothers are leaving the work force to stay home with their babies. More and more mothers understand that there is no substitute for their influence and nurturing for their children. They are finding creative ways to balance their lives to make being a wife and mother a priority.”
In just one year, Agness’ group has grown in size and clout, and fostered intellectual diversity on campus. It has organized debates with opposing student organizations, conducted panel discussions and hosted conservative speakers. Most recently, N.E.W. invited Christina Hoff Sommers, a conservative speaker and author of The War Against Boys, to address a group of approximately 200 students and faculty members about the shortcomings of feminism.
The lecture succeeded in sparking intense debate and angering feminists who, reliably, resorted to name-calling and accusations instead of the facts. Feminists denounced N.E.W. as “anti-woman” and “intolerant.”
“So much of the feminist debate is not intellectual,” Agness states, noting the large volume of hate e-mail N.E.W. receives. “They just recite the feminist dogma.” Crouse adds, “Plus, they respond so emotionally and irrationally in debates especially when their views are challenged.”
Such controversy has helped N.E.W. strengthen its profile on the University of Virginia campus.
“Whereas before, for instance, the campus newspaper would automatically go to feminists from the National Organization of Women (NOW) or the women’s studies department to get a woman’s perspective on an issue, they now have started coming to us for our opinion,” Agness said. “We want to reclaim the voice that is used to represent women.”
It appears that conservative women’s voices will be stronger and louder on university campuses this fall. As word of N.E.W.’s success has spread, Agness has received requests from conservative women across the country who desire to establish chapters. She anticipates N.E.W.’s expansion to multiple college campuses this fall and has assisted in their planning and development.
“We are really creating a nationwide network of conservative women,” Agness says. “As long as conservative principles are ignored on college campuses, N.E.W. will continue to flourish.”
So feminists, beware! The Network of Enlightened Women might be on its way to a campus near you. Expect them to brush out a lot of gnarly knots.
Jessica Anderson, a senior at the University of Northern Iowa, is an intern in CWA’s Ronald Reagan Memorial Internship Program. She is majoring in public administration, political science and music.