Sabrina Schaeffer brings conservative feminism to AU
Schaeffer spoke to students as part of an event co-hosted by the Network of enlightened Women and Kennedy Political Union
Sabrina Schaeffer, executive director of the Independent Women’s Forum and a regular Fox News contributor, spoke to AU students on Feb. 8 at an event hosted by AU’s chapter of the Network of enlightened Women (NeW) and presented by the Kennedy Political Union.
Schaeffer’s remarks concerned the importance of career and family choices in women’s lives and defining feminism in a conservative light. She said that through the Independent Women’s Forum, she promotes “equity feminism,” as opposed to what she called “gender feminism.”
“Equity feminists believe in equal opportunities for women. We believe that feminism is about making the choices that are right for you and your family,” Schaeffer said in an interview with The Eagle. “I think gender feminism is about being defined by your gender or by your sex. Your politics are deeply connected to your gender rather than you being an individual who also happens to be a woman or a man.”
Schaeffer’s speech touched on several key players in feminist movements, including Sheryl Sandberg and Monica Lewinsky. At times, Schaeffer told the audience, she has admired both Sandberg and Lewinsky for speaking out about women’s “agency” in making their own decisions.
“To say that women have agency is a compliment. It’s saying that we have power and freedom to make our own choices and to live our own lives, even when the deck was down for us,” Schaeffer said. “Gender feminists chalk up every.grievance...to the fact that we still live in some ‘Mad Men’-inspired society rife with gender bias. Their solution is to cry victim and throw government in, negatively affecting women.”
Prior to the event, NeW chapter president Krista Chavez released a statement responding to comments characterizing her group as anti-woman, citing “liberal backlash on social media” after the announcement of Schaeffer’s visit.
“The idea of conservative being pro-woman is certainly not ‘oxymoronic,’” Chavez wrote. “Identifying as a conservative does not make us ‘brainwashed’ or ‘content with inequality.’ It actually means that we have considered both sides of the issues, analyzed the arguments, and come to different conclusions that may not identify with modern liberalism or liberal feminism.”
Regarding the controversy at AU and other universities across the country, Schaeffer said she believes that most students are more interested in learning about different ideologies than disrupting free speech on campus.
“I think that, unfortunately, a few students have probably stolen the headlines and that the vast majority of students are interested in having healthy debates about issues,” Schaeffer told The Eagle. “I suspect, as always, these are the outliers. I like to hope they are.”
Stephanie Black, a freshman in the College of Arts and Sciences, said that despite her disagreement with Schaeffer’s views, she treated the event as a learning opportunity to hear a different perspective.
“It’s shameful that we come from a campus that has been so upset in the days and weeks going up to this event because we can’t even handle the concept of someone coming to this campus who is conservative,” Black said. “If you’re so insecure in your own perspectives and your own beliefs that you can’t even listen to other points of view, then there’s a deeper issue there. You need to reexamine why you believe what you believe, and how that manifests itself.”
During the Q-and-A portion of the event, Schaeffer engaged with students concerned about the place of trans women in the feminist movement and the lack of access to contraceptives for women. Toward the end of the event, Schaeffer responded to the characterization of her message as “white feminism,” a term used to describe an ideology that excludes the experiences of people of color from feminism.
“That’s a little insulting,” Schaeffer told the crowd. “You’re at a top-ranked university, I suspect you have come from some resources and family that is supporting you. The reality is that those choices are not available for all women. There are new immigrants to this country, there are people growing up with one parent…there are people without an opportunity to get an education, and that is a very real challenge for those people. I think we need to recognize that.”
“But I don’t think that saying you have control over your life or that you want freedom for opportunity...is a white thing,” Schaeffer continued. “I think that is something for men. I think that is something for women. Modern feminism, in my view, is something that applies to women of all colors, of all ethnicities, of all backgrounds.”