Kathy Gyngell: Time for British women to stand up to the feminist thought police

It is not easy to be a conservative woman, at least not here in the United Kingdom. By that I mean a proper conservative woman – not the half-baked sort that supposedly represent us in Parliament, who are hardly conservative in their values at all.

Since setting up The Conservative Woman, we have been asked more than once: ‘so where are the conservative women, then?’

Understandably so, we concede. If the comments on the site are indicative, then by far the majority of our readers are men. Apart from Busy Mum, Tricia and one or two other honourable exceptions, our potential women readers have gone to ground, are in hiding or have been so bullied into the prevailing feminist ideology they dare not read the site at all.

The death last week of Phyllis Schlafly, the firebrand critic of American feminism, made me ponder all this. Why, I wondered, is she nigh on unheard of here when she was, and still is, a household name in the USA? Why does America ‘allow’ an anti-feminist to be a heroine whose views and actions are worthy of respect, when such a women would be abhorred and shouted down here?

We all know the answer - why she has no counterpart over here – she would have been laughed out of court, treated as an eccentric or ignored. I know, as a ‘known’ social conservative and full-time mother lobbyist, I am more an 'embarrassment’ than an asset in political circles.

Schlafly's advocacy for traditional marriage and child rearing, for the idea that women were already well looked after and needed no more rights – all accepted ideas in Republican circles in the USA – here in the UK have fallen on stony ground, whatever the colour of the party in power.

Yet in the USA, as their leading anti-feminist, as the chief antagonist of the Equal Rights Amendment, as a woman who fearlessly made the case for maternal and uxorial virtues (which she herself balanced with raising and breastfeeding her six children) Schlafly won status and standing as well as opprobrium in her obituaries, even in the left-leaning Economist.

It was that, of course – the respect she won, her sheer fame - that drove women of a rigid political bent so mad that some still raged in response at her death: “When conservative activist Phyllis Schlafly died last week”,  one said shamelessly, "I was among the many liberal writers who didn’t hesitate to call her a hatemonger”.

The  feminist fury directed at her even in her death   goes to prove the continuing influence of Schlafly’s brand of conservatism in the USA.  Her social policies, that were her direct response to the advent of feminism and to its impact in the 1970s on popular consciousness, are still propounded.

She took up arms against the Equal Rights Amendment and against pro-ERA feminists in the 1970s, articulating a definitive and alternative stance on women's rights, and she never let up.

She fought feminists like Betty Friedan on their own turf, arguing that the ERA was "a direct threat to the protection that mothers and working women enjoyed in American society”. She was proved right. Women’s lot has not improved without the protection of relationships.

Her mission centred on the very reasonable proposition that we hold dear at TCW (vive la difference) that men are men and women are women. The feminists' demand for total conformity was not symptomatic of true liberalism, she said,  rather of their intolerance – a piercing critique that drove them to fury.

Thanks to her for all the ‘liberal’ transformation of the United States, American feminists could not and did not stamp out her influence or analysis.

But the sad fact is that there has been no woman to compare with her in the UK. The political and social environment since the 1970s has been more oppressive and more hostile to dissent. Organisations, like the Full-Time Mothers lobby group that I founded, were not just thwarted by an already feminised establishment, they were also weakened by their own membership, fearful of feminist disapprobation, fearful of being tarred as old fashioned - lacking clarity, conviction and courage.

Conservative women, the Conservative Party has decreed since the days of Margaret Thatcher, must be modern women, pro abortion, pro sexual freedom and non-judgemental of lifestyle. This has hardly helped. There has been no room for 'old-fashioned', stay-at-home mums. Not if the Tories were to steal Labour’s clothes. They had to be conventionally pro childcare in order to liberate oppressed women into the embrace of the workplace. Like their Labour sisters they have had to demand parity of outcome in all that suits them.

Even Thatcher, who kept herself out of the feminist debate, I suspect  would have struggled with someone like Phyllis, never mind this lady's significant intellectual and political abilities.

You could argue, as did the Spectator’s Professor Patrick Allitt, that Schlafly could not impede the vast social forces that have transformed the United States – that divorce, contraception and abortion are all widespread.

But you can equally argue that she was a force to be reckoned with to her death, and that she more than kept the flame of social conservatism alight – to the point that the tide against ‘progressive liberalism’ may be finally starting to turn.  And that she remains an inspiration to the counter-revolutionaries.

(Image: Gage Skidmore)

Kathy Gyngell

  • Vox Populi

    I love this website and I am addicted to it. I also think it creates plausibility structures for conservatives like me to keep fighting the fight. But given your comment on the low number of women compared to men, don’t you think you should change the name of the site from Conservative Woman to Conservative Human? The lefties will be in raptures–at least you’ve used a non-sexist term! Just kidding though about the name–viva la Conservative Woman! Long may she reign!

  • Colkitto03

    We now have female leaders of the Conservatives, the DUP, the Scottish Conservatives and UKIP so things are starting to turn around slowly.
    I’m waiting for the Women’s Equality Party to invite the four ladies above, for a celebratory photo shoot with Sandi Tosveg.

    • Craig Martin

      There may be shooting, but I don’t think photo’s will be involved!

  • What the feminists don’t seem to realise is that many women, indeed probably a majority of women, are quite content with the way things are. The reason why there are not so many women in top jobs, for example, is because many women, even if suitably qualified, don’t want them. Both of our daughters are very well qualified (one has a doctorate from LSE) but neither want high-flying jobs in spite of having been offered such posts. Their husbands earn sufficient to support their families and what they earn is simply put away for a “rainy day”.
    How many women have this attitude and prefer a relatively stress-free job, perhaps part-time, allowing them freedom to collect children from school, take the dog for a walk or work in the garden? The feminists clearly don’t like such women!

    • Groan

      Of course they realise this. Survey after survey shows women generally aspire to relatively “traditional” lives. On each occasion we are treated to a parade of ,mainly, women saying how deluded these ordinary women are and “more needs to be done” to change their mind.

      • There seems to be a belief that money and more money is the ultimate aim and it applies to men as well as women. No-one could understand my nephew giving up a job with a top firm of London accountants and taking a job with a small provincial group. It was simple, the family were fed up with living within commuter distance of London, with the long hours of work plus travel times. Countryside plus fifteen minutes drive to work, time with the family and better schooling was a great incentive. But his previous colleagues think that he’s mad!

  • Earthenware

    Will it help if I choose to “identify” as a woman?

    • James Chilton

      Can you explain why fewer women than men, apparently, are readers at a site called The Conservative Woman?

      • TJB

        Probably because there are so few sites where a true Conservative viewpoint is offered anywhere else. And of course that Conservatives don’t care about the messenger so much as the message, unlike others. 🙂

    • Craig Martin

      My kids call me a big girl when I see a spider.
      Does that count?

    • TJB

      Well if you do you could attack anyone that gainsaid you as a bigot and flounce off in a huff.

      Of course you’d also have to stop using facts and logic and revert to feelings.

      *I’ll now hide. 🙂

  • James Chilton

    If more women than men visited this site and commented here, there would be grounds for hope that militant feminism is becoming a spent force. Since the reverse seems to be the case, there is more reason to despair than to hope.

    I had heard of Phyllis Schlafly, but knew little about her. Now that I know more, I like and admire her.

    • tattyhead65

      I agree the site needs to reach out to women somehow.

  • Busy Mum

    I’m too busy working at my traditional marriage and raising my children to become a household name 🙂

    • Kathy Gyngell

      This is so true – and that is why politically we – full time mums (in my case a former full time mum) – have been on the back foot compared with women who download their family and motherhood responsibilities to others (and unlikely to stand up for motherhood as a result but rather feel the need to justify their choice in feminist terms with the platform of the workplace to do it from).

      However ‘Busy Mum’ is on the way to being a household name – you may have cracked it!

    • This is a part of the problem. Those who are fulfilled and busy with the best job in the world are not the most politically active in society.

      Which leaves the harpies, the lesbians, the misfits, the damaged (by parents or ex-partner), and the social deconstructionists, to stand up and say “we represent women” and to have their policies of misandry and destruction implemented.

      Busy, happy, mums have to be attracted to politics enough to be heard. Their voices, and those of their busy, fulfilled men, need to be raised enough to drown out the screeching of the feminist zealots.

  • Jonathan Tedd

    I read a great post over at Cranmer yesterday about the feminisation of the church. It explains much why men no longer go to church:

    If you are not aware of the feminisation of the church then you have been gulled by the culture.

    Men who, like me, feel slightly sick singing words to Jesus that no man would say to another (“You’re altogether lovely, altogether wonderful to me”), words the disciples never used to Him that make him sound like the singer’s boyfriend, words more like the Song of Songs than the Psalms – eros-love rather than agapē – such men will appreciate this book. Like King David, men want to sing thanks to God for victory in strife, not beg him for a hug. Here is an excerpt from the first edition that had me cheering (p.140):

    Tony went to the men’s small group at his church – once. First, the men sat in a circle and sang praise songs for about 10 minutes. Tony was asked to introduce himself and ‘share’ about his life. Next, he was paired with a stranger and asked to share one of his deepest fears. Then everyone was asked to share a prayer or a praise report. The men read from the bible, taking turns around the circle. Finally the men stood in a circle and held hands for what seemed like hours, while one by one they bared their souls to God. One man was quietly weeping. The guy next to Tony prayed for 10 minutes straight, and his palms were sweaty. Once the meeting was over, Tony didn’t stay for coffee. He hasn’t been back. Men’s ministry often falters for this reason: It’s women’s ministry for men…

    • klm

      That sounds kind of awkward…I’m not sure I would go back for more of that, either. And I am a woman.

  • log

    I miss manly men……..grew up in South Africa where men were ‘allowed’ to be masculine. SA being 30 years behind the times…Was surprised when I came to the UK at how ‘feminine ‘ some men were here and scared to open doors in case they caused offence. Masculine men are a lot sexier than their modern henpecked counterparts! Bring them back! OK I admit its a superficial and sexist comment on my part…so expect a lot of hostility.

    • 5th column traitors

      There’s plenty of us “manly men” here still, just most of us are over 50 now.

      • klm

        Unfortunately, that does seem to be true. I see lots of doughy-looking 20- and 30- something men these days. They’re soft and slow – they don’t seem to move with a purpose, they just kind of shuffle around, never in a hurry. I definitely did not want my son to turn out that way – and I’m happy to say that he’s a manly man at 18!

      • log

        So am I (just) must be why I remember their existence?

  • timbazo

    ‘ … our potential women readers have gone to ground, are in hiding or have been so bullied into the prevailing feminist ideology they dare not read the site at all.’

    Perhaps if you didn’t see women as easily cowed, you might get more female readers.

  • Don Benson

    The tragedy of the ‘equality’ agenda, and particularly the feminist element of it is that it devalues and eventually will destroy the arrangement that, above all else, makes for happy, contented, fulfilled human beings. And that arrangement is of course the family, and at its heart is the mind blowing gift of being able to make children and nurture them until they become self-determining adults. And the unique gift where this is centred is given to women; and even if it is used wisely and well it is a huge challenge but it is also the ultimate source of joy both for the woman and her husband.

    Every part of the physical beauty and the complex personality of women and, likewise, of the physical characteristics and the masculine way of thinking and doing of men works together for this unique creative enterprise; and if only we could all recognise it, accept it, celebrate it and work to support it I am sure our society would be utterly transformed for the
    better.

    Yes, there are anomalies and variations in how we individuals are made; we are imperfect creatures, prone to mistakes, misjudgements, physical ailments and many more things. And life is not exactly fair; there is a lot of chance in how well or badly things work out for us as individuals. But I believe notions of deconstructing ‘traditional’ arrangements in the expectation that things will magically become greatly superior to the design of nature are entirely wrong and destined to make everyone miserable on a vast scale.

    I think at the heart of the idea of the Conservative Woman is an understanding of this; and it is a truly important message to convey. Long may you fight for what you believe and, one day, may many more women (and men) be released from the soul-destroying tyranny of feminism.

    • Groan

      I know I bang on about this. Its not a “tragedy” but an intended policy outcome. To usher in the better society. This is not some accidental confluence of disparate initiatives. Conservative Woman does a huge service in exposing this.

  • Jan

    Why would they? They are free riders. They get all the benefits from feminism, but can avoid all the negative baggage.

    Oh, no I’m not a feminist , but I like the free stuff.

  • Groan

    Well I suspect one factor is sheer size. On a trip across the US visiting family it soon became clear that the attitudes and mores familiar from LA or New York were regarded as equally exotic and foreign as if these places were “abroad”. the second is that even in the most generous States the welfare offer is a fraction of that here. Making the results of “lifestyle choices” more stark and far more likely to result on assistance from family or friends. There is of course a more free and boisterous media. And a genuine tradition and constitutional support for free expression. Finally there is little of the idea that overt disagreement is “bad manners” . I think this last point is more powerful than we’d like to think in our middle class elite. Hence the power of the feminist assertion that feminism and women are the same thing so disagreement with feminism is being rude. and of course our capital and its elites stands like a colossus over this small nation.
    I think it no accident that the two recent MPs to poke the feminist behemoth are from Batley and Lincoln, places probably not on the map for the elite. As you have said by their nature determined career women who seek power are unusual and unlikely have the concerns of any ordinary women or men at the forefront uppermost in their minds (similarly determined power hungry men in fact).
    Put simple what’s not to like about getting men to work harder and for less “rewards” if it gets you what you want!

  • Jan