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Feminism and Conservative Women

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[Brochures from Concerned Women of America (CWA), courtesy of Mary Frances Forrester]

From 2009 to 2014, the SOHP conducted over 150 interviews for the Long Women’s Movement in the American South. In 2014 and 2015, field scholar Evan Faulkenbury contributed to the project by focusing on conservative women activists. Speaking with fourteen women in North Carolina and Virginia, Evan asked them about their lives, activism, beliefs, and impact on the communities around them. These interviews cover a range of topics, including anti-abortion protests, evangelical theology, Republican Party organizing, lobbying work, politics, and the roles that women have played in shaping modern conservatism in the American South.

Before shutting off the audio recorder at the end of these interviews, Evan asked directly what feminism meant to them. The answers are complex, and no two explanations are the same. Below, listen to clips of six conservative women explaining what feminism means to them. To listen to the whole audio and read the full transcripts for each interview, click the link highlighting their name.

Thanks to each interviewee for sharing her life story for this project!

Dr. Monica Rose Brennan is an Associate Professor of Women’s Ministries at Liberty University. In this clip, she explains her viewpoint that feminism began in the Garden of Eden “when Eve took on a different role than what she was designed to have.”

Mary Frances Forrester, a leader within Concerned Women of America (CWA), discusses how she believes feminism was akin to “undermining the man of the house.”

Karen Swallow Prior, a Professor of English at Liberty University, says that there are “many feminisms,” but she does not claim the word for herself, because, in part, the word “feminist” is “not really a very helpful term in most contexts, I don’t think, today.”

Dee Parsons believes that women can be pastors, and she holds other church-related progressive viewpoints, even though she holds a more conservative theology. She recognizes, however, that many people do not believe women can be pastors, and while she doesn’t “make it a hill to die on,” she hopes “that issue will change.”

Judith Reisman is a Research Professor in Liberty University’s School of Law. In this clip, she gathers her thoughts and talks about feminism as “irrelevant.”

Jennifer Snellings works at a crisis pregnancy center, and in this clip, she describes feminism as “an excuse to be a way that you want to be” rather than following evangelical principles.