By Catherina Hurlburt
October 6, 2000
Many women who came of age in the 1960s ushered in a feminism built on sexual license. They rebelled against a female stereotype that respects femininity. As a result of feminists' trailblazing, we see young women today flaunt their sexuality in the way they dress and act, ostensibly to exude "female power"--and we don't see men standing in their way.
A recent cover of Time featuring the "Sex and the City" women has received a lot of attention for shedding light on this phenomenon. And the August issue of George magazine called this a "new kind of feminism." It described the "Stiletto Feminist" as the woman who "embraces easy expressions of sexuality that enhances rather than detracts from women's freedom." But this quest to nail down who women are today comes up short. Many women do not relate even to the term "feminism," because it's out of step with their lives today.
In this year's election, distinguishing precisely what the female voter wants, and appealing to her desires, is a critical strategy for both major political parties, as evidenced by recent not-so-subtle campaign moves. Recently, Gore sat down on "The Oprah Winfrey Show" to chat with women. Bush also appeared on the show, after wooing female voters in coffee-shop meetings in mid-September.
While on the show, Gore made an interesting observation. He complimented Oprah on her red stiletto-heeled boots. Again, the almighty stiletto: once the bane of feminists of the '70s; now the symbol of female "empowerment" through sexuality-an image that somehow separates the Sarah Jessica Parkers from the Wendy Shalits (famous for promoting coyness in A Return to Modesty).
I beg to differ. Today's young, politically involved, "with it" woman is better described as the "Stiletto Conservative." What? Are those words supposed to go together? Isn't the typical conservative woman buttoned up and prudishly bedecked in sensible shoes--hopelessly out of touch with modern ideas on sexuality? Maybe in the media's stereotype.
We (yes, I'm one of them) are not afraid to express our unabashedly conservative views. And we understand the significance of sexual empowerment. However, we realize that it only comes in its restraint. Our empowerment comes from controlling our sexuality, rather than letting it control us--as the Steinem-era feminists did, to their, and our, generation's detriment. (By the way, Gloria, congratulations on your nuptials.)
So, just who exactly are we? Wirthlin Worldwide, commissioned by the Beverly LaHaye Institute (BLI), the research arm of Concerned Women for America, most accurately revealed our viewpoint in a recent poll on a significant swing-voting bloc. BLI called this group, which comprises 22 percent of women voters and 12 percent of voters overall, the "Bible-Study Moms." They are married, with one or more children, and describe themselves as born-again Christians.
Their opinions mesh well with those of Stiletto Conservatives. From what I can see from the poll results, we're one and the same. Don't let the labels fool you. According to the Wirthlin poll, the majority describe themselves as conservative (79 percent), rather than liberal (16 percent). Eighty-one percent are pro-life. Their main concern is the decline in moral values in the country (23 percent).
Recent polls by Zogby and Gallup show Gore leading Bush in the so-called "women's vote." When those results are broken down, it becomes apparent there is no one distinguishable women's vote because women have differing views on the issues. It is telling, though, that apparently many women were swayed by The Kiss between Al and Tipper--touching a nerve among women desiring a long-term committed relationship, reflected in that sacred institution called "marriage." So, they want politicians to emulate that kind of moral fidelity. Hopefully, voters will look beyond which candidates kiss their wives to see which will honor marriage and family, morality and constitutional fidelity in their policies.
Nonetheless, the women's vote is important. If candidates are paying attention, they will speak to this significant swing bloc, the Bible-Study Mom/Stiletto Conservative, if they want to grab a significant percentage of the female vote. We want a return to integrity, a focus on moral values and family, and respect for the inherent differences between men and women. The candidate who desires to advance this nation toward moral stability will capture the hearts of many women--and men--today.
Catherina Hurlburt is a public policy writer for Concerned Women for America in Washington, D.C. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Concerned Women for America is the nation's largest public policy women's organization with more than 500,000 members nationwide.
Copyright 2000 by Catherina Hurlburt. Not to be reproduced in any fashion, in whole or in part, without written consent from the author. All rights reserved.