In Defense of Young CPAC Attendees

Laura Donovan

2/16/2012 9:38:00 AM - Laura Donovan

Now that the stress of CPAC coverage has melted away, bloggers and opinion writers have taken it upon themselves to freely comment on one of the overlooked issues with the highly publicized GOP conglomeration: The rotten, sex-crazed, no good kids in attendance.

Conservative pundit Melissa Clouthier spoke out against this year’s female CPAC attendees for dressing like “two-bit whores” at the big event. Referencing Red State editor-in-chief Erick Erickson’s article on the randy tendencies of young male CPACers who should know better now that they’re out of college, Clouthier argues that the women need to behave themselves as well.

“Women will be future leaders, too, and I was dismayed to see how many of them either looked frumpish or like two-bit whores,” Clouthier said of CPAC females. “[H]ave women so internalized feminist dogma that they see themselves in only two ways? Butch, men-lite wannabes or 3rd wave sluts who empower themselves by screwing every available horndog man? Neither path is a way to self-love and respect, mind you. Both tracks will inhibit future success.”

This kind of name calling is callous, unnecessary, and unwarranted. Rather than scold the girls in bandeau-skirts or stilettos, Clouthier should provide these young ladies with constructive criticism if she really wants to see them demonstrate a higher level of self-worth and become respectable members of society. Using verbally abusive language isn't helpful. Clouthier, of course, is far from the first woman to disparage female CPACers. Karen at The Lonely Conservative blasted the “scantily-clad” “ho[es]” of the event and even had the audacity to suggest writers would only be granted access to bloggers’ lounge in the future if they dressed down. This not only shows a lack of respect for CPAC attendees and reporters, but for the people who work tirelessly to keep the event together.

Though I’ve always thought comedienne Tina Fey is overrated, she knows exactly what she’s talking about in “Mean Girls” when she tells her combative female students, “You have got to stop calling each other sluts and whores. It makes it okay for guys to call you ‘sluts’ and ‘whores.’” Throwing around offensive words will only alienate young women from the conservative movement and fuel the inaccurate stereotype that right-leaning folks subscribe to outdated beliefs.

There’s also something to be said about the idea that fashion preferences define people. Don't judge a book by its cover. CPAC attire indicates nothing about a person’s sex life or self-esteem. Responding to last spring’s poorly received Wall Street Journal column, “Why Do We Let Them Dress Like That”?, “Odd Girl Out” author Rachel Simmons told me that “[w]hat a girl wears never makes her a bad person.”

“Clothing does not suggest behavior; it suggests…clothing,” Simmons said.

Throughout the three-day conference, I donned blouses and skirts (yes, bandeau-skirts), not because I was on the prowl, as some would likely suggest, but because there’s more to being well groomed than slipping into a pair of oversized slacks and a blazer. Thanks to her trademark pantsuit, Hillary Clinton will never be the victim of slutshaming, but women shouldn’t have to downplay or bury their looks to avoid being attacked, especially at an important political conference such as CPAC. Skimpy outfits don’t necessarily lead to more sex. Earlier this month, the Guttmacher Institute released a study revealing that "teens are waiting longer to have sex than they did in the past, so while we may see dozens of young folks swarming Forever 21 and American Apparel, we don’t have to assume they’re going to “[act] like the cast of ‘Jersey Shore’” and fornicate left and right.

There are so many more noteworthy and relevant topics than the clothes of CPAC attendees, especially in an election year. Let's put this "controversy" behind us and get back to reality. Let's make it a point to approach young CPACers with a little less judgment for the duration of 2012, so that next year's attendees won't spend hours worrying about being shamed out of the conference or, even worse, decide the conservative movement isn't worth it and stay home.

The GOP has never been outrageously popular among young people, and spreading this kind of disrespect will only discourage America's youth from learning more about conservatism. This could not only prevent outsiders from getting involved, but push young Republicans away.