Rebecca Hagelin

Just about anyone can see this view is a serious betrayal of true feminism. The pendulum has swung too far in the other direction. There’s no question that women should be free to pursue the profession of their choice -- and their menu of options should include the role of homemaker. And who’s to tell them they can’t be conservative? Modern feminists have become the very thing they profess to hate -- leaders who limit women’s choices and dare to tell them they aren’t free to follow where their interests and talents take them.

That’s where NeW comes in. NeW bills itself as “the nation’s premier club for conservative university women.” It was started two years ago by Karin Agness of the University of Virginia as a book club. Today, NeW has 15 chapters at universities in states throughout the country, and, as its Web site notes, members meet regularly to discuss issues relating to politics, gender and conservative principles.

NeW held its first national conference on Capitol Hill last month and recognized four new chapters -- from as far west as California and as far south as Texas. The goal is to “cultivate a community of conservative women and expand intellectual diversity on university campuses.”

And NeW is attracting some serious attention -- from both sides of the political spectrum. Speakers at their July conference included conservative firebrand Ann Coulter and Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao. But Professor Ann Lane, a former director of UVA’s women and gender studies program, is no fan. “I’m not opposed to the group’s existence -- I just don’t like it,” she told TIME magazine. “I particularly don’t accept their premise that men and women occupy such culturally different spaces.” As TIME’s reporter notes:

“As female college activist groups go, the Network of enlightened Women, or NeW, is a very different breed. They don’t distribute condoms on the Quad or march for a woman’s right to choose. Instead, they bake chocolate-chip cookies and protest campus productions of Eve Ensler’s The Vagina Monologues, a controversial play about female sexuality that conservatives say degrades women and glorifies rape.”

The idea for NeW came after Agness spent a summer in Washington interning for Sen. Richard Lugar of Indiana. “I loved being around other conservative women and wanted to find more women like that at UVA,” she says. “Unfortunately, all the women’s groups on campus were really liberal and biased. And when I asked a [women’s studies professor] if anybody would be interested in sponsoring a conservative women’s group, she just laughed at me.”

A UVA student magazine also found the idea humorous. Soon after the group started, it published an article about NeW with a cover illustration, Agness said, “of a woman dressed in a perfectly ironed pristine shirt with a checkered apron, connected to a machine with 12 babies popping out while stirring her batter and reading her recipe with the headline ‘Manifest Domesticity.’

“We were really portrayed as baby-making machines, and at that point I knew we were onto something. We were a threat.”

A threat to radical feminists, all right. But to conservative young women, NeW is a tonic -- one that offers far more intellectual stimulation than modern liberalism. Here’s hoping it has another highly successful school year.

Rebecca Hagelin

Rebecca Hagelin is a public speaker on the family and culture and the author of the new best seller, 30 Ways in 30 Days to Save Your Family.
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