It comes as somewhat of a surprise that fashion magazine Elle, which is known to feature fun, light pieces such as “Alexander Wang’s New Nail Polish” and “Khloe [Kardashian’s] Killer Calves (And Thighs!),” would publish a four-page spread on conservative women and politics.
What’s not shocking, however, is that Elle would fall into the mainstream media trap and arbitrarily categorize a group of right-leaning young women as “Baby Palins.”
This month, the mag printed a story called “The Best and the Rightest,” which includes interviews from accomplished conservative females such as “Girls Just Wanna Have Guns” creator Regis Giles, Fox commentator S.E. Cupp, conservative radio host Dana Loesch, Independent Women’s Forum executive director Carrie Lukas and Network of enlightened Women (NeW) founder Karin Agness.
The article, which dubs the aforementioned women “Baby Palins,” says the interviewed females “share almost every goal of feminism” and “want to be—and in many cases, already believe themselves to be —’empowered’: educationally, financially, sexually. But they resist any effort to put advancing their fellow women front and center.”
Nina Burleigh, the article’s author, may have been guilty of this as well, having famously said in 1998 she’d happily give then-President Bill Clinton “[oral sex] just to thank him for keeping abortion legal.”
Ten days after “The Best and the Rightest” hit the Internet, interviewee Agness penned a National Review Online column challenging the “Baby Palins” attribution, which of course refers to gun totin’ former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin. The final sentence of the Elle piece even includes the words, “you can betcha,” alluding to Palin’s frequently criticized catchphrase.
“While an interesting read, this article turns out to be less a commentary on conservative women and more an example of how conservative women are viewed by women on the left. To them, we are all ‘Baby Palins,'” Agness writes, adding that many of the interviewed women immersed themselves into politics long before Palin’s name appeared on the 2008 Republican ticket. A University of Virginia law graduate, Agness herself started NeW four years before Palin made national news headlines.
Agness goes on to say that many choose to lump all young conservative females into the “Baby Palin” category instead of taking some time to explore each woman’s ideals. The Washington, D.C. attorney also notes that Palin’s image has been heavily tarnished by news outlets, so the association diminishes young Republican women.
“Rather than try to understand how some women could be conservative and the arguments we have against feminism, it is often much easier to explain us all away as ‘Baby Palins’ following in Palin’s footsteps,” writes Agness. “With the ‘Baby Palin’ label comes the Palin brand. The Palin brand has been so damaged by the media that the ‘Baby Palin’ label serves the purpose of quickly stereotyping and delegitimizing [sic] us at the same time. Would a typical journalist call someone a ‘Palin’ as a compliment? Ultimately, categorizing us as ‘Baby Palins’ is a way to dismiss us.”
Lukas, whom the magazine defines as a “Virginia mother of three and former Republican congressional staffer … who quit her job to be with her kids,” was “horrified” by her portrayal in the piece.
“I was totally shocked and pretty horrified by the way I was characterized by this Elle piece,” Lukas told The Daily Caller, adding that she did not in fact stop working when she had children. (RELATED: The 2010 Forbes World’s Most Powerful Women list: Empowering or embarrassing?)
Lukas, who wrote the book “The Politically Incorrect Guide to Women, Sex and Feminism,” says she’s “never been somebody who has been a huge cheerleader for Palin.”
“Palin is an interesting media phenomenon but … A lot of conservative women have mixed feelings about her. This idea of putting people in this Palin box is a liberal caricature of what all conservative women are like,” Lukas said. “It’s ridiculous, this idea that this all started with Sarah Palin. The Independent Women’s Forum has been around for twenty years. There are a ton of conservative women out there … The idea that everyone is following a trend of Sarah Palin is really demeaning.”
Amy Siskind, president of women’s advocacy group The New Agenda, told TheDC that the Elle article came across as “dissecting a car wreck.”
“I enjoyed Elle magazine’s article’s exploration of the rise of the conservative women, but the analysis seemed more akin to dissecting a car wreck than analyzing a major social trend,” Siskind said. “The 2008 Election has transformed women’s advocacy forever. Feminism is passé.”
Noting the article’s “fixation on guns,” Lukas said the Elle piece fuels the MSM portrait of GOP females as bizarre beings.
“The whole piece really shows just how the liberal media elite shows conservative women as strange creatures,” Lukas said. “She makes it sound as though I don’t think that women should work, that pre-marital sex is always bad and going to harm women, and that I indict the use of daycare, all of which are completely gross exaggerations of my statements and writing.”
According to Lukas, the article misconstrues her whole message in a single sentence, attesting that the IWF spokesperson’s “main point is that feminists have hurt women by advising them to pursue careers before establishing families, leaving them too old to bear children.”
Lukas clarified to TheDC that she was not making a blanket statement about having babies or pre-martial sex, but that women should know of the fertility limitations that come with age.
“I was just saying that women deserve to have all the information,” Lukas said. “You could tell that [the author] has a conservative peg, like a hole she wants to stick people in, and she’s going to stick you through it regardless of what your record actually is.”