Life on the defensive: Being a conservative on a liberal campus
CHRISTINE BEYLEVELDT // NEWS EDITOR
A man who was once very meaningful to me violated me. And months afterward, as I left my teen years behind, I began to rebel against feminism because it tried to tell me men were all bad, that I didn’t need self-defense, men should just be taught not to harm women. It doesn’t work that way. He knew what he did was wrong and admitted it, but he didn’t care. Feminism wanted to victimize me. I wanted to get on with my life.
I’m a conservative. It may sound odd that an event like the one aforementioned could steer me in that direction, but I began to notice that conservatism had room for everyone to be heard. It wasn’t just for those who are considered oppressed, which I couldn’t be as a privileged white woman with a supportive family.
That’s not the case on a university campus unfortunately, because most of my peers think differently. I enjoy hearing other people’s thoughts although I get shy when challenged, which is why I rarely say anything. Often I feel I’m in a cocoon, keeping my feelings from the outside world until I get a chance to speak to someone who gets it. It started as contempt for being told I was a victim but also not victim enough to be allowed to put my thoughts into words. That feeling blossomed, and as I read more and got an idea of what conservatism means, it began to make sense. I also have parents who, although I always took for liberal, have approached life with a degree of caution, which I’ve taken upon myself as I now approach relationships.
We’re not trying to take away people’s fundamental rights. I don’t know why conservatives have that rep. To me, conservatism means believing that hard work will, or at least should, equate with success. It means that I should not be stifled by a government that dictates what I can or can not do or say or one day even think. And perhaps most importantly, it means that I don’t see my womanhood as a disadvantage. I wanted to get on with my life, and indulging in self-pity wasn’t going to help me do that.
I took this last point to heart, maybe a bit excessively, and embraced my femininity, because it’s what makes me who I am. Yes, I have more traditional values, I like to be a little modest and I want to have and raise a family one day. Getting in touch with my own femininity meant growing my hair out again and getting comfortable wearing long skirts and floral patterns – something I abhorred as a teenager. I bought a floral dress when I was 13 years old but couldn’t bring myself to wear it to school because I thought it would look like I was trying too hard if I did, and then I was bitterly disappointed when I outgrew it. At that age, fitting in was all that mattered to me, and I never did anyway. Now, hardly a day of summer goes by when I’m not in a flouncy dress that lets me feel comfortable in my own skin, and some days I can imagine I look like I walked off the set of Grease. I also tried to curb swearing because it’s not particularly ladylike. It’s obviously still a work in progress as anyone who knows me may be able to tell from time to time.
I only wish that diversity of thought mattered as much as diversity of faces, backgrounds and life experiences. I don’t agree with the far right and I don’t have to in order to be lumped in with them along with everyone else who disagrees with the dominant discourse. In politics, no one is correct 100 per cent of the time, but we’ve lost the ability to listen to each other.
My femininity isn’t a burden, and the first detail I told you about my life isn’t its defining moment. Not when I believe only I can be responsible for my own success and happiness.