Right-Wing Group Tells Young Women That Marriage and Children Are All That Matters. Here’s Why We Should Be Relieved.
Two weekends ago in Dallas, Texas, right-wing group Turning Point USA hosted their annual Young Women’s Leadership Summit. Speaker after speaker—from Candace Owens to Lara Trump—told college and high-school age girls that they should give up on their careers and become wives and mothers instead.
When I first read about this summit, a part of me was relieved. Because finally, and without a doubt, conservatives have revealed the vision they have and want for our world.
June 24 marks one year since the Supreme Court took away our constitutional right to abortion. The gender justice movement has always known that this decision wasn’t only about abortion—but really about the role of women in our society.
It’s just that, before the Supreme Court decision, extremists made concerted efforts to disguise their real agenda.
In his majority opinion, Justice Alito hid behind the argument that the constitutional right to abortion was not “deeply rooted” in the history and traditions of our country. But to reach that erroneous conclusion, he relied on laws of the mid-1800s and historical legal arguments written by men at a time when women’s only legal role was marriage and motherhood. The decision to overturn Roe has always been about returning to that time.
Indeed, to understand why the far right is banning abortion, just listen to conservative pop culture host Alex Clark’s speech from this summit, “The Top 4 Lies of Modern Feminism.”
First, Clark encourages women to ditch hormonal birth control. Then, she rails against abortion (a “byproduct of a narcissistic love of the self”). And finally, she tells mothers to “do absolutely EVERYTHING in your power to avoid a day-care setting.”
The point is this: Take away all of our options so we have forced pregnancies and then are forced to stay home and forced to “avoid” child care. In other words, all of our autonomy, rights, and decades of progress to decide our lives at home and in the world have been stripped away.
Finally, the underlying theme is that a woman’s natural—and perhaps only—role is motherhood, and abortion access interferes with that destiny. Of course, in this argument, extremists intentionally ignore the fact that many women in the U.S. are the breadwinners and caregivers for their families. And that the typical abortion patient is already a parent.
It is also worth noting that this whole idea of “going back” to women’s “traditional” roles is a farce. To give just one example, this narrative ignores the Black women who worked for slavers and then worked to support families. There is no generation of woman in my family that did not work.
When moments like this summit happen, and we hear conservatives go after every progressive value under the sun, it can feel like our movement is being “attacked from all sides.” But this is a misnomer. At the National Women’s Law Center, we’ve always seen these attacks for what they really are:
A highly coordinated effort coming from the same small group of people and fueled by the same underlying ideology. And this summit proves our point.
Hand in hand with their anti-abortion rhetoric, nearly every speaker parroted baseless fearmongering about trans women—exploiting unfamiliarity with trans people and fear of how children are doing to score political points. But the truth that they aren’t yet naming is that anti-LGBTQI+ policies subject all girls and women, whether cis or trans, to invasive surveillance of their bodies by everyone from school administrators to coaches—deciding, based on harmful gender stereotypes, if they look like a “real woman.”
The ideological through-line is that these extremists want to control us—our bodies, our futures, our destinies, what we wear, how we get to exist. All of these attacks are about forcing all of us to live inside the box of strict gender roles.
In an attempt at inspiration amid this conference, Candace Owens decreed: “You will see it—you will become a tiger, you will become a bear when you have children.” But what she doesn’t understand is that all women—mothers or not—are already tigers. I was a bear long before having my own children. Because since the start of our country, women have been tasked with our own liberation.
There was another Owens quote, however, that I agreed with: “You should strive to be more like your grandmother.”
Our grandmothers who, five decades ago, first fought for our right to abortion. This has always been a generational fight, and with tiger-like ferocity, young women have taken up the mantle. Angered by the fall of Roe, they’ve been showing up at the ballot, in state legislatures, and in their communities in unprecedented numbers, screaming the quiet truth out loud:
We will not stop fighting abortion bans, restrictions, and stigma. We will not stop fighting for gender equity. We will not stop fighting for a future where we all have the freedom to safely care for ourselves and our families and live with dignity, equality, and justice. Where we—not “deeply rooted” beliefs or rigid gender roles—decide who we will be.