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Smart Girls, Mean Girls - Being Nasty Takes Us All Down

By October 5, 2010

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There's been a lot of blowback from last week's Smart Girls Summit in Washington, DC, a gathering of the brightest and best female minds and leaders of the Tea Party and conservative groups. Nasty remarks were made about those not present nor welcome (i.e. liberal and progressive women) and some are calling the Smart Girls the Mean Girls.

Jess McIntosh of Emily's List writes that "among the audience the prevailing emotion seems to be straight-up fear....fear that 'the left' will steal the election....fear that Democrats will use intimidation and actual violence against conservatives at the polls."

Reporting from inside the conference, an Emily's List intern named Jamie found the battle lines drawn by a particularly controversial speaker who was part of a Susan B. Anthony List (SBAL) panel. According to Politics Daily correspondent Luisita Lopez Torregrosa:

The SBAL is the conservative equivalent, if there's such a thing, of Emily's List.

There, Jamie heard that liberal women like herself who support abortion rights are a "freak of nature," and that liberal feminists adhere to the "neo-Nazi feminist way" of going to an Ivy League school, starting a career, and putting off having children.

Apparently...the words came from Princella Smith, a 26-year-old former congressional Republican candidate from Arkansas.

Torregrosa has scathing words for Emily's List's decision to send an intern undercover, and for what she calls a failed ad campaign mocking Sarah Palin and mama grizzlies.

Another Politics Daily correspondent, Delia Lloyd, jumped to Emily's List's defense.

Both women have their respective opinions, but I tend to side with a Politics Daily reader named nanclec who posted the following comment:

Fighting about this one issue will never be solved. NEVER. Too many opinions too much fighting. Has anyone thought that that is exactly what THEY want us to do? Split and divide so NOTHING get accomplished. Woman against woman GREAT! So we are all running around still trying to define ourselves. Nothing done for violence, nothing for femocide, nothing for forced marraiges, nothing for trafficking Nothing done Nothing done. The country is buzy [sic] fighting to divide us. We are like sheep for the media. They speak we react like a string on a violin. Sad Sad Sad

She's onto something. Both sides could do better. And what the Tea Party needs from its female component isn't fear mongering or more fuel tossed on the fire of righteous anger. It needs to find a way to take this populist energy and divert it toward making women's lives better, not sticking it to sisters they don't see eye to eye with.

This isn't the true spirit of the Republican party, the original standard bearer in the struggle to seat women in the highest levels of government. Today's women leaders owe it to their foremothers to elevate the conversation above its current nasty and divisive tone.

If they're aiming to be around long enough to make it into the history books, the Smart Girls' catty and snarky attitudes won't get them there.

Look at the GOP's most enduring and respected female figures and you'll find intelligent, well-spoken, moderate Republicans whose reputations were built on substantive accomplishments over years of public service. They understood that collaboration with -- not vilification of -- their opponents would lead to transformative change.

Where are the contemporary, younger equivalents of these notable women?

  • Margaret Chase Smith (the first woman to be elected to the US House and Senate)
  • Nancy Kassebaum (the first female senator elected to the Senate on her own merits, not to fill a husband's vacancy or complete the term of a deceased spouse)
  • Elizabeth Dole (who held two cabinet positions under two different presidents, was head of the American Red Cross and North Carolina's first female Senator, and a staunch Women's Liberation and ERA supporter in the 1970s)
  • Kay Bailey Hutchison (Texas' first and only elected female US Senator)

Calling those with opposing viewpoints 'freaks' and 'Nazis' is not what these women would have done. It may rile the crowds and prompt wild applause at a Smart Girls Summit, but it doesn't play nearly as well outside the rarefied atmosphere of uber-conservative events that cost $199 to attend.

Republican women, Democratic women, independent women deserve a more inspiring message than the one delivered by Princella Smith. We need words and ideas that build us all up instead of taking so many of us down. If the Smart Girls weren't smart enough to recognize that, who will?


October 6, 2010 at 1:38 pm
(1) Princella D. Smith says:


I thought I’d share with you my response to your article and to the others who have falsely quoted me and unnecessarily maligned me about my speech a few days ago. You’d think with the credentials you tout that you’d do a little fact-checking first.


October 6, 2010 at 2:31 pm
(2) womensissues says:

Princella, your beef is with AOL’s Politics Daily correspondent Luisita Lopez Torregrosa, not me. If your anger allows you to read clearly, I did NOT directly quote Emily’s List on your alleged statement but reproduced an excerpt of Ms. Torregrossa’s commentary in which she attributes those statements to you; if Torregrossa demonstrates bias, it’s against Emily’s List as she clearly states she is not in support of Emily’s List and backs the Smart Girls Summit on this one.

Like every journalist, I fact check as far as I am able. At the time my blog post went up, there were no available transcripts of your direct remarks via the Smart Girls Summit, and AOL and two other national media outlets were quoting the same statement. They have vaster resources for fact-checking and your gripe lies with them – I am one individual internet writer.

I do, however, stand by my statement that you and others (conservatives, liberals, independents) can do better by women. Whether or not you originated the concept of liberal feminism as being a “freak of nature” is almost irrelevant as you continue to perpetuate the sentiment by using it in your speechifying.

We need more passionate, bright young women of color like you to not only enter politics, but win elections. If you want to appeal to more than just conservatives, broaden your message, dare to cross the aisle to find support, consider that in a general election you need to appeal to many different voters, and stop vilifying women you don’t agree with.

I’m interested in seeing women elected who advocate for change for the better. I’m not interested in seeing women elected who follow the same old, same old male patriarchal model of viewing politics as war. Women need to unite, not fight. In peacetime, women are the nation builders. I know you can do better than what you’re doing, and if you want the vote of women like me, you owe us that.

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