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?