The year 2018 will be the year of the woman and conservatives should not be afraid. The culture war is over and we lost. Rather than fretting about the past, conservatives need to address today’s realities. Though we lost the culture war, we were not wrong about it. Family is the fundamental unit of society and everyone pays the price for ignoring it. But it has been ignored and we are paying the price. Conservatives will either accept this reality or ignore it to our further societal and political detriment.
Forget the fringes of the women’s movement just as we forget the fringes of so-called conservatism today. Why should conservatives fear equity, decency and dignity? Are we to ignore rampant sexual misbehavior from men simply because some feminist voices tend to the extreme? Of course not. Do we run from addressing disgusting behaviors in the workplace simply because some feminists equate patriarchy with individual abuses of power? No, we should not. We should continue to ignore what is irrational while wasting away our lives away in defense of justice for all.
When it comes to women’s issues, especially here in Utah, conservatives are not being asked to embrace ideology. Family medical leave is not ideological. Workplace discrimination is not ideological. Neither is the debate over a food tax or child care or wage discrimination. Conservatives need to embrace reality, practicality and justice. If we are not doing that, we are not conservatives.
The Hollywood sexual harassment scandals get the hype but countless numbers of women do not feel safe at work or at home. Conservatives can wring their hands over the political implications of noisy feminists or we can pay attention to the real struggles of women. Again, yes, we were right about the adverse and often evil effects of a sex-saturated culture. But we now live with those adverse effects and women take the brunt of it all. What is a conservative to do? Do we simply say “I told you so” and leave the fallout to settle itself or do we now help to pick up the pieces and help right the ongoing wrongs? Yes, it is expensive. Yes, it was unnecessary. But pointing out the obvious, in this case, should be seen now a failed conservative political tradition.
Conservatives need to subordinate public policies highlighting structure for policies highlighting processes. The former always will be important but there can be no rebuilding of our culture without ensuring processes relieving societal disadvantages and disenfranchisement. Wherever institutionalized injustices, imposed impracticalities and systemic barriers exist throughout society, conservatives should acknowledge them and fill the breach with sound public policies.
The Utah Women’s Coalition (UWC) is an effort to address many of the inequities, daily struggles and disadvantages faced by women in our state. Conservatives should support this effort. As a matter of fact, I am a board member of UWC.
This session, at the Utah Legislature, UWC has a package of bills designed to increase family economic prosperity. They are worthy of conservative support – policies addressing family medical leave, paid parental leave, workplace discrimination, gender wage discrimination, an earned income tax credit, childcare incentives and food tax reform.
Yes, this is often the language of liberals. Most of my UWC colleagues are liberals. I am pretty sure all of them voted for Hillary Clinton. But, no matter, women’s issues can be nonpartisan and conservatives need not always fear the language of liberals. We need to focus on sound public policies. Why should conservatives be any less concerned about workplace discrimination than liberals? And, if conservatives want to focus on breaking cycles of poverty, childcare for poor single moms is a must. They cannot work if their children are not cared for – and conservatives do value work.
Of course, all policies are debatable. That is not the point. The point is that conservatives need to think anew about women’s issues and the actual circumstances of women in their homes and places of work. There is nothing to fear and everything to gain for conservatives to pursue the quest for happiness for everyone.