Many commentators remark on the prominent role of women in the Tea Party, women such as Sarah Palin, Christine O’Donnell and Michele Bachmann. Some of these women lay claim to being feminists — “conservative feminists”.
It is not any kind of feminism that the left would recognise: conservative feminists are usually anti-abortion, anti-sex education, illiberal, homphobic. They reject the kinds of social measures that help working class women to play a full and fulfilling role in society: decent pay, well-funded welfare, adequate benefits. They fundamentally believe in the right of the capitalist class to rule, and that the market is right.
Within that, their feminism is, essentially, careerism.
They are politicians who operate in a sexist milieu — a sexism that, on the whole, they endorse. But, while Tea Party women believe that men and women are different, as individuals they are just as fierce in their right-wing beliefs as men, and find themselves checked in expressing it by sexism. Tea Party spokesperson, Rebecca Wales, explains: “For a long time people have seen the parties as good-ole’-boy, male-run institutions. In the Tea Party, women have finally found their voice.”
The voice of Tea Party women is not different from those of their menfolk — but it might help to launch a few women’s political careers.