Where Would the Tea Party Be Without Feminism?

In his campaign for reelection to the Senate, Lindsey Graham is facing several challengers from his right, all of whom are complaining that Graham is not conservative enough to represent the state of South Carolina.

One of Graham’s right-wing challengers is Nancy Mace. Like her fellow challengers, Mace claims the mantle of the Tea Party. Unlike her fellow challengers, she’s the first female graduate of The Citadel.

The Citadel was once an all-male military school. In 1995, Shannon Faulkner was the first woman to enroll there. Her effort was spearheaded by the Clinton Administration and the National Organization for Women. She quit after a week, citing extensive harassment at the hands of her male classmates, who danced and cheered as she drove off from the school.

While Faulkner had been pursuing her case at The Citadel, however, the Clinton Administration had been attempting to force the Virginia Military Institute (VMI) to accept women. In June 1996, it succeeded, when the Supreme Court, in United States v. Virginia, struck down VMI’s all-male admissions policy. Three days later, The Citadel gave up its battle against women cadets. That same year, Nancy Mace enrolled there, and graduated in 1999.

The VMI decision was written by feminist Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and was joined by Court liberals John Paul Stevens, David Souter, and Stephen Breyer, as well as Court moderates Sandra Day O’Connor and Anthony Kennedy. The sole hard-right conservative to strike down the VMI policy was Chief Justice William Rehnquist, though he did so on narrower grounds than the majority. Antonin Scalia dissented. Clarence Thomas recused himself because his son was a student at VMI.

And now we have Nancy Mace complaining that Lindsey Graham is too liberal.

Once upon a time, conservatism derived its edge, its sense of will and adversity, from the fact that many of its most illustrious leaders had been outsiders. From Benjamin Disraeli to Phyllis Schlafly, the movement  understood its work as the volition of the upstart. “I was not,” hissed Burke at the end of his life,

like his Grace of Bedford, swaddled, and rocked, and dandled into a legislator; “Nitor in adversum” is the motto for a man like me….At every step of my progress in life, (for in every step was I traversed and opposed,) and at every turnpike I met, I was obliged to show my passport, and again and again to prove my sole title to the honour of being useful to my country, by a proof that I was not wholly unacquainted with its laws, and the whole system of its interests both abroad and at home. Otherwise no rank, no toleration, even for me.

Nowadays, we get stuff like this:

In the summer of 1996, The Citadel opened its doors to women and Nancy took a bold step—she simply hopped in her car and drove to The Citadel to pick up an application. The next day, she submitted it.

A few days later, Nancy was accepted as one of the first women ever to enter the Citadel’s ranks as a “knob.” Nancy took the plunge and joined the Corps of Cadets, eager to follow in her father’s footsteps.

That doesn’t bode well for the movement.


  1. JemWallis January 24, 2014 at 5:15 am | #

    Do members of the Tea Party do irony?

  2. Roquentin January 24, 2014 at 12:01 pm | #

    The oldest trick in the book is to find someone from a different group to repeat the same ideology, often in a more extreme form. If this person comes from precisely the group harmed by the ideology, all the better. Remember the hideous farce that was Joe the Plumber?

    • Chris January 24, 2014 at 5:03 pm | #

      The Tea Party doesn’t harm women. Or at least, it only harms working class women and no more than it harms working class men.

      • Cavoyo January 25, 2014 at 1:14 pm | #

        Do working-class men get pregnant?

  3. Chris January 24, 2014 at 5:02 pm | #

    Feminism was just an expression of a certain point in time – roughly 1900-1980 when economic and political change lead to an evolution in women’s social role. Feminism was the tip of that iceberg, but most of the changes would have happened anyway.

    It’s past its sell by date now, anyway.

    • Stephen Zielinski January 24, 2014 at 6:00 pm | #

      It’s well-known that the United States evolved towards civil, political and economic equality without any push from below. Today, as we know, every US citizen is free to loose, to fail, to fall through the cracks, to confront harsh adversity and to suffer without complaint. And the future will be better than today.


    • BillR January 26, 2014 at 1:08 pm | #

      This notion of both futility and inevitability of change is a relatively modern trope of Conservative thought, championed by the likes of Olin Foundation funded Francois Furet and Simon Schama who long ago gave up on any critical or scholarly productions in favor of TV productions.

  4. No Alternative (@dameocrat) January 24, 2014 at 11:15 pm | #

    One might also observe feminist self sabotage, by focusing on the glass cieling that benefits mostly gop women and not issues which benefit all women like child care, family leave and better wages.

    • Brian M January 28, 2014 at 10:35 am | #

      Luckily, we have Very Concerned People to inform us that feminism is just so passe.

  5. Ilya January 29, 2014 at 8:47 am | #

    Despite the bio it seems to me that being one of the first female students at the citadel still marks one as an outsider

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