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F4Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina made one thing crystal clear at the CNN debate last Wednesday night: progressivism no longer owns feminism. And it’s about time.

For too long, conservative women have felt the need to distance themselves from the feminist label, because feminism has bedded down with political thinking we reject. In general terms, feminism claims its goal is to broaden opportunity for women, but when most Americans hear the word “feminist,” they attach to the word tangential philosophies conservative women reject on intellectual, emotional, and spiritual levels, including socialism as an acceptable political framework for the U.S. and social justice as a means to equality. Neither of these progressive philosophies, nor any number of other liberal ways of thinking, celebrates the mind and will of women unless they first accept a broader philosophy that supersedes gender concerns and often subjugates individual goals to the goal of an ideological entity that serves itself. Oddly, most progressive feminists I encounter seem unaware that their obeisance is first to a political agenda, and second, to gender equality of opportunity.

Conservative women are partly to blame for this situation. We have allowed progressives to speak for women when we should’ve been shouting from the rooftops that liberalism will never define us, contain us, nor limit us. We have shucked the feminist label instead of rising to claim our piece of it. Conservative women are a wide range of intelligent, free-thinking, strong-willed, and determined women who not only live in a world often dominated by patriarchal approaches, but a world in which so many of our own gender want us silenced precisely because we are intelligent, free-thinking, strong-willed, and determined women who stand in opposition to the political philosophies of our progressive counterparts.

Enter Carly Fiorina. The face. Yes, that face.

The moment was simple, quick, but decisive. It occurred after the moderator asked which historic female each candidate would like to see on a ten dollar bill. In case you missed it, here is Fiorina’s answer, verbatim:

I wouldn’t change the $10 bill, or the $20 bill. I think, honestly, it’s a gesture. I don’t think it helps to change our history. What I would think is that we ought to recognize that women are not a special interest group. Women are the majority of this nation. We are half the potential of this nation, and this nation will be better off when every woman has the opportunity to live the life she chooses.

Feminism, clearly defined: The freedom to choose a life, a path, a journey, and an adventure according to the dictates of our own mind, will, conscience, and being. The rejection of tokenism, a demand for respect, a call for women to claim their political power. “We are not a special interest group,” Fiorina reminds us. “Women are the majority of this nation.” In other words, do not think, not for another moment, that women can be seduced as if we are mindless, monolithic, irrational beings who can be appeased by small gestures. We are done with that. Put a woman on U.S. currency or don’t. What matters is that women are acknowledged, respected, and valued as participants in the daily work of building our great nation. This is the new face of feminism. And it is the face of a conservative woman.

This is the feminism this country needs–that both political parties need. It is a feminism that will not be subjugated by the chains of a specific political perspective, a feminism that respects and honors the diversity of women, of their choices, their skills, their ambitions, their talents, and their minds irrespective of the lever they pull in the voting booth. A feminism that honors women who become their best, most authentic selves. A new feminism that will not subject women to men, nor men to women.

Conservatives may or may not give Carly Fiorina the nomination, but if we do, it will be because she articulates the conservative viewpoint we value. Progressives will continue to denounce her for ideological reasons and that’s fair game. But anyone–particularly any woman–who degrades, demeans, demoralizes her as a woman in order to gain political advantage should not call herself a feminist. I don’t care what your personal ideology is. If you are a liberal, fight against everything she stands for in the same way I fight against ideologies I reject. But if you can’t look at Carly Fiorina on that stage, positioned beside ten prominent Republican men, and feel a little thrill that this woman is a viable candidate for the presidency of the United States, then your feminism is dead, strangled by the cords with which you have tied yourself to progressivism.

There should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another. 1 Corinthians 12:25

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