Carly Fiorina Helped Define a New Conservative Feminism

Credit: Michael Vadon via flickr Credit: Michael Vadon via flickr


Businesswoman, steely-eyed debater and all-around boss Carly Fiorina ended her presidential campaign on Thursday. While Fiorina’s star seems to have faded since her breakout performances in the first two GOP debates, the former HP chief executive left her mark both on conservative politics and the future for women of all parties.

Fiorina forged a path as a new brand of conservative woman: passionately pro-life enough to offend liberal feminists and yet aware of the sexism that women deal with on a daily basis, never pandering to the far right with denials. One of her very first moments in the spotlight was a BuzzFeed video where she playfully dismantles the sort of everyday sexism women are still expected to ignore. And who could forget her pointed yet artful response after Donald Trump’s sexist comment on her appearance?

In an election where candidates seem to be competing to create the most strife and division, Fiorina walked fine lines in an attempt to bring opposite parties together. She was the candidate who could both acknowledge the possibility that the scientific community is right about climate change and point out that the little we can do about it isn’t worth the impact on our economy.

Fiorina’s candidacy was the first time I felt truly represented in an election cycle. I loved being able to witness a conservative woman speaking for me and standing for so much of what I believe. As the only presidential candidate who could speak effectively about the Planned Parenthood videos, Fiorina forever undid the narrative that women vote liberal because they’re pro-choice by default, making her mark with a passionate 30 seconds that became the headline from the second GOP debate.

Watching Fiorina navigate the debate stage with aplomb and carry her campaign with hard work, determination and a blend of tough and kind words was an inspiration. If I ever end up running for office, I will absolutely point back to her as an encouragement. Fiorina provided the Hillary Clinton antidote this election, reminding us that women are still pioneering new paths while giving us so many reasons to support her other than her womanhood. I’m a little sad we won’t be seeing that Fiorina-Clinton showdown, but I’m incredibly inspired and grateful to have lived in the very first election where a two-woman race was (for a moment) a real possibility. 

It’s fitting that Fiorina took the time to insert a special message just for us women in the Facebook post announcing that she was suspending her campaign: 

“To young girls and women across the country, I say: do not let others define you. Do not listen to anyone who says you have to vote a certain way or for a certain candidate because you’re a woman. That is not feminism. Feminism doesn’t shut down conversations or threaten women. It is not about ideology. It is not a weapon to wield against your political opponent. A feminist is a woman who lives the life she chooses and uses all her God-given gifts. And always remember that a leader is not born, but made. Choose leadership.”

Jordan Ecarma is a former journalist now living the millennial dream: getting paid for writing Facebook statuses (that is, digital PR). She watches her use of the f-word (“feminism”) around conservatives and the c-word (“conservatism”) around feminists. Find her under @JordanEcarma.

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