The Independent Women’s Forum, a nonpartisan research an education institution takes a unique approach to gender politics that citizens today would expect, placing alternative views to the media’s dominant ideological slants of women in politics. IWF states on its website:
The Independent Women’s Forum is on a mission to expand the conservative coalition, both by increasing the number of women who understand and value the benefits of limited government, personal liberty, and free markets, and by countering those who seek to ever-expand government in the name of protecting women. By aggressively seeking earned media, providing easy-to-read, timely publications and commentary, and reaching out to the public, we seek to cultivate support for these important principles and encourage women to join us in working to return the country to limited, Constitutional government.
As the rigid lens of media sometimes does, underrepresented groups such as women tend to be typecast under one political identity. In an interview, IWF Managing Director Carrie Lukas demonstrates that women’s issues transcend the political spectrum.
How does your organization’s political leaning coincide with the current discourse on gender issues?
Lukas: The Independent Women’s Forum believes in limited government, free markets, and personal responsibility. IWF also believes that women have many opportunities in American society and should be encouraged to make the most of those opportunities. Sadly much of the discussion about women in politics and American society instead casts women as de-facto victims (like the “War on Women” campaign last year) and try to justify expanding government as necessary for women. Fortunately, I believe many women reject this idea and are embracing IWF’s vision of true independence for women.
How does IWF distinguish itself from other websites focused on gender issues?
Lukas: IWF’s positive message and belief in freedom and limited government are the main ways we distinguish our work. However, we also strive to make our information engaging and accessible. For example, see our recent “Dear Daughter” letter and video on the “wage gap.”
What are three gender issues misrepresented in the mainstream media?
Lukas: Certainly the “wage gap” — the idea that differences between men and women’s average earnings is evidence that women are routinely discriminated against — is a pervasive and pernicious myth that is consistently repeated in the media.
The entire conversation about women at work often seems misleading, as if the problems that women face in balancing work and family are the result of a policy failure. Certainly there are policies that contribute to this problem — regulations and mandates that discourage employers from offering flexible work arrangements, for example — but mostly this is just a problem that we face because we have only one life to live and only 24 hours in a day. Often that seems lost in the conversation.
In education, also, the media seems stuck with the idea that women are “short-changed” by our education system. That’s really not true anymore, and women are out-pacing men in academic achievement. Sadly, we continue to waste government resources on programs predicated on the idea that women need special protections and esteem building programs.
How inclusive do you believe the modern-day women’s movement to be of women of all backgrounds?
Lukas: The traditional feminist movement is really meant for people who share their ideology: a belief that government should control more and that the state is the best—indeed the only—way to advance women’s interests. They really aren’t inclusive of those who do not share their ideology. That’s one reason why so many women don’t identify with the women’s movement anymore.
IWF shows that there is an alternative view on the spectrum of gender politics, one that values the decreased role of government in the lives of women everywhere.
Join the discussion Please be relevant and respectful.
I recommend reading more about this group in their own words and seeing who is on their Board. This info, and mission statements, can be found here: http://www.iwf.org/about
This is from their website: "The Independent Women's Forum is on a mission to expand the conservative coalition, both by increasing the number of women who understand and value the benefits of limited government, personal liberty, and free markets, and by countering those who seek to ever-expand government in the name of protecting women."
They promote "personal choices/responsiblity" to counter wage gap, for example, vs. policies on wage equality.
While much of what Ms. Lukas said has merit, I would take issue with her comment about "traditional feminism". Saying that all feminists believe that the state can solve gender issues is a gross generalization that overlooks the perfectly legitimate opinions of countless other feminists, including myself. Feminism, at its core, is the belief that neither gender is intrinsically superior to the other, and that each should be given equal opportunities. I believe that attributing one particular means of getting to that goal to the entire movement is misleading and incorrect.
The wage gap is an interesting problem. There is a difference in the average wage of working men and women, but many people believe that can be attributed to the fact that the vast majority of minimum wage workers are women. The common belief that women are widely discriminated against in more corporate atmospheres is not as accurate as many may think. If this reasoning for the wage gap is correct, however, then there needs to be less effort expended on middle- and upper-class working women, and more time spent helping lower-income women.
I am very interested in their ideas, since the 'traditional fem' has never really jived with me. Considering most friends I know feel similar to myself, this group seems to be filling a much needed seat for representing less.. radical.. political types.
"this is just a problem that we face because we have only one life to live and only 24 hours in a day. Often that seems lost in the conversation."
I think that the cultural expectations of women also dictates the discrepancies in the workplace. What we really need is more stay at home dads, right @lucaseaves?
Lukas' comment about the wage gap definitely has some merit. Attributing it to outright workplace discrimination doesnt seem accurate, rather it's the cultural expectations on women that should be considered more heavily.
It's great that they're making they're information so streamlined. I hope to see this trend in other political factions in the near future. Accesibility is imperative to participation.
It's great to reach out to different organizations and having them explain their alternative views, even if you don't agree with them.
This is a fascinating foray into "post-feminism", where the old tropes of the women's movement are challenged. The best way to think about women as political figures is that they are 50% of the populace and encompass just as many disparate views as men...im less concerned about the wage gap than i am female representation on capitol hill.
Your comment about stay-at-home dads leads to an interesting point, Jane. Gender roles are really intertwined -- we talk a lot about the social expectations surrounding women, but these issues are just as deeply affected by social expectations for men. It has become more acceptable for women to pursue careers, but men who opt for a domestic path are still considered less masculine. In heterosexual couples, at least, this is going to lead to traditional gender roles, even if it's socially-acceptable for women to branch out.
I agree Charlotte, a critical mass is needed to truly bring about change, so that we can have a diverse account of women representing the diversity of women's beliefs in America.