After disappearing from the airwaves for what she swears was a really good reason, Kellyanne Conway returned to the public eye Thursday morning when she spoke at the Conservative Political Action Conference. She began he remarks with a story about growing up in New Jersey with her mother and aunts. “I was raised to be a very strong and independent woman without anyone ever saying the word ‘feminist’ or having a political conversation,” she told Fox News contributor Mercedes Schlapp. “We were taught to be free-thinking and independent.”
As their conversation continued, Conway criticized the modern feminist movement for its “anti-male,” “pro-abortion” stance. “It’s difficult for me to call myself a feminist in the classic sense,” she said. Instead, her version of feminism relies on conservative principles: “There’s an individual feminism wherein you make your own choices,” she explained. “I look at myself as a product of my choices, not a victim of my circumstances, and that’s really to me what conservative feminism is all about.”
But even as she distanced herself from people like the Women’s Marchers, whom she said “just have a problem with women in power,” she adopted certain tenets of feminism. She said, for example, that taking demanding jobs carries “a different set of considerations for women,” and that women are judged by different standards than men: “[People are] constantly talking about what women look like or what they wear.”
And of course, Conway brought her comments on feminism full circle to address Trump, praising the flexibility his White House affords working mothers. “I believe that Donald Trump is not someone who is fully understood for how compassionate and what a good boss he is to women,” she said.
As the Washington Post’s Aaron Blake points out, Conway is straddling a weird line between feminism and conservatism here. “Conservatism generally holds that people should have equal opportunity but aren’t entitled to equal outcomes (such as equal pay) — that it’s a matter of hard work,” he writes. “And Conway seems to subscribe to that … but in almost the same breath, she’ll also suggest that the deck is at least somewhat stacked against her.” It’s not dissimilar to the way she tosses out accusations of sexism while ignoring the sexist history of the man she represents.