In evangelical Christian circles, “feminist” has traditionally been a dirty word. The three short syllables have done heavy work, telegraphing all the things the “Christian right” loves to hate about the “secular left.”
A feminist, according to this definition, favors “abortion on demand, government-funded abortion, redistribution of wealth, same-sex marriage and is antiwar, anti-defense,” says Penny Nance, the CEO of Concerned Women for America, the antiabortion group. In this most pejorative view, a feminist puts her personal ambition ahead of the needs of her children.
Now, in a reversal, some conservative Christian women are tentatively claiming the feminist label for themselves. In the reframing, feminism has nothing to do with a woman’s right to choose an abortion or with government programs for the poor.
Instead, a “feminist” is a fiscally conservative, pro-life butt-kicker in public, a cooperative helpmate at home, and a Christian wife and mother, above all. Rep. Michele Bachmann is Exhibit A. With her relentless attacks on big government and a widely circulated 2006 video in which she credits her professional success to the submission of her will to Jesus and her husband, Bachmann represents “a new definition of feminism,” says Stephen Bannon, director of “Fire From the Heartland,” a 2010 movie about the female leaders of the tea party.