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Nina Burleigh Headshot

Meet the Baby Palins

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Born in the 1980s and '90s, the right-wing girl Millennials grew up at a time when Reagan was almost ancient history, second-wave feminism was fighting grandma's battles, and the background noise was the whir of talking heads debating whether oral sex was sex at all, courtesy of Bill Clinton. With their moms able to work, gays on the way to acceptance, and abortion legal if fraught, these young women learned to pick and choose among the issues. So they support women's desire to work, for example, while decrying the supposedly censorious effects of sexual harassment law on free speech. Or they use birth control to delay having children themselves while opposing federal funding for Planned Parenthood, which allows poor women to do the same.

Behold the new face of conservative womanhood, the unintended, some might say ungrateful, daughters of feminism--and their numbers, by some measures, are growing, but modernity has left them still saddled with one old right wing rallying cry. All the 35-and-under women I spoke with defined themselves in opposition to "liberal feminism," though they interpreted that phrase differently.

These young women's choice of feminism as chief nemesis is as old as Phyllis Schlafly, the 1970s firebrand who almost single-handedly killed the Equal Rights Amendment and still churns out books like her latest, with co author Suzanne Venker, The Flipside of Feminism: What Conservative Women Know--and Men Can't Say. It may seem odd that women who pride themselves on being totally modern would train their fire on such a seemingly old target. Though the reasons for that are probably as obvious as politics and ambition: Feminist bashing remains the surest way to earn cred in the conservative movement, and "feminist" is an easy, all-purpose insult, eclipsed perhaps by only the dread "liberal."

Read the whole story at Elle.