At first sight, someone could mistake the college-age women wearing pink skirts adorned with white elephants and handing out flyers at the Conservation Political Action Conference as a sorority. But Future Female Leaders says it’s a community encouraging Republican women to run for office and providing them a place to feel comfortable expressing their conservative values.
Founder Amanda Owens says the group launched as an anonymous Twitter account in 2012 under the username FFL after the midterm elections. Owens said she received backlash on Facebook when she started expressing her political views.
“I was getting unfriended, I was getting people writing me things, and that was hard for me to grasp because I was still evolving and maturing in my own ways,” she said. “I felt like I couldn’t put it out there even if it was in a respectful way.”
The organization now has over 100 members nationwide and half a million followers on social media. Owens said the group’s mission is to “try to create sense of confidence of what it is to be a conservative woman, especially for those college age women who are on college campuses and they feel almost ashamed to state their political opinions in fear of retribution amongst their peers, amongst their community and sometimes even their professors.”
“I was tweeting what it was like to be a conservative woman and I was also doing the very personal aspects of my own life,” Owen said. “You know we can talk about politics and government, but I also know the very real feeling of what it’s like when a guy doesn’t text you back. I think that mixing those things really resonated with a lot of conservative women.”
The group’s booth at CPAC, hosted at National Harbor, Maryland, sold a variety of apparel items and accessories with a spin on popular slang, from $12 ankle socks that read “CPAC & Chill” and “Fox News & Chill” to coffee mugs with the words “Capitalist” in gold glitter. They also sold dog collars and “Hillary’s Worst Nightmare” T-shirts.
Kelci Webb, a senior at the University of Kentucky, has been a part of the organization for almost three years. She says despite both her parents being liberal, she has always had some conservative values, and Future Female Leaders helps her express herself.
“They are really just so great with providing support and encouragement and really boosting confidence,” Webb said. “For me I sometimes get nervous to share my political views, and being a part of FFL is really like a family and has really given me confidence to further my interest in politics.”
The group it doesn’t agree on every issue in the Republican Party platform.
“No one fits in the same box as someone else,” Owens said. “We all identify as conservatives but we all differ on where we are on certain issues, and what’s great is that we all support each other and we are united on the common conservative principles, but we also differ a lot on policy issues.”
She added that the Republican Party “can do a much better job in communicating our idea, our principles and show how conservative solutions best benefits the woman.”
One of their goals is to support women running for political positions.
“We try to empower women to be everything that they can be, and that includes running for office,” Owens said. “We want to empower them and give them confidence where they can run for office and they can win in their districts by communicating their conservative ideals to constituents.”
The group did not support the Women’s March that occurred in several cities following President Donald Trump’s inauguration because they said the march had no clear goal, and the group didn’t agree with march organizers bumping an anti-abortion group from co-sponsoring the event. (Many anti-abortion women did end up joining the march on their own).
“I would love for empowered women to truly empower women,” Owens said. “Regardless of where we stand on the political spectrum, I think we can all celebrate what we are doing and the progress that we have made.”