The Phenomenon of Kellyanne Conway
To say that I have mixed feelings about Kellyanne Conway would be an understatement.
She is one of the only officials in the White House that receives Secret Service protection apart from President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence. She is also the first woman to serve as a campaign manager for a Republican presidential candidate. She is constantly the center of attention as counselor to the Trump administration, other than Donald himself, whether it be in social media, Internet memes, or blog posts like this one.
When Conway applies self-made terms such as “fake news” and “alternative facts” or mentions a “Bowling Green massacre” that never occurred, one must wonder how she is still relevant. Even after she promoted Ivanka Trump’s products on Fox News, there were no repercussions. Although both MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” and CNN have both rejected her, Conway still makes up excuses regarding her diminished television presence.
Instead of collapsing under the pressure of constantly being ridiculed and examined, Conway persists through her falsehoods and continues to be in the spotlight, embracing the attention like her parody character in Saturday Night Live.
Also, who could forget the photo of Conway sitting with her legs folded under her in the Oval Office, texting away on her phone? When that photo was released, huge debates and discussions were underway in the feminist community, with sides that defended her or persecuted her.
Given the above incidents, it is clear that Kellyanne Conway is a product of the backlash against third wave feminism.
She is presented in the media as a sensibility that feminism is not needed anymore because look, we have a woman in a high ranking position at the White House. She’s thin, white, middle class, and attractive— the prime subject for neoliberalism and postfeminism. She’s self-made and earns her keep, even pushing her husband for a position in the Department of Justice.
Conway promotes the idea of individualism— anyone can be successful and do what she does if they put their mind to it. She had all the tools (available because of her privileges) and used them to her advantage. Now, obviously this may not be true and is a highly problematic way of thinking, but it fits.
Women who are turning against the label of “feminism” typically want to show that they do not rely on the “crutch” of their gender and do not victimize themselves for it. This is dangerous because then we as women will think any woman can “become” Kellyanne Conway and garner all the success and attention she has while riding the post-feminist wave.
So yes, relish in the phenomenon of Kellyanne Conway and her weird success but do not forget that she is the epitome of a shallow feminism that’s overshadowed by the hypocrisy and sexism (along with the racism, homophobia, and xenophobia) of the Trump Administration.