An academic analysis of the rise of the conservative tea party movement and its uniquely large female membership.
The grass-roots political movement that would become known nationally as the tea party was formed in 2009 shortly after the inauguration of President Barack Obama in response to the 2008 financial crisis and the government’s stimulus programs, which were viewed as fiscally irresponsible. As a clearinghouse for conservative ideology, namely small government, lower taxes, and social issues, the movement is unique among like-minded Republican groups due to its large share of female members and leaders. As Deckman (Public Affairs/Washington Coll.; School Board Battles: The Christian Right in Local Politics, 2004, etc.) points out, the lack of a formal structure among the many affiliate tea party groups, including the largest, the Tea Party Patriots, which boasts membership in the “tens of millions,” has provided an environment open to female leadership in direct contrast to establishment groups that have traditionally been boys clubs. Following the leadership of political figures such as Sarah Palin and Michelle Bachmann, among others, the women of the tea party have, in their minds, taken back feminism from liberals, who they believe “hijacked” the term. Relying on gendered rhetoric emphasizing self-reliance and personal responsibility, the women of the tea party primarily organize through social media and appeal to motherhood as a means of stressing the importance of conservative ideals. Deckman profiles some of the most vocal pro-women groups of the movement, including Smart Girl Politics and As a Mom…A Sisterhood of Mommy Patriots, but there is a question about her methodology. The author admits that a vast majority of the tea party women she interviewed are from Maryland, which isolates the focus to a small survey of the American public.
A sharp but limited critical analysis of how the role of women in the rise of the tea party is affecting conservative political change.