26: Determining the Answer

26: Determining the Answer

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Campus Chronicles

Determining the Answer

I am not discouraged, because every wrong attempt discarded is another step forward.

~Thomas Alva Edison

As a college student, I wondered how I was going to balance raising a family with pursuing a career. My female professors focused on the career part and ignored the raising the family part of my equation.

At the start of my junior year of college at the University of Virginia, I decided I wanted to be a part of a club for conservative-minded women, who wanted to both raise a family and pursue a career. I went directly to the club database at UVA to see if I could find a club for conservative college women.

There are more than 500 student clubs at UVA. Think of something you can do in a group and there most certainly is a club for it. There is an Archery Club, Belly Dance Club, Culinary Arts Club, Economics Club, Storm Chasing Club, and Fencing Club. The list goes on and on. But there were no clubs for conservative college women. I searched club databases at colleges throughout the country to see if they had clubs for conservative women. Again, nothing.

Why had a club for conservative college women not been created among the hundreds of clubs at UVA and thousands of college clubs throughout the nation? Two answers immediately dawned on me: either clubs for conservative college women had failed miserably or had never been tried. This was the unanswerable question.

A week after my initial database searches, I was walking home from class and saw a sign for the “Women’s Center.” Wow, I thought, this could be what I was looking for! I scheduled an appointment with one of the professors at the Women’s Center. At the end of my visit, I asked the professor if the Women’s Center would be willing to start a club for conservative college women. She looked at me like I was crazy, chuckled and replied, “Not here.”

I grinned, said thanks, and decided to start a club for conservative college women on my own. I believed my idea would work and was determined to make it work after being laughed at by the professor at the Women’s Center. Even more encouraging, I realized that the worst thing that could happen by starting this club was that no one would show up to the first meeting. But that was a risk I was willing to take!

I created the Network of enlightened Women (NeW) as a club for conservative college women. I structured NeW as a book club in which we would read about and discuss issues that are often unpopular on college campuses, such as the “hook-up” culture, balancing a career with motherhood, and the natural differences between the sexes. We wanted a club where we could critically discuss our beliefs in an open and intelligent manner. The club’s aim since its inception has been to cultivate a community of conservative women. For the first meeting, we posted hot pink signs all over campus that asked:

Enjoy discussing the UVA “Hook-Up” culture?
Confused about politics?
Not sure how to balance work and family?
“Join the Network of enlightened Women!”

The hot pink fliers worked — the room was packed for our first meeting and word was spreading about NeW. At our second meeting, a professor who had published a book on the differences between the sexes spoke about how those sex differences should inform our decisions as young women and public policy more generally.

After this meeting, a liberal UVA newsmagazine placed a drawing of a young, pristine woman donning a perfectly pressed gingham dress on its cover. She had an apron on, and her hair was evenly curled. She was intently reading a book held in her left hand and mixing batter with her right. Nothing, however, could conceal a large device attached to her midsection that was popping out human babies: one, two, three... eleven. Eleven babies! She was a baby-making machine. This is how the liberal magazine portrayed NeW.

The cartoon confirmed the reason I started NeW — specifically that the campus political atmosphere needed to broaden its understanding of female issues. After having my efforts mocked by this cartoon, I didn’t quit. Instead, I knew I was onto something.

Despite all the opposition, our membership grew quickly. Several times, our critics even came to our meetings to see what we were up to. Because we stood up against the politically correct campus orthodoxy, we were a threat.

With a growing membership, I was certain NeW had the potential to become a national organization. I believed in NeW’s mission, so I began actively recruiting women to start chapters at their own universities. I have now helped women on fifteen different campuses throughout the country start NeW chapters. These women felt the same way I did and wanted a club in which they could discuss the difficult choices they will have to make in the future.

Four years after posting those pink fliers and fifteen chapters later, I am convinced that there was no club for conservative college women because it had not been tried. Rather than stopping at the question, I determined the answer.

~Karin L. Agness

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