On the surface, it would seem that being conservative is a natural default for women. Since they are the ones who bear the children and who rely heavily on men to provide for them, you could say that it’s not in their best interest to rock the boat politically and socially.
Some women blame feminism (and liberalism) for taking away the safety net that women traditionally had beneath them. There was this tacit agreement among men and women that as long as women stayed home and took care of the household and the children, men would do all they could to protect and provide for the family unit. Even though some women did work for pay, it was assumed that they would stop doing so as soon as a man came into their lives. A woman who purposely took on the male role deserved what she often got: economic insecurity and no help with housework or child-raising.
In other words, if women would just stay in their place, men would be more likely to stay in theirs, to both sexes’ mutual benefit.
In my opinion, many conservatives are motivated by fear of change and the unknown. They feel much more comfortable sticking with the way things have always been. They have trouble entertaining the idea that the world is a different place than it was a hundred, or even twenty, years ago, and therefore might require different solutions to age-old problems. (Not to mention solutions for new problems.)
Conservative women tend to live in the past. They think that life would be simpler and more secure if things would return to the way they used to be. They don’t like to think about things like globalization, world peace, social injustice and gender equality. All they want is to be left alone to take care of their families and their homes. They’re not interested in changing the social contract by making it easier for women to work outside of the home (affordable, quality child care, flex-time, personal days to take care of family members) because they don’t believe that their place is outside of the home in the first place.
When conservative values team up with a distrust of government, as they so often do, what we get is a government that is unresponsive to women’s needs. Stay-at-home moms and full-time homemakers need protection, too, especially because they are so vulnerable. Forty years ago, it was uncommon for a woman to get credit in her own name or to get a portion of her husband’s retirement in case of a divorce.
Women who don’t work out of the home should be just as protected as are women who do. (I’ve read of cases where the mother actually lost custody because she didn’t have a job.) Part of the problem is that housework and child-raising are not considered to be “real” work.
It’s understandable that when women who stay home see that their contribution is not valued, they tend to get defensive. They feel threatened by all the concessions made on the behalf of “working” women. Often in their efforts to get respect, they over-emphasize conservative values. They don’t see that changes also need to be made in the way government responds to them. For instance, full-time homemakers should get credit for working when it comes to Social Security benefits. They should be treated the same as people who are self-employed.
Conservatives aren’t likely to push for changes like that because of their emphasis on less government intervention. But sometimes it is only through legislation and official policy that wrongs such as these can be corrected.
I think most women have a conservative streak, if only because of their strong attachment to their children and their homes. But they shouldn’t let that blind them to injustices that need to be addressed, in the home as well as in the workplace.