Kellyanne Conway talks 'conservative feminism,' Trump's 2016 election win at CPAC


Senior White House adviser Kellyanne Conway was quick to criticize the idea of feminism during a Q&A session at the Conservative Political Action Conference on Thursday, saying women "looked past the commonality of gender" in the 2016 election, and voted for a candidate that shared their ideals.

"I was raised to be a strong, independent woman, without anyone saying the word 'feminist' or having a political conversation," Conway said -- a statement that was met with raucous audience applause.

When asked about the idea of "conservative feminism," Conway was even then hesitant to lean into the so-called F-word, saying young people "don't like labels."

"For me, it's difficult to call myself a feminist in the classic sense because it seems to be very anti-male and it certainly is very pro-abortion," said Conway, "And I am neither anti-male or pro-abortion."

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"There's an individual feminism, if you will. I look at myself as proud of my choices and not a victim of my circumstances."

Conway, the first woman to serve as campaign manager for a winning presidential candidate, who was raised in what she describes as the "South Jersey version of the Golden Girls" -- says she thinks women too often feel sorry for themselves, and that there is a "presumptive negativity" around how women are treated and viewed in society.

"One thing that's been a little disappointing and a little revealing: It turns out, women just have a problem with women in power," Conway said. "This whole system of sisterhood, this whole 'let's go march for women's rights ... this presumptive negativity of women and power ... let's just try to access that and have a conversation rather than a confrontation."

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Conway has served as a spokeswoman for President Trump since the campaign, and has continued to act as such in her current White House role. The former CNN political analyst recently found herself in hot water, though, when she told MSNBC that former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn had the president's "full confidence" one day before Flynn's resignation. This prompted a CNNMoney report detailing that Conway had been "sidelined" for a week from TV appearances -- a storyline the Trump adviser denied on Wednesday night during an interview with FOX News' Sean Hannity.

The White House official ended her CPAC appearance by telling a story from her days working as a paid political analyst with CNN, saying it was then when she was confronted with the reality of having to price your worth.

Conway described being pitched by an agency to come and speak alongside pollster Mark Mellman at an event, and being asked what her speaking fee was.

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Conway says she froze, and joked, "For me, free speech was not the First Amendment, it was let's call Kellyanne."

"No matter what I said, I was going to undercut myself," Conway continued. "I was going to be that self-denying girl who grew up in a house of all women -- a giver not a taker."

Having no idea how to assess her value, Conway says she took a line from the movie When Harry Met Sally, and simply responded, "I'll have what he's having," -- meaning she wanted to be paid the same as Mellman.

Conway says it worked, and encouraged women to always use the phrase, "I'll have what he's having," in getting what they want.

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As someone who presumably works with the president on a day-to-day basis, Conway continued her discussion on the role of women, saying Trump has a "natural affinity" for promoting and helping women in his camp. She also commented on his historic 2016 election victory over Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, saying his "non-politician, true outsider" identity brought a "revelation of electricity" to the conservative movement.

"He went right to the grassroots and brought you alone," Conway said, speaking mainly to the CPAC audience. "He made people feel from the beginning they were part of this movement. People felt really fully engaged, people felt like they had a seat at the table from the beginning. He earned the nomination in a way that was bottom-up, instead of top-down."

She then thanked CPAC attendees for the "courage" they showed throughout the election season.

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