The College Republicans at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill were having a cookout, which they had advertised on their Facebook page with a picture of Ronald Reagan grilling hot dogs. It was a sweltering evening in August, a week after protesters toppled the bronze statue of a Confederate soldier on their campus known as Silent Sam, and a month before Christine Blasey Ford testified to the Senate Judiciary Committee that Brett Kavanaugh had attacked her at a high-school party in the 80s. There were about 60 students gathered in an out-of-the-way courtyard off red-brick Connor Hall, all of them white, and most of them conspicuously polite boys (“Would you like a Cherry Coke, ma’am?” one asked). The girls, only about a dozen, looked like college girls everywhere today, in T-shirts and tank tops, shorts and leggings. Except that they were not like college girls everywhere, most of whom lean to the left and vote Democratic, or tell pollsters they plan to.
“They say we’re white supremacists, racist, misogynistic, and we have internalized misogyny,” said Cammie McMahan, 19, the College Republicans’ secretary, who wore a G.O.P. T-shirt, and a frown. I’d asked her and her friend Caitlyn McKinney, 19, what it was like being a conservative woman on their overwhelmingly liberal campus. “Name-calling is the first place they go,” said Caitlyn, who has that lilting North Carolina accent that makes everything sound gentle, even when it’s not. “They say they want to be all intersectional and everything,” said Cammie, “except when it’s us.”
Ever since 52 percent of white women voted for Donald Trump, Republican women, now all but synonymous with “white women,” have become the subject of a protracted howl of outrage from more liberal circles. “‘White Women’ Becomes a Disparaging Term,” fretted the National Review in October, in a column complaining of the “vitriolic condemnation” of Republican women by mainstream media outlets. “Half of white women continue to vote Republican. What’s wrong with them?” asked The Guardian in November, days after the midterm elections, which saw only a slight movement away from the Republican Party by white women, despite two years of Donald Trump’s attacks on women, people of color, people who are transgender, and virtually anyone who doesn’t look like a backup singer for Lawrence Welk. But most mystifying of all, perhaps, is the block of young white women who continue to support the president and his party when the majority of their peers have reacted with revulsion. I went to U.N.C. to talk to some of these young women who align themselves with Trump, and to find out how it feels to be among the most despised women in America.
“It’s really hard to date here,” said Gabby Derosier, 19, a sporty, dark-haired girl who was sitting at a wrought-iron patio table eating a hamburger. “Liberal guys match with me a lot on Tinder because they like to argue. I put it right in my profile that I’m a conservative woman. But then they kind of want me to be like the guy in the relationship and . . .” She made a face. “I like a man to be a man—like a lumberjack. Liberal guys are really feminine.”
Along the darkened path leading out of the cookout, as I was leaving, another young woman stopped to say hello; I told her that I was there, too, to find out why some young women still pledge their loyalty to Trump even with the accusations of sexual assault against him. And she told me she had been raped her freshman year. “He took advantage of a naïve freshman. He expected sex and I didn’t know that would be expected. So Republican women know about Me Too,” she said. “But please don’t say my name. I have to be so careful with applying to law school.”
“Being a conservative woman in college is like being a part of ‘Fight Club,’” wrote Maggie Horzempa, 21, in a column in the Washington Examiner in June. “And what’s the first rule of Fight Club?” she told me, low, sitting out of earshot of other students at U.N.C.’s brightly lit Stone & Leaf bookstore café. “You don’t talk about being a conservative.”
Maggie, who is white and blonde, and has the face of the girl on the cover of an edition of Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, is the chairwoman of U.N.C.’s College Republicans and the president of the campus chapter of the Network of Enlightened Women (NeW), a national organization dedicated to fostering conservatism among women on college campuses (43 chapters, including Harvard and Princeton). In August, she appeared on Fox News, wearing a Republican-red jacket, to discuss the felling of Silent Sam. “One thing that we cannot condone is the mob rule that took place,” she said in her soft-spoken way, part Ivanka Trump and part Tracy Flick. She decried the “vocal minority” that had “allowed anarchy to rule on our campus.” ...
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