To mark the International Day of the Woman on March 8 and Women’s History Month, Yahoo Lifestyle is exploring notions of feminism and the women’s movement through a diverse series of profiles — from transgender activist Ashlee Marie Preston to conservative campus leader Karin Agness Lips — that aim to reach across many aisles.
Pro-life, pro-NRA, and pro-Trump may not exactly spell “millennial” to many people, but 22-year-old Kassy Dillon isn’t your average college student. The journalist, political commentator, social media influencer (with 53.8K Twitter followers and counting) and senior at Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts is the founder of a blog called Lone Conservative, which provides a voice to right-leaning students who feel ostracized for their political views — an experience familiar to Dillon. In honor of Women’s History Month, she spoke with Yahoo Lifestyle about what she sees as feminism’s biggest flaws, and what she wants more left-leaning folks to understand about young conservatives.
Yahoo Lifestyle: What sparked your early passion for politics and conservative issues?
Dillon: I grew up with no structure — I had a single mom and she wasn’t present. I didn’t have a curfew, boys could sleep over my house, and I could go to parties. I learned how to behave and how to have good social values from my friends’ parents. I would set rules for myself like, “OK, it’s a school night, I shouldn’t go out.” That [mindset] helped me get into college. I learned to give myself those values.[Eventually] my sister got custody of me, at age 22, when I was 17, and we split the bills.
My grandfather is a conservative, and when I was young, he would talk to me about the news while we went on long drives [in Chicopee, Mass., where I grew up]. I really enjoyed learning from and debating with him. So I lean toward the right not only because of [him], but also because of … personal values. For example, I worked full time in high school and I would look at my paychecks and see how taxes were taken out. I thought, “This is tax waste.” Conservatism spoke to me. Also, growing up in a bad neighborhood, I saw people misusing welfare by selling their EBT cards. I worked at a daycare [center] and we’d get grants from the government to get kids more engaged. But we’d receive things like Xboxes or pogo sticks. What those kids needed was just a basketball net. I’m not saying you shouldn’t have welfare — I grew up on it, but I also saw it misused. Republicans feel strongly about reforming welfare and making these programs more efficient.
You’ve talked about feeling ostracized as a conservative college student. How so?
During freshman year, my peers called me and another girl on campus “The Republican Girls.” There were times my professors assumed that we all disliked the Second Amendment, were pro-choice, and were anti-Donald Trump, because were the same gender and went to the same school. After the presidential election, I was constantly attacked on the internet, and many students shouted at me or made rude comments on campus. For many people, that would cause a lot of emotional stress, but I learned how to deal with it. I used the attacks to reaffirm my views and tried to invite these people to have conservations with me.
I didn’t create Lone Conservative to necessarily help myself, but to help others. We have a very productive and supportive community and we’re always there for each other if things start getting tough on campus.
What does feminism mean to you?
It’s supposed to mean equality and helping women get to a status where they’re equal. I don’t like the term “feminist.” … Lately, I’ve been more open to using the word, because conservative women are now trying to reclaim it as pro-life and pro-gun. But instead, I say, “I am pro-woman.” Just because I am pro-life doesn’t mean I shouldn’t be involved in the Women’s March. … Feminism ignores conservative women. But 38 percent of women identify as Republican.
Who are your feminist heroes?
I look up to [the late British Prime Minister] Margaret Thatcher and [the late Israeli Prime Minister] Golda Meir as strong leaders.
I’m currently the biggest Nikki Haley fan. As the ambassador to the United Nations, she carries herself well, and she’s great at highlighting issues around the world. Someone once made a meme of [us together] and she saw it. After, she tweeted at me, “You’re doing great work.” I also like [NRA spokesperson] Dana Loesch. As a conservative woman in media, I get a lot of hate — I get harassed, I had to get “cease and desist” letter and met with campus police. Whether you agree with her or not, she doesn’t deserve the hatred. With Dana, people were saying hateful things to her and she responds, “God bless.” Seeing the way she handles herself inspires me.
You are an NRA supporter, correct?
Yes, I am, and a former NRA member. People think the NRA is just a lobby group, and yes, they do that — but so does Planned Parenthood. The NRA is big on gun safety and background checks. I don’t think it makes sense to blame law-abiding citizens for the actions of others. And there’s never been a mass shooting by an NRA member.
What do you think about the school shooting victims in Parkland, Fla., rallying for gun control and sparking nationwide walkouts and marches?
The school shooter should not have had a firearm — the police came to his house 38 times beforehand. Young people getting involved in politics is great, but I don’t like them becoming the faces of gun control. [Cameron Kasky] said to politicians, “You’re either with us or against us,” and that’s a simplistic view on the gun debate. We should listen to these teens, but they’re too young to be giving policy recommendations.
How is Trump doing as president? What about Ivanka and Melania, in their respective roles?
During the primaries, I worked on Carly Fiorina’s campaign, but I voted for Trump because I knew he would win. I support him for his pro-Israel stance and choosing Neil Gorsuch as justice of the Supreme Court. The economy is doing great, and I got my vote’s worth.
Ivanka and Melania Trump are two great, strong women. Of course, their relation to Trump gets them media attention, but they’ve adjusted to the White House really well, especially for being nonpolitical their whole lives. I wish to see more of them. Melania stays in the background, and she’s very close to Barron. What makes this country great is making sure kids grow up with strong families.
How do #MeToo and #TimesUp fit into the women’s movement?
The movements have exposed Hollywood as a leftist institution. I’m happy that women are sharing their stories, but we need to be careful about accusing people and not allowing due process. We can’t put all the accusations on the same level — there’s a difference between someone whistling at and raping a woman. Not every accusation could be true, and if it’s not, your career is gone. We at least have to look into each case.
Are there any non-Republicans you admire?
I really do admire [civil liberties lawyer] Alan Dershowitz because he is very principled and puts his principles over his political party affiliation. Also [CNN journalist] Jake Tapper — he works hard and I appreciate his effort to share positive news.
Would you ever date a Democrat?
I have! We were staffers at opposing congressional offices. He was more of a moderate and our long-distance relationship didn’t work, but we argued over politics because he was pro-choice. I don’t know if I would date a Democrat again. It was exhausting to have my guard up.
What do you wish folks on the left would understand more about those on the right?
Many leftists do not understand the Republican ideology and, specifically, conservative millennials. We tend to hold some social conservative beliefs in our personal lives, but are more in favor of freedom for others in the public life, while also promoting fiscal conservatism. Honestly, I wish most of my peers would sit down and have a conversation with me before attacking me on the internet or shouting things at me while I’m walking to class.
Read more from Yahoo Lifestyle:
- Why ‘Museum Mammy’ believes the feminist movement ‘will never be perfect’
- The most pressing question of Women’s History Month: What is feminism in 2018?
- Why this conservative woman believes we need ‘a new brand of feminism’