“Conservative women activists are on the rise,” according to Teri Christoph, executive director of Smart Girl Politics. SGP is a brand-new conservative organization using social media and grassroots activist methods to get conservative women involved in politics. Christoph describes SGP, laughing, as “a dinky little stay-at-home mom group with no budget.”
It all started with SGP President Stacy Mott’s personal blog, which she began back in 2008 in order to give her family a break from her political rants. A regular reader of Mott’s blog, Christoph got involved when she saw that Mott wanted to try to transform the growing number of conservative women who were gathering online into an offline movement.
“At the same time, all the social media stuff was exploding,” Christoph said. “Around the election, you heard a lot about how Obama so effectively used social media and that people on the right had a lot of catching up to do.”
Christoph said she was fascinated by the talk of Twitter, Facebook and Ning. “[As a] stay-at-home mom, I thought social media was for teenagers,” she said. “I didn’t even pay it any attention. But then, once you get on Twitter, you see how you can connect and you can stay up with the latest news, [and] actually meet these people who you see only on TV.”
First Summit Held
SGP’s main site uses a Ning platform, which allows members to sign up for a profile and get involved in groups arranged by state or interest. “Our goal is to get them to connect offline,” said Christoph. “We can organize online, but if we don’t take it offline, we’re not going to get anywhere.”
Twitter has been a major tool in SGP’s recruitment, and was instrumental in planning speakers and activities at the first annual SGP Summit, held mid-September in Nashville. Speakers included Liz Cheney, Michelle Malkin and Tennessee GOP Rep. Marsha Blackburn. SGP also cooperated with American Liberty Alliance (another connection made through Twitter), an organization that had already planned a new-media training conference in Nashville at that time in order to offer Smart Girl members training in social-media activism.
“They’re college students, stay-at-home moms, grandmas, who need to figure out how to get their voices heard. So [training is] going to be one of the big things that we do [at events],” Christoph explained.
Next year’s summit will be held in Washington, D.C. “They want to learn to go up on the Hill and lobby their congressmen, [and] how to effectively communicate with them,” she says. “We thought it’d be interesting to bring them [to D.C.] and give them hands-on training, because they’re fired up and want their voices heard.”
In the future, SGP will also be able to highlight many of the conservative bloggers writing on their site in their online magazine, Smart Girl Nation. “We thought it would be really nice to be able to highlight some of these writers who are outstanding, who present their ideas really well and [do] research,” Christoph says. “We’re definitely trying to be the conservative women’s voice. Our members are so desperate to feel like their voice is being heard, if we can get any sort of attention to it, we want to do that.”
It is exciting to Christoph to see how quickly SGP membership has grown in the past ten months. “We still get about a 100 new people every two or three days,” she said. “Between Ning and Facebook, we’re closing in on 20,000 [members].”
Christoph attributes much of the original interest to having Sarah Palin on the Republican presidential ticket last year. “A lot of women who had never been politically involved were getting fired up,” she says. “They were conservative women who wanted to see more conservative women out there, more of them running for office.”
Later, women started getting involved in Tea Parties and town hall events. “The women are just very frustrated, because they feel like all this over-reach of government is effecting their families, their kids futures, and they’re really, really passionate about it.”
Christoph added that men can also join the group. “We have a lot of men, maybe 15%-20% of our members are men,” she said. “Ultimately, one of our big goals is to get more conservative women running for office, [because] we feel like we’re under represented in government. So men can support that.”
Christoph says that as a conservative woman, she has often felt attacked when she tried to discuss issues online, and she thinks there are many other women who feel the same way.
“Conservative women are unapologetic about their beliefs and traditional values, and that is threatening to many people,” she says. “I also can’t help but wonder if the left doesn’t see us as easy targets because we don’t have that ‘sisterhood’ that kicks into gear when one of their own is attacked. Smart Girl Politics, of course, hopes to change that.”
For more information about Smart Girl Politics, create a profile at http://smartgirlpolitics.ning.com, look them up on Facebook.com, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.