How One Mom Is Fighting Against Big Education and for Free Speech

Free speech has been under attack for a long time on college campuses. Now more than ever, students and parents need tools to navigate the woke culture within education. 

“I think we see college administrators giving themselves huge powers because … they have these speech codes, where they ban ‘hateful’ speech, ‘offensive’ speech, and sure, that sounds fine, but let’s think who’s defining those terms,” Nicole Neily says. “It’s not a constitutional scholar. It’s some petty tyrant with a huge amount of discretion to pick winners and losers.” 

Neily, the founder of Speech First and Parents Defending Education, two organizations fighting for civil liberties and education in America, joins the podcast to discuss her storied career and commitment to the fight for free speech on college campuses.  

Neily also discusses why she’s sued some of the nation’s largest universities, and the turning point we find ourselves in in America’s education system. 

Nicole Neily is the founder of Speech First and Parents Defending Education, two groups that combat PC speech codes on campus. (Photo: Parents Defending Education)

Listen to the “Problematic Women” podcast below or read the lightly edited transcript:

Lauren Evans: Welcome back to “Problematic Women.” I am blessed to be here with always problematic Nicole Neily in Nashville [Tennessee] at the Heritage Resource Bank. Welcome, Nicole.

Nicole Neily: Thank you for having me.

Evans: So, you have started not one, but two organizations, which seems like two lifetimes worth of work. So, before we even get into the specifics of these organizations, where did this passion for education and civil liberties come from?

Neily: So, funny enough, I have never really liked education. When I worked at [the Cato Institute] many years ago, it was the one issue that I did not want to work on. And so, there is a little bit of self-interest, because I have kids now, and so, that’s one issue.

But also, I mean, personally, my passion for civil liberties comes from the fact that my grandparents on my dad’s side met in an internment camp. They’re Japanese Americans. They were both born in California, and they were imprisoned by the federal government [during World War II]. That saying, “a government big enough to give you everything you want is big enough to take it all away.” That, I mean, rings very true to me. And that’s why, one reason, I have really been committed to upholding the rule of law, because I know what happens when that is taken away.

Evans: And so, I want to start with Speech First. This is an organization that you’re still on the board of, but you founded [it], and it really focuses on college campuses and free speech there. What was kind of the inception of that organization and how has it changed throughout the years?

Neily: Sure. So, prior to launching Speech First, I actually ran a group called the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity, and it was a state-level investigative journalism organization. And as the president-fundraiser, I was the person who, I’d have to figure out what articles resonated, what topics people were interested in. And the education beat in 2016, 2017, it was when all the shoutdowns were starting to happen, and speakers being disinvited from graduations, etc. And that, really, that resonated with our audience. And I thought that was really interesting. And so, I thought there’s something there, there. And so, I thought, “Let’s go for it.”

And I thought there was an opportunity to be a little bit more aggressive in this space, which played out when we filed our first lawsuit against the University of Michigan. And they hate being sued. And I think so many college campuses, college administrators, they’re used to getting a heads-up. They’re used to getting endless “nasty-grams” from a lawyer. “Don’t do this.” And then, “Sorry, my bad.”

They’ll create a carve-out for a student. They’ll create an exception. They’ll change the policy when people are looking and then change it back when people aren’t looking. They’re not used to being held accountable.

And so, I thought, like, “Let’s just swing first.” I mean, you don’t deserve a heads-up. Your heads-up is a Constitution. And in many cases, schools have consciously sacrificed the First Amendment on the altar of programs like Title IX, and that stinks. We expect our children to go to school and to have their rights upheld, not to have them violated and not to live in fear. And that is unfortunately what’s happening.

And to me, the biggest problem on college campuses these days is chilling. It’s that students are just not having conversations. I mean, when you and I went to college, it’s part of the fun, right? Of being exposed to new people, and you have late-night discussions and debates, and you try to persuade somebody or maybe somebody changes your mind, because you’ve never been exposed to that point of view.

But students are not having that experience on campus today because there are so many topics that are absolutely radioactive, taboo. You can’t talk about abortion. You can’t talk about race. You can’t talk about affirmative action. You can’t talk about gender issues. You can’t talk about Israel. I mean, what is the fun of going to a school like that? And also, I mean, insult to injury, it’s like $50-, 60-, 70,000 a year to not learn to think for yourself, and our children deserve better than that.

Evans: Yeah, no, it’s so important. And especially on college campuses, like you said, where this is where students are supposed to really explore these and really push the boundaries. And Speech First actually just won a lawsuit in April against my alma mater, [the University of Central Florida]. And I think it’s great because I was huge into college activism back at the day.

And you would love this. So, what we used to do is, we used to stand in the “free speech zones,” and we’d stop kids as they were walking by. And then I would say, “Hey, would you mind just walking like 10 feet over.” And we’d walk outside the free speech zone. I’d be like, “I just want to let you know, you’re violating university policy now by being outside.” But that was kind of the extent of it, right? It wasn’t what you were saying, it was where you were saying it.

But now the University of Central Florida was really restricting what kids were saying because it was quote-unquote “hateful.” So, can you explain what that lawsuit did, and why in the 10 years since, has this problem gotten so much worse?

Neily: Sure. I mean, yeah. I think we see college administrators giving themselves huge powers because like you said, they have these speech codes where they ban “hateful” speech, “offensive” speech and sure, that sounds fine, but let’s think who’s defining those terms, right?

It’s not a constitutional scholar. It’s some petty, petty tyrant with a huge amount of discretion to pick winners and losers. And surprise, surprise, what ends up, who ends up being the loser in that situation? It’s the College Republicans, it’s Young Americans for Freedom. It’s Young Americans for Liberty. It’s Students for Life. Those are the views that are unwelcome on campus.

And then you encourage students actually to rat on each other through programs called “bias-response teams.” At [the University of Central Florida], it was called the “Just Knight” response team. But these are programs that we see on college campuses across the country, where universities will have an online reporting portal, where you can anonymously report on the speech of your fellow students. And so, not only can you get in trouble for saying pretty much anything. I mean, when we sued the University of Michigan, they said, “The best indication of bias is your own feelings.” And so it’s super-subjective.

But you can’t even challenge somebody. I mean, you can’t even say, “Well, that’s not true, here’s the context.” And so, if you can get in trouble for saying anything, anytime, anywhere, just out of an abundance of caution, it makes sense to keep your mouth shut, because nobody wants to go through the bureaucratic hassle of going to this star chamber, where it’s made up of a bunch of terrifying college administrators, the campus police, the Title IX office, the provost. That’s a scary thing. And students, I think rightfully fear, “How will this information be used against me in the future? Will I not get a letter of recommendation for law school or med school?”

And so, most students, I think just keep their head down. They keep their mouth shut, and they try to get through the four years without rocking the boat. And that’s unacceptable. And it intentionally chills students’ speech. I mean, it is done with the express purpose of trying to prevent those conversations on campus and that’s flagrantly unconstitutional, which is why we sued [the University of Central Florida].

I mean, if it makes you feel any better, I sued both my alma mater and my husband’s alma mater. They still ask us for money. It’s super-awkward. But when they call, I say, “You know what? I know how much you spent on legal fees last year. That’s a hard no.” And it’s the poor, whoever, student sophomore making $10 an hour through a work-study [job], is like, “OK, thank you.” But I want them to know, and I want that, because they have to write up why people don’t give money, and I want them to know, “I’m disappointed in you for violating civil rights.”

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Evans: So, if our listeners are, let’s say, looking at colleges or in college right now, what should they look for in a university that will protect their free speech? And then if they’re already in these colleges, what can they be doing to protect free speech on their campuses?

Neily: Sure. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education [now the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression, or FIRE] has something called their stoplight index. They evaluate about 500 schools every year, looking at their Title IX policies, at their speech policies. And so, I would start there. I mean, it’s a pretty easy ranking system, green are schools that have good policies in the books. Yellow is kind of proceed with caution. Red is obviously very bad.

And then there are private schools, too. I mean, I got my master’s degree from Pepperdine, and Pepperdine makes no bones that they place the tenets of their faith above civil liberties. You know that going into it. There’s a giant 200-foot glowing cross on the campus. Not a surprise.

But I think parents owe it to their children to do due diligence on those schools. Figure out whether there have been incidents on campus. Google, I mean, go to … Campus Reform or College Fix, go to FIRE. Speech First actually just released a big report looking at bias-response teams and how FIRE actually did a report about this in 2017, and they identified 231 schools that have bias-response teams. Speech First found that there are almost 800 at this point. And so these programs are proliferating like mushrooms.

And it’s sad because, I mean, during, at the beginning of COVID, we saw schools realize, well, we have this built-in reporting system, and we’ll just add masks to it. We’ll add vaccines to it. And so it’s, they’re encouraging students snitching on each other, and that’s not a society we want to live in. I mean, that’s East Germany. That’s like Communist China. That’s not America.

And so, I definitely encourage people to do your homework and don’t just go with the school that, in-state tuition or this is great aid package. I mean, you are throwing your child to the wolves if you don’t do the research at the beginning.

So, and if students are in school, public schools, students in public schools have a different set of rights than students in private school.

But that being said, I think, figure out, see something, say something. I mean, if you see that your campus has a crazy policy or something like that, tell people about it, tell FIRE, tell Speech First, tell the Campus Reform so that people can dig into it and ask questions.

I mean, I think bureaucrats, they hate when people actually know what they’re up to. They love to operate behind closed doors and undercover of darkness. And so, when they get questions from outlets like The Daily Signal, it makes them like, “Oh, gosh, this is going to turn into a thing.”

And sometimes they do change policies, and sometimes it’ll take a lawsuit. But don’t be quiet, just to try and get through. You deserve better, and your colleagues deserve better, your friends deserve better, and future students deserve better. And so, don’t let them get away with it, because we know what they’re trying to do, and it’s not OK.

Evans: And one thing I really loved about Speech First, the website is so cool. You could just see a college student going on there and just being so excited. Can you let our listeners know how if they wanted to reach out to Speech First, how they can do that?

Neily: Yeah. The website is speechfirst.org, and they can email [email protected] But yeah, we’re very easy to get in touch with, because yeah, we want to help people. I mean, I end up talking, when I ran it, and now Cherice Trump who runs it, talking to students about knowing what their rights are.

I think a lot of students don’t even know what their basic rights are. They enter an institution, and they’re told, “This is how things are,” and they sort of take it, and you shouldn’t take it.

And so just walking through people and empowering them with that knowledge so that when they speak to a campus administrator, when they speak to a state legislator, they’re speaking from a place of knowledge, and that is power in and of itself.

Evans: Well, Nicole, you are so impressive because I don’t know if most people know the amount of work that it takes to get a organization off the ground between the paperwork with the IRS, creating the branding, really building up. So, you not only did that with Speech First, you also did that with Parents Defending Education. How did that start? And what was the pivot from Speech First to Parents Defending Education?

Neily: Sure. So, one thing, a data point that really stuck with in my mind when I was running Speech First, is how few students actually understand the First Amendment. You see polling every year from the Knight Foundation, from Gallup, student support for free speech is decently low. People feel like, “Oh, yes, of course offensive speech should be banned, or hateful speech.” And that’s scary.

And I realized that part of the problem was that students never receive a proper civics education in most cases. And so, if the first time you hear about the First Amendment is, well, this is why Richard Spencer can come to campus. Well, yeah, you’re going to kind of hate that. But if you realize, this is how disenfranchised groups throughout history have been able to persuade others and defend and expand their rights.

It’s how suffragist were able to earn the right to vote. It’s how we were able to defeat slavery. Martin Luther King wrote letters from a Birmingham jail because he had violated a gag order. I mean, that is hugely powerful. And so, once you understand the majesty of that, I think that’s something that is impressive, but the fact that students are not receiving that in K to 12 troubled me a little bit.

And then for me, at the beginning of lockdown—I’m from Chicago, if you can’t tell for my accent, and a lot of my friends, they’re Chicago Democrats. When the schools started to shut, I had people reach out to me because my husband used to do school choice litigation. They’re like, “How do I make my school listen to me? I don’t want the school to close.” And we would sit in our backyard with a glass of wine, like, “Ha, ha. ha. Bless your heart. They don’t care about you.”

“You know what? It was really interesting to me to see my friends realize—”Oh, my gosh, the system is not set up for me. You don’t actually care about my input.” And so that was kind of another data point of seeing how kind of disenfranchised families were.

And then in the wake of George Floyd, we saw district after district around the country send these all district emails to all families. “We are so systemically racist. We commit to being an anti-racist education.” And I think a lot of parents were like, “What the heck is this? Did you just call me racist? What is going on here?”

And I think, I mean, when you and I were growing up, we didn’t get emails like that. I mean, I remember, I was in, I’m old, I was in college during 9/11. And I remember emailing a teacher that morning, and I was like, “I assume class is canceled today.” And that I got a tart response back that said, “Class is on. And if you do not show up, your grade, your grade will reflect accordingly.” But we didn’t get some like University of Illinois-wide email.

And now every district feels the need to weigh in after everything, after school shootings, after the Atlanta spa shooting, after this, after that, the George Floyd verdict, blah, blah, blah, blah. I’m like, “Why are you wading into these issues? Can’t you actually just focus on educating my children?” And so that was kind of just another data point.

And for me, the thing that really flipped the switch, when I said I have to do this, is a district in Chicago. The Wall Street Journal did an interview with the superintendent in Evanston [Illinois], and he said he was going to reopen schools. He was going to allow black and brown children to go back for in-person education before white children, because of anti-racism. And I remember screaming at my computer saying, “Ah, you can’t do this. That’s unconstitutional.”

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And I went to a friend, I said, “I want to start Speech First for K to 12. I want to sue these bad guys.” And my friend was like, “Awesome. Yeah, we’re in. But this is kind of like ‘Jaws.’ You’re going to need a bigger boat.” It’s going to have to be bigger than—I mean, Speech First was me, a PR firm, and a law firm.

I look back at our initial business plan and I was like, OK, well, I’ll have maybe two people that I work with. And I bet these school districts don’t even know that they’re violating students’ rights and so, my terrifying law firm will send letters to these school districts, and they will say, “Oh, mea culpa, sorry, we didn’t know that we were doing the wrong thing. We’ll fix it.” And that is not what has happened whatsoever.

I mean, these guys are so dug in on these bad policies. And again with having worked at Cato, my husband doing school choice litigation, I always knew the teachers unions were bad, but I did not understand the extent and the power of the school choice or of the education blob. I mean, I would never have thought two years ago that the national PTA was a captured entity. The School Nurses Association, the School Counselor Association, the Secondary School Principals, what we saw with the National School Board Association, I mean, every single organization in this space is, they’re obsessed with money and power. And our children are just collateral damage in that, but they’re not giving this up without a fight. And so we have had to rise to the occasion.

So, it is one of my colleagues [who] calls herself an accidental activist. And I think that’s kind of what it is like, well, this is the fight that we’re in, and if the schools are not going to put my kids first and it looks like I’m the only one who is going to do it, and let’s help people. And so we started trying to figure out, I assumed again, I’m married to a constitutional lawyer. We have dinner parties where we talk about the 14th Amendment. We are deeply boring people. But I realized most people are not like that. Most people are normal. And so I assumed that there was information out there about your rights and family rights.

And as I kind of did internet research, I thought it really interesting that there’s not a lot of information out there for parents about free speech, about Title VI, about Title IX. And if you look up that information, it is largely actually in the campus setting. I mean, you think about free speech in schools, it’s campus free speech. You think about Title IX, it’s Lea Thomas and collegiate swimmers, or it’s schools getting rid of a wrestling team because we’re not a girls’ wrestling team, but we don’t think about those in the K to 12 setting.

And part of it, I mean, I’m a child of the eighties. I used to watch “GI Joe” cartoons. And they used to end every episode with, like, a little life lesson, like don’t play with downed power lines, but there was this saying, and it was like, “Knowing is half the battle.” And that’s it. If people know what their rights are, then they know where the red lines are. So that if, and when—and unfortunately now, it’s really just a case of when,—when the school crosses those lines, families then know that something has to happen.

And so I want people to feel that they can make a difference, and that they can stand up, and they can be an effective advocate for their child. And part of that comes with knowledge, right? And you’re more empowered.

But then, how do we get people engaged? I mean, I have worked in think tanks in D.C. for a long time. And I think everybody in Washington and kind of the … corridor, we think about like, OK, well, I’ll write it op-ed. And I’ll pitch myself to radio, and I’ll go on TV.

And I mean, for me, my target audience is Bob in Omaha, like a guy who’s making $50,000 a year working a 9 to 5 job, after two years of school closures is trying to not smother his kids or get a divorce, but doesn’t scroll through new discourses on a Tuesday night to read about the Marxist roots of critical race theory. He just sees his kid’s homework assignment and thinks, “What the heck is this? I don’t like it,” but is a little bit scared to do something about it because you say the wrong thing on a hot mic at your school board meeting, and you are the neighborhood Q-Anon quack for the rest of your life.

And so, how can we make it easy for people to get involved? Just very basic things. What is a school board? Why should you run for a school board? How do you write a letter to the editor? So let’s on-ramp these people and meet them where they are. I mean, with big tech throttling all of us, and let’s just email people. Let’s get in their pocket. So, when they’re standing on the side at their kid’s baseball game, they can read through, and they can figure out, “OK, well, it sounds like this is pretty easy.” I can file a public records request.

But we want to empower parents, and we want to give them the confidence to actually speak up for their kids. And I think that’s what we’ve seen over the past few years. And it’s really exciting. I mean, there are now, we now work with over 250 local parent organizations across the country. And these are groups that didn’t exist two years ago. Parents are rising to the occasion because they have realized that the system is not out for them, and it has failed them. And if not me, then who? If not now, then when? And so, it’s really exciting.

Evans: Yeah, that is really exciting. And with the universities, I mean, there’s hundreds of universities around the country, but there’s tens of thousands of schools. So, your organization, I love the way that it is really so decentralized. And it’s such a federal model, where the parents have to be the one who finds these things. So, if you are a parent and something doesn’t pass the sniff test, what can they expect that the next steps with Parents Defending Education would be?

Neily: Yeah, so we have a tip line, and we, since our inception, have been receiving 50 to 200 tips a week from across the country, which is astonishing. And so, I mean, it makes me think of that line, “The price of liberty is eternal vigilance.” We have people who send us stuff with, they can check a box that they want to be anonymous. Almost everybody wants to be anonymous. People are scared. I mean, and I think they rightly fear retaliation both against themselves and their children. And so, we tell their stories. We are the voice for the voiceless, and we shine a light on it.

I mean, like, as the hacks at The Washington Post say, “Democracy dies in darkness.” But the bad guys love, they love to operate behind closed doors. They don’t want people digging into their business, knowing what’s going on.

And so, I don’t know what’s going on in Taos [New Mexico], but a parent there, they’re reading their local paper, and they see something that’s weird, and they can just send us a link. We ask people to send us backup. We don’t want to put hearsay on our website. I’m not super into being sued for defamation. But we ask for a URL or a PDF or a screenshot or something. And then we put it up there.

We don’t need to editorialize. The stuff that our children are being taught or not being taught is horrifying. And reasonable people are appalled by what they see. And then we put it all up on our website, and we pitch it out to the press, because Bob in Omaha doesn’t know how to get something to Tucker Carlson [on the Fox News Channel], but we can.

But once that information is out there, it gives people a reason to act. It gives them a reason to go to a school board meeting and speak up. It gives them a reason to, for a state legislator to say, “Well, this kind of garbage is going on in our state. Let’s do school choice.” And so families have more options.

But the first part is just knowing what is going on. And so, we encourage people just to give us the tips so that we can share with outlets like The Daily Signal or The Daily Wire or places like that. And really, it’s so funny how many districts say, “Oops, that was a mistake.” So many mistakes happening across the country. And it’s largely, they’re caught with their hand in the cookie jar, and they’re embarrassed.

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And we love to file public records requests. I mean, after there’s some incident, I like to sometimes just find out how is the district talking about this? They freak out when they get an email from a reporter at The Daily Caller, much less Fox News, or anywhere else. And it makes them think twice.

And I think it’s forcing a level of accountability into the system that is missing for so long. I have a 7 year old and an 8 year old. They come home from school. I ask them what they learned. How was their day? And they say, “We had pizza. It was amazing.” Right? That’s all I get from them. They don’t tell me what they’re learning in science class or math class, or what, so parents, I think, in many cases, are kind of operating in a black box.

And so the fact that now every teacher, before they hand an assignment out, has to think, am I going to get in trouble for this? Is this going to be on a local news tonight? That changes behavior. And same thing for principals. They have to know what is going on in their building, because they’re the ones who are going to get the call from the media. So, it encourages them to keep a closer eye on what their teachers are doing. Same thing with superintendents and school boards. The buck stops with you. You’re going to be voted out of office. Your contract is going to be canceled if there is garbage taking place in your schools.

And so it’s, I think, starting to change the incentive structure for a lot of the bad actors. And then back that up with, we filed two lawsuits over the past year, one in federal court, in Wellesley, Massachusetts. And then we have, we just theoretically won a case in New York, except the bad guys are going to appeal it. And so, to back it up with the threat of litigation. We will hold you accountable for this, and you’ll be dragged through the mud. You’ll be all over national media and yeah, that scares them, and it should scare them because they should be ashamed of what they’re doing.

Evans: And this has been such a slow creep for years, decades even, and it’s really accelerated in the past two years since, since COVID and George Floyd. Do you think the tides have officially turned, and now parents have really woken up and are ready to take back education?

Neily: Yes, I think it’s still an ongoing process. And it’s funny because, it’s like I said, it’s such a developing ecosystem. One thing that we’re trying to be mindful of is all of these activists, they’re not, this is for many of them, it’s their first rodeo. Somebody from Moms for Liberty told me that only about 40% of their moms were even registered to vote two years ago. And so there’s, I think a huge education process going on.

But also we want to be mindful of not having our activists burn out. It’s scary, and it’s hard. I mean, my college roommate unfriended me because of something I, because of my work. I mean, people, people, it’s tough. And so we want to keep people’s spirits up. And we want to show them you’re not alone. This bothers people across the country. This transcends racial lines. It transcends political lines. People across the country are fed up for a number of reasons.

I mean, we have tons of first-generation Americans who reach out to us. They’re mad about the war on merit. I mean, that’s what we saw in the San Francisco school board recall, is like, “How dare you tell my kid that showing your answer in math class is ‘white supremacy’ culture? Teach my kid calculus so he can apply to MIT and have a better life for himself.”

I mean, we have teachers who reach out to us and they’re like, “I don’t want to teach this garbage. I want to get back to the basics. My kids are not at grade level in proficiency.” We have Democrats who reach out to us. They’re like, “I don’t even recognize this. What is going on in schools right now?”

And so there’s this amazing opportunity because there’s so many new audiences that are so, yeah, I think the scales have fallen from their eyes, but I think there’s a lot of work to be done still, because I mean, we are consistently gaslit by the media, right?

We saw in the Virginia election [for governor in 2021], “[Critical race theory] is not being taught in school.” And we would just throw, I mean, the receipts at them. These are, “Well, here are 20 examples of ways that children are being taught to identify themselves based on race and sex.” Call it magical unicorn theory if you want, you’re teaching kids to identify themselves on amenable characteristics and to treat other people differently. That’s evil, and that’s wrong, and that’s unconstitutional.

And so, just to be able to break through that and break through. Yeah, I mean, the kind of mainstream media coverage of this stuff, I think is, it’s an ongoing battle. And also the battle lines are shifting. Last year, almost everything we got in was related to race. This year, in 2022, 50% of what we have this year is actually on gender issues. And, I think, looking at in the wake of the Uvalde [Texas school] shooting, I think we’re going to have an increased push for mental health interventions in school and social emotional learning. And that is a Trojan horse for a lot of the CRT and identity- and bias-education stuff.

And so, the battle’s changing, but it’s not going away, but fortunately, the parents are not going away either. I think, so many people are so fired up now. They get the bit in their teeth. I mean, we have moms who are like, “I found the diversity director’s Twitter feed, and this is what she said.” I mean, there’s like a nation full of little investigative journalists who are keeping an eye on things, which is so exciting because at the end of the day, it’s their backyard, but they’re motivated to clean it up.

And, I think, even for conservatives, so many of us for so long have focused exclusively on the federal government, and COVID really showed us over the past two years, how much power your state and your city have over your day-to-day life. I mean, I went on a business trip from Florida to California to Los Angeles. It was like a tale of two cities. I mean, literally, because what the restrictions were.

I think people are realizing your local government matters, and you have to show up if you don’t like what’s going on. And so, I think that trend is not going away, and so, it’s an exciting time to be involved in all these things.

Evans: Nicole, I could talk all day about education and free speech. This is amazing. But last question, before I let you go, a “Problematic Woman” favorite question, and that is whether or not you consider yourself a feminist and why?

Neily: OK. So, yes, but my definition of feminism is this: I think feminism is not being dependent on anyone, not a husband, not a father, and not the federal government. And so, to me, that is being an empowered feminist. Unfortunately, I think, obviously, the word has been stolen and bastardized by the bad guys, but I think, I want women to be, women are equal, and they can and they should, stand on their own two legs.

I mean, years ago when, I think it was the Obama administration had that whole video, “The Life of Julia,” right? Like we’re going to take care of you from cradle to grave. And it was so super-creepy. That’s dependency. That is the absolute opposite of empowerment. And nobody should want that. That is anti-feminist in my mind. So, the answer is yes, but I realize I’ll probably get in trouble with Inez Stepman. (Stepman is a senior policy analyst at Independent Women’s Forum and vocal about her view that conservatives should let go of the word “feminist.”)

Evans: I love that. I love, too, anytime you can be anti-government and pro-feminist at the same time. That’s amazing. Nicole, thank you again. She is founder and former president of Speech First and currently with Parents Defending Education. Thanks, Nicole.

Neily: Thank you.

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