Representative Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) tore down former Governor Tim Pawlenty while reaffirming her good old-fashioned values in an Iowa debate that I am not soon going to forget. I find myself wondering, as a feminist, why a woman would support political and social positions that encourage the hardening of gender roles and prohibit her from making her own choices. As a feminist, though, and as a person, I’ve spent years waiting for a woman to inhabit the White House. Bachmann appears to be my next best hope – but as Republicans battle it out, I will not be crossing party lines to support her. Feminists who want to see a woman in the White House do not have to support this woman because Bachmann would do — and has already done — more to hurt women’s progress than to advance it.
Bachmann is no stranger to the gender roles that tell women to be subservient to the men around them – apparently, she lives by this creed. In 2006, Bachmann said that she went to study tax law because her husband told her to (she also says that God told her to run for Congress, but at best, that’s holy, and at worst, it is an internal urge, so that doesn’t bother me). Regardless of whether Bachmann actually wanted to study tax law, by espousing the position that women should “be submissive to your husbands,” Bachmann is mainstreaming an overtly sexist concept. When she tried to clarify during the Iowa the debate, she said that “I respect my husband ... and he respects me as his wife.” Rather than cast away her position, Bachmann simply reaffirms that she and her husband live by and respect the traditional roles of “husband” and “wife”— even if that apparently means that she has to do what he says. Would it be nice to have a woman in the White House? Absolutely. But not at the cost of the political acceptance of female subservience.
There’s so much more I could add — how Bachmann signed a petition pledging to criminalize pornography, or how she has used her barely-true foster care story to suggest that adoption is always an option. The Bachmanns aren’t just against marriage equality — they’re against the concept of anyone being gay at all (and if you haven’t heard Dr. Marcus Bachmann actually say those words, take a listen). Bachmann really believes that legislating sexuality is a moral obligation, and that is definitely not good for women who want to make choices about their own bodies.
Women and men who identify as feminists may struggle with a candidacy like Representative Bachmann's and with Michele Bachmann herself. On one hand, I’m thrilled to see that there are powerful Republican women in office and running for office, and that women can genuinely pick political ideologies by which to stand. But on the other, I’m horrified that we might have a president – and a woman president, no less – who would choose ideologies that put women firmly back in our place in a male-dominated patriarchy.
Seeing a woman in the White House is a dream I’ve had for as long as I can remember. But for people who call themselves feminists, and any others who share our dream, supporting Bachmann is short-sighted. Sure, we’d have a woman in the White House – but by supporting the submissiveness of women and the suppression of sexual choice, Bachmann would make sure she’s the last woman to ever get there.
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