Sunday, January 1, 2012

Bachmann and the feminist double-standard

Congresswoman Michele Bachmann is not most people's idea of a feminist.  Mother of five children and foster-mother to 23 more, she has spoken of being submissive to her husband.  Just what that "submission" looks like for the Bachmanns became evident in the controversy that erupted after Byron York's question to her in one of the early Republican candidate forums:

As president, would you be submissive to your husband?

He needn't have bothered asking.  According to several attempts at clarification on the Sunday morning round of shows, in the Bachmann marriage wifely submission turns out to be nothing more sinister than mutual respect.  However, York was right to ask the question as I have argued previously.  Bachmann is different because she is a woman.  But the question was deemed out of bounds and unfair.  Some said it was wrong of him to ask it of her if her wouldn't have asked it of any of the men on the stage.  Isn't that the point?  None of the men on that stage, to my knowledge, have ever professed they believe there is a biblical mandate for them to submit to their wives.  It was a different question because she is a different candidate.  But York got boo'd and we were reminded once again you can't treat women differently from men. 

At least not until the woman wants you to.

And now, with her star fading and her poll numbers down in the single digits, Bachmann wants us to treat her differently.  According to today's AP article Bachmann, "has made the gender card central to her closing argument". Evoking  Margaret Thatcher and repeating the theme, "it's time to put a mom in the White House", she hopes to give herself enough of a bump come caucus day to regain some credibility and keep her campaign going.  

It's a risky move.  Iowa has never sent a woman to Washington as a member of its congressional delegation nor has it ever put a woman in the governor's office.  Sunday morning guest preaching gigs will not endear her to the sort of conservative Evangelical who believes what prominent Complementarians (who embraced Sarah Palin's position on the Republican ticket in 2008) teach - that men are charged with leadership in the home and church but  are not so sure about politics.  Many Complementarians support women in civic leadership positions even when they do not support Pastor Polly.

So you can vote for Michele Bachmann because she is a woman and in the words of one supporter, "Gutsy has never looked so gorgeous".  But don't you dare ask her a question about how women do things differently.

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