Michele Bachmann and The Liberal Feminists’ Dilemma

By Samantha Plotner

American feminists have been striving for the United States to elect a female President for decades. The prominent feminist organization The White House Project even lists “[e]lecting a female President” among its goals. When Hillary Clinton ran for the Democratic nomination in 2008, activists around the country wondered, “will this finally be the year?” Alas, 2008 was not the year for a female presidential nominee, and Clinton lost the nomination to Barack Obama, who then continued on to win the general election. However, the 2012 Presidential Election cycle is challenging a belief that was always taken for granted: the first female President will be a liberal Democrat.

Queen of the Tea Party, Michele Bachmann

Enter Representative Michele Bachmann of Minnesota. Last semester, I did a rundown of the potential Republican nominees and Bachmann seemed like such a wild card—not even noteworthy. Yet, as the Republican field took shape this summer, Bachmann surprisingly emerged as a contender by winning the Iowa straw poll. The straw poll is a crucial poll among the party-faithful in Iowa, where the first caucus is held, and plays a large role in narrowing the Republican field. The winner of the straw poll frequently gains front-runner status, if only for a few weeks. This victory is in spite of Bachmann’s policies being virtually as far right as they can be on both social and fiscal issues, including supporting the idea of creating a constitutional amendment to require a balanced budget. This goes along with rhetoric that heavily references her Christian faith and facts that she seems to make up on the spot (see her insistence that the HPV vaccine causes mental retardation). However, in a Republican field full of politicians racing to prove how extreme they are, Bachmann’s candidacy is no longer a joke. The Tea Party is a major force in the Republican primaries this year and while their self-described “Mama Grizzly” is Sarah Palin, their Queen is Michele Bachmann.

Bachmann’s candidacy leaves many feminists torn. Is electing a female President such a victory if she is against many (if not most) of the movement’s beliefs? Bachmann is staunchly anti-abortion rights. She advocates stripping federal funding from Planned Parenthood (an organization she has called “the Lenscrafters of big abortion”). She strongly opposes President Obama’s healthcare plan, which includes several provisions to improve coverage for women, including providing birth control without co-pays. Also, Bachmann believes that all women should be submissive to their husbands. At a campaign event in 2006 she told the audience:

My husband said, now you need to go and get a post-doctorate degree in tax law. Tax law? I hate taxes. Why should I go and do something like that? But the Lord said “Be submissive. Wives you are to be submissive to your husband.” And so we moved to Virginia Beach, Virginia, and I went to William and Mary Law School there for a post-doctorate degree in tax law. And I pursued this course of study. Never had a tax course in my background, never had a desire for it, but by faith, I was going to be faithful to what I felt God was calling me to do through my husband.

Some political consultants seem to think women will vote for ANY woman just because she is a woman. For example, John McCain picking Sarah Palin as his running mate could easily be interpreted as an attempt to attract disillusioned Hillary Clinton supporters after she lost the primary, despite the fact Palin and Clinton agree on almost nothing politically. Could liberal feminists bring themselves to vote for a candidate who goes against everything they stand for just because she is a woman? Personally, I don’t think so. The principles of the movement are more important than the goal of electing a female President.

Samantha Plotner is a junior at Barnard and the Editor-in-Chief of The Nine Ways of Knowing. She is majoring in Political Science and Human Rights Studies.

Photo courtesy of michelebachmannforpresidentin2012.blogspot.com

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