Bachmann Faces Sexism in Iowa

After much hype, Bob Vander Plaats of the Iowa FAMiLY Leader endorsed Rick Santorum for president yesterday, destroying any perception that the religious right leadership is committed to picking an electable candidate.

Vander Plaats promptly called Michele Bachmann and asked her to drop out of the race, according to Fox News (h/t Christian Heinze). That’s the thanks she gets from Vander Plaats as an early signer of his absurd “Declaration of Dependence Upon MARRIAGE and FAMiLY.” Bachmann even protected Vander Plaats (or threw him under the bus, depending on how you interpret it), claiming that the statement in the Declaration that black families were better off during slavery (later removed) wasn’t in the version of she signed.

In any case, responding to his call for her to drop out, Bachmann scoffed, as she should have, because she polls ahead of Santorum in Iowa and nationally and finished ahead of him in the Ames Straw Poll this summer.

Meanwhile, conservative talk radio host Steve Deace questioned Bachmann about hearing from Christian women who are “struggling” with the “dilemma” of a woman president. A lot of Christian women? We don’t know. Maybe this is Deace’s (and Vander Plaats’) own struggle, projected onto the women they would love to imagine “struggling” with one of their sisters becoming president. Or, to put it another way, why can’t these men get women to listen to them?

Brian Tashmann at Right Wing Watch thinks Bachmann dodged Deace’s question by drawing a distinction between her husband’s spiritual authority and running for public office. As far as these things go, though, Bachmann’s response isn’t completely disingenuous. Many conservative Christian women who believe they must submit to their husband’s authority in the household, as Bachmann does, also believe they can fully engage in public life. The question with Bachmann has always been where she draws that line; after all, the reason why she’s been questioned about submission to her husband is a 2006 speech in which she boasted that she obeyed her husband’s wishes that she obtain an advanced degree in tax law.

Of course, Bachmann herself perpetuates gender stereotypes by being a submissive wife and by, well, being Bachmann. Still, though, that shouldn’t eclipse the hurdles any female candidate or prospective candidate faces, or that Bachmann is the only woman running for president this cycle.

I don’t doubt that there are plenty of conservative women who think women shouldn’t run for president. But it seems like men like Deace are placing the blame for such bias against Bachmann on women, as the men do all the talking and endorsing.

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