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The Daily Need

‘Conservative feminist’? Not Michele Bachmann

U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., addresses the crowd during a welcome home event in her hometown of Waterloo, Iowa Sunday, June 26, 2011. Photo: AP/Charlie Riedel

Last year, former vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin famously declared herself to be part of a “conservative feminist” movement. Her remarks, made over the course of her public campaign to support “Mama Grizzly” female candidates for the 2010 midterm elections, highlighted an antagonistic rift between the conservative female politicians she helped support and progressive feminist factions who declared “conservative feminist” to be oxymoronic.

But this year, presidential hopeful Michele Bachmann hasn’t followed suit in her own campaign to win the Republican nomination, telling The Daily Beast in an interview that she defines herself as simply “pro-woman and pro-man.”

Bachmann’s refusal to align herself with the “feminist” movement came as a sigh of relief for many of the critics of Palin’s use of the term in 2010. After all, a pro-life, gay-marriage oppositionist (who in 2006 declared that she ascribed to the Biblical command for wives to be submissive to their husbands) doesn’t quite fit the mold of the popular conception of the modern-day feminist – pro-choice, LGBT rights advocate, and, for the most part, politically liberal.

Part of the divide is over mixed views on what exactly the term “feminism” has come to mean in recent years. Is it a package of political ideals, or can it also be used to describe the recent remarkable tide of visible political female leaders that encompasses the likes of Hillary Clinton, Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann? It’s difficult to deny that a determined, outspoken woman running for political office, particularly one who is currently leading the polls in Iowa and rising in the New Hampshire polls over her male counterparts, is representative of a significant shift in American politics. At the Huffington Post, Marie Griffith, Director of the Center on Religion and Politics at Washington University, writes that this new brand of “evangelical feminism” is less about involvement in the feminist movement and more about a different, religiously based form of egalitarianism:

Palin and Bachmann decidedly do not lean left. What is “feminist” about them, for those who want to use that descriptive, is their belief that God calls women no less than men to fight His battles against Satan on earth. Women hold awesome power as spiritual warriors, in this worldview; they’re not doormats, nor should their godly duties be confined to the domestic sphere. This is its own sort of egalitarianism, to be sure, but it is one far more compatible with the complementarian theology of arch-conservative Protestantism than with the feminism of liberal religion.

Whatever political skills Bachmann does manage to hone over the course of her campaign will be another contribution to the growing visibility of women in the political sphere – and though it may not be “feminism” per se, it’s a phenomenon that perhaps warrants new terminology of its own. “Even if its appeal is as much about style as about substance,” writes Griffith, “a door has opened that will not be easily shut.”



  • Anonymous

    Is this blog a joke? Brianna Lee’s utter political cluelessness was epitomized by the phrase “Whatever political skills Bachmann does manage to hone”. No one outside the Demented Left echo chamber gives a hoot for their “interpretations” of Bachmann’s views.Juan Williams wrote:”Whenever the press spotlights one of her stumbles at the microphone the Minnesota congresswoman gets a flood of support and money. She becomes ‘Every Woman,’ a misunderstood Tea Party mother of five facing down an elitist, arrogant, Obama-leaning press corps.”
    “The dogs bark, but the caravan moves on.”
    7/12/11 According to the American Research Group, 21% of Iowans are backing Bachmann,who was at 9% percent in ARG’s April poll. In second place with 18% was former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.
    Plenty of “political skills” in evidence.

  • Glenda Wallace

    Wow. PBS is going down a risky road. My aunt emailed the link to this article to me. Not only is this beneath the quality PBS is known for, it ticked off my aunt, who (until she read this) was a regular benefactor of the local PBS station. She informed me that the station just lost about 15K a year from now on. And she says she won’t even watch their programming anymore. Ouch.

  • Anonymous

    If you are going to call Susan B Anthony, Mary Wollestonecraft, Lucy Stone, Elizabeth Cady Stanton (etc) feminists, then you must surely call Bachmann a feminist.  Abortion rights are the eucharist of post 60s feminism, but we forget that the ideals of feminism do not begin and end with 21st century extremist liberalism.  Almost all of the early foremothers would be ostracized by this modern standard.

  • Brenfree

    You make absolutely no point, it’s just bitterness backed by monetary threats.  Perhaps articulating an actual argument to refute the article would be more productive.  PBS is a quality organization and probably has no need or desire to respond to threats from a reader who would abandon the organization because one article does not align with her political and/or religious ideology.  This is exactly why America has become so fractured and polarized. Not only are people unwilling to consider another viewpoint, but the fact that someone would turn away from PBS for printing something that does not affirm her beliefs, is irrational and unfortunate.

  • whatever

    You can deal with her however you want.  I plan to deal with her by not voting for her.  

  • Myc38

    You’re attacking the author because you’ve completely misunderstood the only part of her article that you referenced.  The word “hone” means to make more acute, intense, or effective.  Thus, the phrase “Whatever political skills Bachmann does manage to hone…” implies that Bachmann’s political skills are not perfect and that she might improve some of them.  It sounds like you misinterpreted the sentence as an implication that Bachmann has no political skills.  No one here has said that.