Rising in the ranks as the only female candidate in the Republican primaries, Michelle Bachmann represents how far women have come since our bra-burning days. However, she is no feminist. In fact, women's groups like the National Organization for Women have expressed concern that “having Bachmann as the first female president would actually be a setback for women rather than a victory.” That may be true- Bachmann opposes abortion, and even more shockingly, believes that wives should be “submissive to their husbands.” But, by choosing to strategically alienate herself from women’s rights groups, Bachmann may be shooting herself in the foot.
Timothy Kelly, reporter for the International Business Times suggests that female presidential candidates are subject to a different, perhaps more intensive, type of scrutiny then male candidates. He observes that both Palin and Bachmann attact public criticism for “verbal gaffes” that male politicians like Joe Biden managed to escape. One study on sexism in United States presidential campaigns reveals that sexism towards women candidates is still very much alive in the media and among voters. For instance, voters are more likely to focus on appearance, clothing, emotional state (remember when Hilary Clinton cried?!) and character than on a woman’s position on the issues. Stories about women candidates are also more likely to mention children and marital status. While these observations may seem innocuous, they have the effect of pigeon-holing women into stereotypical roles that are not typically associated with leadership. Kathleen Hall Jamieson, professor of Communications at the University of Pennsylvania, describes the unfortunate double standard that female candidate face: “Women who are considered feminine will be judged incompetent, and women who are competent, unfeminine . . . who succeed in politics and public life will be scrutinized under a different lens from that applied to successful men.”
Bachmann has already been the target of sexist criticism. In August 2011, a Newsweek article portrayed Bachmann as a wide-eyed, crazy “Queen of Rage.” Terry O’Neill, president of the National Organization for Women came to Bachmann’s defense explaining: "Her policy positions are diametrically opposed to NOW's positions and I intend to defeat her. That's my job. But no male politician is treated this way. As much as I disagree with everything she stands for, she is a serious viable candidate for the United States presidency and there is no male viable candidate who has ever been treated this way."
. . . If Bachmann is going to endure scrutiny and criticism simply for being female, she may as well try to get some back up.