Wow, GOP. You managed to show off your shiny sexist stripes quite shamefully last night (August 11) during the Republican candidate debate in Ames, Iowa.
And that means you've left me in the unfortunate position of having to defend Michele Bachmann.
I really don't want to focus on such an asinine part of the debate—especially since a few of the candidates (cough, Ron Paul and, surprisingly, Newt Gingrich) said some insightful things—but I was livid when I heard moderator Byron York ask Bachmann that, if elected president, would she be submissive to her husband.
"In 2006 when you were running for Congress, you described a moment in your life when your husband said you should study for a degree in tax law. You said you hated the idea," York asked. "And then you explained, 'But the Lord said, Be submissive. Wives, you are to be submissive to your husbands.' As president, would you be submissive to your husband?"
Raise your hand if you just vomited a little in your mouth. I know I did.
The crowd burst into boos, and Bachmann blathered her way out of the awkward situation, talking about how she loved her husband and that she equated submission with respect. It wasn't a real answer, but it was a political answer and probably the one that would command the least amount of backlash from salivating pundits the next day.
The point is that the question was demeaning and way out of line. There was absolutely no reason Bachmann should have been asked such a question. Was any other candidate up there asked such detailed questions of his personal life? Were any of the seven men standing up there asked who really wears the pants in the family?
The question (which York defended this morning on Fox and Friends, condescendingly adding that Bachmann's answer "was a very human moment for her") may have been tied to Bachmann's religious faith, but the implication is that she's an airhead who can't make decisions without deferring to her husband. (Which may be true; not the point.)
The broader implication is that the majority of Republicans (maybe the majority of Americans?) see all women as too stupid to form their own thoughts, and who must run to a man to help them survive in the big scary world.
Bachmann and Sarah Palin are the only females making any sort of headlines on the Republican side of U.S. politics, and they are both treated like hillbilly morons. (Again, this may be true; not the point.) While I would never claim that either one of them is particularly scholarly, I am aghast at how they are treated in the media, and disgusted that a man like Byron York would say what he asked was "a serious and legitimate question". No, Mr. York. It was sexist, paternalistic, and condescending—and it needs to stop.
On second thought, I'm not defending Bachmann. I think she's a dangerous person who is out of touch with the reality and needs of most American women—not to mention her terrifying views on homosexuality and, well, everything else.
No, I'm defending all women, and that includes Bachmann, who is part of our oppressed gender whether or not she sees the systemic nature of said oppression. I may viscerally disagree with her politics, but she doesn't have any right to be treated like a second-class citizen. Last night's proceedings are endemic of how all women in the political arena are treated: as naive, uneducated dumb-dumbs who can't make decisions for themselves.
However, these are the kinds of female candidates that the GOP tends to field. Women like Bachmann and Palin are simply used as nothing more than props, the token females sent out to look pretty on the campaign trail in hopes of resonating with a female population that the Republicans doesn't understand in the slightest—and then they are asked degrading and sexist questions to further undermine their legitimacy as candidates.
So is that because Republicans can't find an intelligent woman to run for their party? Or is it because the men are just too scared of women to actually run a female candidate with serious substance.
And I'm dying to know how Hilary Clinton would have taken the moderator to task for such an inappropriate question.
Follow the overly opinionated Miranda Nelson on Twitter at @charenton_.