Republican party shows off its sexist stripes in Iowa debate

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_.


We're now using Facebook for comments.


Amos Evans

Aug 12, 2011 at 11:57am

"So is that because Republicans can't find an intelligent woman to run for their party?"

I think that any woman with intelligence and self-respect would see the GOP for the sexist, backwards-thinking (at least socially) group of cavemen they are. Although I can't say that I'm all that impressed with the women of note in the Democratic Party either, they're at least not presented in an embarrassing way, just a patronizing one.


Aug 12, 2011 at 11:59am

It's not an entirely inappropriate question, though. Bachmann's religious denomination openly demands submission of women. I certainly want to see more women in politics, but I would never vote for a political candidate at any level if I thought they would be submissive to their partner.

It's not necessarily an inherently sexist question, either. I believe that a person who engages in (for example) BDSM activities should not have that held against them. But if it came out that a male politician was in a 24/7 submissive relationship with another person, male or female, I'd want to know the same thing about him. And if he could not promise that his Mistress or Master would stay the hell out of his political affairs, I wouldn't vote for him.

Stupid is as stupid does...

Aug 12, 2011 at 12:24pm

Uh sure. And when exactly has Hilary said that she takes direction from God and that same God told her to submit to her husband.

If Bachmann's husband told her to ban gay marriage and abortion and invade Mexico, would she consult the same Lord.

She was asked the question, not because of her sex, but becasue of her character.

It's a completely legitimate question since I'm sure the God we're talking about also told George W. Bush to invade Iraq.

Finally, Palin and Bachmann are criticized in the media because they say and do stupid things. It happens to both sexes...ask Anthony Weiner.


Aug 12, 2011 at 1:38pm

This column should surely be labelled "satire". It takes about 30 seconds to see why this was a perfectly legitimate question, and not sexist or condescending. Ms. Bachmann says her God commands her to be submissive to her husband. U.S. citizens have a right to know whether voting for her means that they are actually voting for her husband, who doesn't have to answer to the electorate. The column is all over the map in its illogical meandering. Does the Straight no longer employ editors?


Aug 12, 2011 at 2:49pm

No, Michelle Bachmann is sexist. She's publicly expressed sexist ideology, and she should be questioned on it.


Aug 12, 2011 at 2:52pm

The question was completely appropriate, given Bachmann's comments in 2006. No different than asking a fundamentalist politician if (s)he is is favour of teaching creationism in science class. I want to know if politicians taking their marching orders from someone else, whether that be their spouse, some corporate donor or their own, personal Jesus.

I suspect the fact the crowd booed the question had more to do with partisanship than a perception that it was sexist.

And by the way, can we have a moratorium on the whole "I threw up a little in my mouth" meme? It tells us a bit more about your gastrointestinal issues than we really need to know. Besides, where the fuck else would you expect to throw up a little in?


Aug 12, 2011 at 2:58pm

A lot of what I was going to say has been covered in the above post, actually.

This sort of issue was also posed "of" Hillary when she was making her run for the White House, since her husband would be back in the White House people wondered if it would be "a third Bill Clinton Presidency." But then again there was also the question of how much she was involved in his presidency before.

Regardless, the question isn't necessarily sexist because there are numerous prominent very right wing conservative female pastors who preach subservience to their husbands as part of the Christian faith. Now, whether or not this is necessarily the case is up for debate. Consider that most of the subservience lies in the Old Testament. Well, that's also where the Laws of Abraham are, the much of which is similar to Sharia law which is considered to be patriarchal in nature. Well... so while Christianity itself is supposed to be derived from the New Testament, there's a vocal group of Christians that love to invoke Old Testament rhetoric when it suits their purposes (and blatantly ignore New Testament rhetoric when it suits their purposes). She falls into that category, I feel.

Therefore, I feel it's a legitimate question to ask her since she campaigns as a starkly far-right religious "zealot" (more or less). If she didn't wear her faith on her sleeve as much as she does, then yes, I could agree that the question could be considered sexist... but it's really fair game to someone who makes religion a central part of their political message. The simplest solution, really, is to just not use religion as a weapon in politics... but that would be ... actually in keeping with Biblical tenets... and that would be one of those times where it would be "inconvenient."


Aug 12, 2011 at 4:37pm

I generally don't comment on articles like this - but I'd like to offer the point that perhaps this is not a sexist argument. Perhaps the question was that of whether a future president would be submissive to a spouse - whatever the reasoning. And personally I do feel like that's a concerning subject. Strictly from reading this article it seems that the biggest sexist remark came from Bachman in 2006. Just some food for thought.

13 8Rating: +5

Edward Lange

Aug 12, 2011 at 4:39pm

Republican men are just too scared of women in general.

9 17Rating: -8


Aug 13, 2011 at 1:38pm

No the point? Well I don't think you understand the point... First of all reading your article and your opinions, you seem to be something of a feminist. Bachmann and Palin are running both on the evangelical platform, and in an evangelical home the man wears the pants. So it is a valid question because it shows that Bachmann can be swayed to opinions that are not based on common sense logic but religious in nature. Evangelical leaders have been trying to get a president of their own for a while now, they liked Bush but people like Palin and Bachmann who run on the "God Platform" will be much better to control. Only thing evangelicals have to do now is trying to change the stigma that a woman can be the head and shepherd people, as I have read some very positive comments regarding Sarah Palin from evangelical women who congratulate her and support her but advise her that it is a man's job. The question is a tad-personal but a good one. Almost all the candidates except Romney are pretty much evangelicals.

13 9Rating: +4