"As president, would you be submissive to your husband?"
This was the question debate panelist Byron York posed to Michele Bachmann Thursday night.
It provoked resounding boos. As it should have.
Bachmann’s response was to speak warmly and babblingly about her 33 year marriage — for them, “submission means respect. . . I respect my husband. He’s a wonderful, Godly man and a great father. And he respects me as his wife. That's how we operate our marriage. We respect each other, we love each other.”
But what a question.
“It’s not sexist, just FOX News,” everyone assured us.
Maybe Bachmann brought it on herself, they add, with her potent combination of being female, being evangelical, and having once alluded to submissiveness in a speech.
After all, why would she be bothered? She’s not a feminist.
“Feminists” are horrifying people who come to your home, yell at you about Oppression, and cause your houseplants to wither. They wear a lot of loosely draped clothing and insist on assigning feminine pronouns to things you don’t believe need pronouns at all, like trees and toasters. At least this is what I’m told.
Feminists used to insist that they were woman and demand that you listen to them roar.
Now they don’t roar. Sometimes they whimper, but they try to do it sexily. It stopped being cool to be a feminist once the word spread that if you said enough times that a woman needed a man like a fish needed a bicycle, you’d have to spend the rest of your life limiting your dating options to actual fish and bicycles.
There’s this strange idea that feminists are unattractive to men. They won’t sleep with them. And they won’t vote for them — because, as all the Palin fetishization suggested, the two have to go hand in hand. “Men don’t make passes at female smart-asses,” as writer Letty Cottin Pogrebin noted.
Megan Fox, once the sexiest woman alive, reportedly developed feminist tendencies on the set of Transformers 2 and was replaced by some model with lips the size of deceased clams.
It may be wrong. But we’ve bought into it.
Instead, feminism seems to think that SlutWalks are where the future is. There’s one in D.C. this weekend. “We can dress up sexily and debunk notions that no one seems to hold!” they say. “Among other things, if you read the petition.”
“No one should rape you, no matter what you’re wearing!” they yell, marching down avenues in fishnets.
“No sane person would disagree with that,” most spectators respond. “Is there anyone arguing the contrary, aside from that one policeman in Toronto?”
Meanwhile, Michele Bachmann is running for president.
As one of the cavalcade of stiff-haired brunettes who make up the field of Republican Ladies, she has to make everything look effortless backward and in heels. Feminism? Nonsense! She’s an “empowered American.”
But are other Empowered Americans being asked about their submissiveness to their husbands?
What just happened points up a real problem that feminism could stand to tackle today. People are bending over backwards — in high heels — not to look like feminists. Whenever people ask Michele Bachmann insulting questions (“Are you a flake?”) you have to defend her by saying things like, “I’m not a feminist, but . . .” “Didn’t we fix that in the 70s?” we add, nervously, tugging down our hemlines.
This is bad.
Bachmann has gone so far out of her way not to look like a feminist that she actually had to semi-answer a question about submitting to her husband, as a candidate for president, in 2011!
Once, to be a woman in politics, you had to become curiously asexual. Now you just have to “take it in stride” — and in high heels, with effortlessly coiffed hair. It may not be impossible. But it’s a higher bar than anyone else in the race faces.
Boys’ clubs still prevail. Just look at that debate. You can treat the girl differently, but because she doesn’t want to play the Woman Card, she has to gamely answer. Play the Woman Card, and the boys’ club shrugs you off. “This is why we never invite you to fun things,” they say.
“If we let the women in, it’ll be less fun,” Harvard boys used to whine about their sex-segregated final clubs. “It’ll change the atmosphere.”
Instead of making principled objections, women just say, “No, no it won’t! It’ll be just as fun as it ever was! See, we’re laughing right along with you! Later we’ll dress up like sluts!” Maybe it’ll get us in the club. But at what cost?
Sexism is back in the air. Or maybe it’s just Mad Men. And we’ve let it.
If you don’t want to be a feminist, that means that you are the girl who good-naturedly rolls your eyes with the punchlines when they make those jokes. “Why couldn’t Helen Keller drive?” “Because she was a woman!”
We tell ourselves that we aren’t just equal to men — we’re superior! We can do it all, in heels, and not break a sweat! Somehow, we have this idea that it makes us stronger if we turn a deaf ear to the taunts instead of putting a foot down.
How many game answers will it take to stop the question?
That’s why it was reassuring to hear the audience boo.
Maybe slut-walking is not the optimal pursuit for feminists right now. Instead of walking around in fishnets to protest people who think rape is okay if you wear certain types of clothes, just — say something the next time they do that to Michele. Roar a bit.