It’s election time, and in the feminist world, that means…time to get mad at all the attention the media puts on the personal lives of female candidates.
I first noticed this while watching last week’s Republican Candidate Debate at Reagan National Library. My roomate and I were watching together, and the first thing she said when the camera turned to Michelle Bachmann was, “Ew. Who did her hair?? I can’t believe they let her on to T.V. like that!!” Now, my roommate is no ditz. She has some very strong, very well thought out political opinions, and she’s not afraid to share them with anyone who asks–or for that matter, doesn’t ask but says something that could possibly, maybe, slightly be construed as a political statement. She is highly intelligent and well educated. And yet, her first comment about Michelle Bachman was about her hair.
I noticed it today in tonight’s Tea Party Republican Candidate Debate. The moderators, while focusing mainly on Mitt Romney and Rick Perry (The media’s selection of “front runners” before most states primaries is another awful part of our media-centric election system, but I digress), asked Ms. Bachmann about her stance on government mandated HPV vaccine for young girls. This question they asked almost all the candidates, but to Bachmann, they introduced the question by saying, “Michelle Bachmann, you’re a mother, as a mother, how do you feel about the government requiring our young girls to get this vaccine?” (I may be paraphrasing the wording, but that was the essence of it.) Ms. Bachman took the bait and responded, “Yes. I am a mother. I have three young girls, and I don’t believe the federal government should be requiring them to inject anything into their bodies that they don’t want to”.
Why, why, WHY must female candidates be viewed in light of their roles as mothers? WHY did none of the other candidates, all of whom are parents, get asked about their perspectives “as a father”? And why must female candidates feel compelled to play into these assigned roles? Why couldn’t Ms. Bachmann have responded, “Yes, I am a mother, but my view of government mandated vaccinations goes beyond my own personal household. I don’t believe that the federal government should require my daughters or any one else’s daughters to inject…” This would have concisely pointed out to the public that she viewed herself as more than just a mother.
In fact, I feel that this is where Sarah Palin started going down hill last presidential election. When she presented herself as a “loving mother of 5” and the all american “hockey mom”, she lost credibility as a politician. People felt that if the only thing she had to boast about was her family (including a pregnant-out-of-wedlock daughter and a down-syndrome baby that was being cared for more by her daughter than herself), then she really must not have all that much to bring to the table. Then of course came the Katie Couric interview and the Tina Fey parodies, and the woman never had a chance.
This is not about me endorsing or rejecting either of the two women above. I actually feel that both of them are way too conservative for me. I refuse to vote for anyone who is pro-choice. But that’s not the point here. These women are not being treated as politicians, they’re being treated as women. America likes to think that it is this wonderfully progressive society (certainly those on the extreme right would say so), but we are ages and ages behind where we should be. I mean seriously, is it really that hard for the elections to be about the issues? Is that REALLY too much to ask?