Home / News / Michele Bachmann leading new type of evangelical feminism and why we should be taking her very seriously
Michele Bachmann leading new type of evangelical feminism and why we should be taking her very seriously

Michele Bachmann leading new type of evangelical feminism and why we should be taking her very seriously

The Washington Post today has given Michele Bachmann more credence than even the GOP was willing to do during the State of the Union Address.  The news agency is postulating that Michele Bachmann may have more power with voters in one respect–her evangelical beliefs may allow her to reach a broader range of voters.   If anything, it is clear that playing the evangelical card is still "the thing to do" if you want to be elected President of the United States:

No Republican has captured the White House in modern history without strong support from evangelical voters. After all, evangelicals are the most organized constituency of the Republican Party, and an authentic, compelling story of one’s faith journey (or “Christian testimony” in the evangelical vernacular) is vital to winning their trust. This is where Bachmann shines. Like other evangelicals, she talks about her conversion to Christianity as a teenager and about the education she received from an evangelical university. Her husband of 33 years directs a Christian counseling center in the Twin Cities, and Dr. James Dobson (formerly of Focus on the Family) endorsed her first bid for elected office when she ran for Minnesota’s state senate.

How can this be?  How can evangelical women, with their notions of traditional roles in the home (often involving homeschooling children as well as fulfilling traditional female roles), support Bachmann's run for office?   Feminist scholar Marie Griffiths has a theory–adherents to what she terms "practical Christian womanhood" hold seemingly contradictory notions regarding authority and gender ideals.    If Michele Bachmann, who touts herself as "first and foremost a mother" can humanize herself in the face of evangelical women voters, she will be seen to represent the ideals of femininity that evangelical women hold dear:  a woman's place is in the home, educating children, supporting the male head of the household according to the authoritarian structure of the Bible.  The Washington Post continues:

Even in her bid for the Oval Office, Bachmann—who has five children of her own and has cared for twenty-three foster children—describes herself as “first and foremost a mother.” This, actually, is political genius. It humanizes her and differentiates her from the rest of the Republican field. Bachmann invokes the mothering motif all the time; she mentioned it three different times in last week’s debate alone. In fact, motherhood is what Bachmann says brought her into politics. She first sought elected office out of a desire to shape Minnesota’s education policy to be more in line with her concerns as a mother. And she often speaks of her political career as a “calling,” which provides additional justification to evangelical voters that her political ambitions merit their support.

Bachmann also uses religious language on a variety of topics that is so subtle it almost goes ignored–except by evangelicals familiar with the language of religious rhetoric, like a very skilled female Billy Sunday.   How is Bachmann different from Sarah Palin?  Simple.  Bachmann has Tea Party credentials, which makes her extremely appealing to moderate voters.

This is why her Tea Party credentials will be especially important; and it is also why her unique identity as a female evangelical may turn to her advantage. The simple fact that she, as a woman, is seeking to be Commander in Chief represents female empowerment—which appeals, at least symbolically, to moderate voters.  So far Bachmann is the only woman in the 2012 race; and if nothing else, her candidacy this year secures the progressive achievement of Hillary Clinton’s 2008 primary bid. Sarah Palin may have galvanized attention when she was tapped by John McCain to be his running mate, but, unlike Bachmann, she has never launched her own national campaign.

This candidacy establishes women as fixtures in the American political landscape, and Bachmann’s blend of populism, Christian motherhood and political ambition is crafting a new form of evangelical feminism, one that may actually succeed with Republican voters.

Evangelical feminism of Bachmann's type has been around for a very long time–it is not new.  What is new, however, is Bachmann's politicizing of evangelical feminism as an ideal for the American woman.   Because her campaign is viewed as a "calling" by Bachmann, and because she has been very careful to frame each time she has run for office as a calling from God, endorsed by her husband who she "prays with" every time a "calling" to run for a particular political office comes to hand, Bachmann is making herself appear to evangelicals as a woman with a Special Line to God—with every political success seeming to be an answer to prayer, Bachmann becomes automatically endorsed, as it were, by serious evangelicals.  In other words, evangelical women don't have a problem with her because God is paving the way for her political success.  In this way, Bachmann has very deftly and intelligently used her religious proclivities to her advantage.

When you have a calling from God to be President, who are His followers to object?  What is clear is that the Washington Post, having taken Bachmann so seriously, has now made her the candidate to watch.

About Dakota O'Leary

Dakota O'Leary is a freethinker, and often sassy, scholar of theology and literature. She got her Bachelor of Arts degree in English and Theology from the State University of New York College at Buffalo, and her Master of Arts degree in Theology and Literature from Antioch University-Midwest. She is a contributing writer focusing on eschatology, biblical prophecy, and general religious news. Dakota is a co-host of the God Discussion radio show, offering insight to the news stories of the week. We like to call her "our in-house Biblical prophecy expert" as her articles on eschatology have received over 200,000 views on God Discussion.
  • Reuel

    Bachmann sounds like Deborah in the book of Judges who was a judge, a prophet and a commander-in-chief (just as Moses and David also had those 3 functions).

    He family and private life is testament of her virtues and faithfulness.
    "Those who are faithful in little are faithful in much".

    Bachmann is role-model of a proper women who is blessed by God and going to heaven.

    The opposite is DEM sinful women like Wasserman schultz who is curse by God with cancer (breasts and uterus removed) and will also go to hell.

    • MJ

      Reuel, if Bachmann is the ideal woman according to god then I'd rather go to hell. By the way in older translations of the bible hell was called gehenna, which was a real place recorded in history. Just as the greeks once believed you could walk to hades, the jews (whose own holy text early christians edited to make the old testament) who lived in old israel believed that at the end of days the sinners would be thrown in to this perpetually burning garbage dump they had outside the city which was also an old place used for human sacrifice by the Cannanites.They called this place gehenna and its name was originally used in all instances where hell is mentioned in the bible. In otherwords, the hell you speak of was a real place on earth and the hell you really mean has no biblical proof of its existence. Isnt it long past time for christians to abandon this idiotic ideal of hell? Or is living in fear of hell the only way you can keep up your blind faith?

      • http://www.goddiscussion.com admin

        "[I]f Bachmann is the ideal woman according to god then I'd rather go to hell."

        *Amen* Sister!

        Deborah

  • http://www.houseofbetazed.com Mriana

    If a woman's place is in the home, then why is she wanting to run for office? Seems to me she is a walking contradiction all the way around and invoking God into politics is also a contradiction to our constitution and could very well set us back centuries.

    • Reuel

      @Mriana
      When little boy shepherd David was asked why he want to fight Goliath, he answered "Is there Not a cause?" 1 Samuel 17:29.
      That philistine Goliath wanted to take away the life, freedom and pursuit of happiness from the people.
      Now try to think why faithful Bachmann has the burden to run for President.

      • Adam

        Ok, I have one thing I'd like to point out, and one question to ask. I'll start with the question.

        As I'm in the UK, I have no idea what the "Tea Party" people are, or what their movement or party stands for. The research I have conducted on the internet, gives me mixed messages, so can anyone give me a clue as to what they represent? :)

        And Reuel…
        "The opposite is DEM sinful women like Wasserman schultz who is curse by God with cancer (breasts and uterus removed) and will also go to hell." – God curses people with cancer does he? What about the whole repentance of sins and coming to jesus thing? What about the loving, kind, forgiving god that my friends and I regularly discuss? If god curses people with cancer, he isn't all loving and forgiving, and he isn't letting people come to him to repent of their sins, doing this doesn't help them find their own salvation through grace. Don't use god as an excuse to declare your hatred of someone, breast cancer is not a nice thing to suffer from at all. I'm sure you wouldn't like to be diagnosed with it, anymore than she probably did.

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