“I used to work at a Wall St. investment bank. There were diversity programs galore but it was still problematic to find a senior woman to promote to Managing Director in Information Technology. I used to discuss this often with my boss, himself an MD. He finally suggested just promoting a particular (and the most senior) woman in the group to managing director. His argument was ‘self selection’. People tend to like and promote people who are similar to themselves. I get that and I agree. But this woman was not good. If there were five options in any given situation, not only would she not pick the best one, she would almost always pick the worst one. So my worry was that the first woman MD would ‘represent’. She would be the standard bearer. She would have to do a good job, on behalf of her entire gender. If she sucked, the reaction would be ‘See. Women can’t be managing directors’. If a guy in that role sucked, it would just be ‘Gee, John is an idiot’ and not ‘Men are idiots’.
“Barack Obama carries that burden for African Americans. Happily, he carries it well. Regardless of your politics, you have to admit (really, you have to!) that he is well-educated, competent, rational, even-tempered and intelligent.
“So, even if my political views weren’t the polar opposite of Palin’s and Bachmann’s (which they are), I would still say ‘not Palin, not Bachmann’. As women, this is a risk we cannot afford to take.”
“This apparent contradiction — how you can be leader of the free world and yet subordinate to some guy — has proved no less confusing to the nation’s conservative evangelicals. For them, the justification for a Bachmann presidential run lies in a very careful, some would say tortured, theological interpretation that emerged during Sarah Palin’s vice-presidential candidacy in 2008.
“The solution to the ‘Palin Predicament,’ as it’s been called, is laid out on the website of the influential Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. The council, which was established in 1987 to fight ‘the growing movement of feminist egalitarianism,’ espouses something called complementarianism—the idea that while men and women are equal they nevertheless must play different (read: unequal) parts. Men are destined to occupy leadership roles at home and at church, while women are obliged to ‘grow in willing, joyful submission to their husbands’ leadership.’ But the civic sphere is distinct from home and church and governed by different rules, these evangelicals reasoned, and if the Bible didn’t explicitly ‘prohibit [women] from exercising leadership in secular political fields,’ neither would they…
“Bachmann’s description of herself as ‘pro-woman and pro-man’ suggests a contentment with the status quo, as far as gender goes. Indeed, it may imply something more—that as a woman who defers to her husband, she believes herself to be more liberated than secular feminists are. According to Karen Seat, a religious studies professor at the University of Arizona, some conservative evangelicals argue that women’s deference is itself empowering, because it’s what God intends, and because it is the fullest expression of womanhood. In this world of opposites, submission is strength and inequity is proof of equality. It’s quite possible that a President Bachmann would primarily define herself not as the first female president of the United States, but as a wife and mother. And she would not see that as anything less than progress.”
“Both ‘evangelical’ and ‘feminist’ are loaded terms that when placed in close proximity to one another spark strong reactions all around. I suspect this is why the media has latched onto this phrase with such enthusiasm, even though it is essentially meaningless. As a Democrat, an evangelical, and a strong supporter of women’s equality, I can’t bring myself to call Michele Bachmann and Sarah Palin ‘evangelical feminists.’ But if their ambitions force the evangelical community to confront the mixed messages being sent to young women in churches across this country, then I think their presence in this election is a good thing.
“…Maybe not for the country, but for that little girl sitting in the front row at Sunday school who secretly wants to be president.”