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Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) has not campaigned on the one thing that sets her apart-her gender. As of now, there is no Sarah Palin in the race and Bachmann represents the lone female in the presidential ring. Bachmann has chosen to downplay her gender, unlike her predecessors, Sarah Palin and Hillary Clinton.
The presidential candidate does not mention that she would be the first female Republican presidential nominee. Jennifer Lawless, director of the Women and Politics Institute at American University, said Bachmann’s decision to downplay her gender in her campaign could be a smart electoral strategy to win over the evangelical, conservative base.
“She does not embrace feminist policies or feminist principles,” said Lawless. “For them to portray her as breaking a glass ceiling becomes tricky. I think the campaign has rightly tried not to do that. The counter to that is Sarah Palin, who didn’t embrace feminist principles or feminist policies, but was a self-identified feminist and said she was out there to finish the work that Hillary Clinton started.
That disconnect between what her beliefs were and what her rhetoric said ultimately raised a lot of questions.” Women’s groups such as the National Organization for Women and NARAL Pro-Choice America have expressed concern that Bachmann as the first female president would actually be a setback for women rather than a victory.
“She is so opposed to women’s equality and women’s rights that I suppose it’s appropriate that she’s not touting herself as a woman candidate,” said Terry O’Neill, president of NOW. “Palin at least claims to support Title IX. I’m searching for an issue on which Bachmann and NOW would agree.”
Conservative women groups, however, do not understand why other women groups wouldn’t support Bachmann.. Ciara Matthews, communications director at the Susan B. Anthony List, which works to elect women who oppose abortion rights, said she can’t understand why any women’s group wouldn’t be pleased to see the first woman president elected.
“If we’re trying to send the message that women are as strong as men are, why do we need to highlight the fact that we are women doing something that women are expected to be able to do as well as men?” said Matthews. “And Bachmann has a very pro-woman agenda. She’s pro-life, and I think that the most pro-woman position you can take — wanting to defend women against the horrors of abortion.”
Bachmann’s campaign spokeswoman said the candidate doesn’t need to identify as a feminist or play up the fact that she is the only woman running because she leads by example. “Michele speaks with great pride about being a mother to her five wonderful children, foster mother to 23 children and wife of almost 33 years,” Alice Stewart said.
“She has talked about the many fond memories of raising her children and being a homemaker. She has shared the most personal story a woman can tell — that of losing a child due to a miscarriage. At campaign events across the country, mothers bring their daughters to meet Michele and say she is a tremendous role model to girls and women everywhere.”
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