Fuss About Michele Bachmann's Migraines Fueled by Sexism

The debate around Bachmann's migraines and the Wasserman Schultz -- West feud prove the sexist bias women politicians still face.

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GOP contender Michele Bachmann certainly has made statements that deserve close questioning. She has confused Concord, Mass., with Concord, N.H. in her discussion of the Revolutionary War. She said her hometown of Waterloo, Iowa was home to famed actor John Wayne when (oops!) it was, in fact, famed murderer John Wayne Gacy. (And do you really want to mention "Waterloo" when mounting a campaign of any kind, anyway?) On a more substantive level, Bachmann should be expected to explain why, despite the warnings of numerous economists, she seems unconcerned about the fallout of a failure to raise the debt ceiling.

[Check out political cartoons about the budget and deficit.]

But Bachmann is female, and so to some in the media, she's just another woman with a headache.

The news surfaced last week, sourced to unnamed former staffers, that Bachmann suffers from migraine headaches. The question was put — could she handle the stress of being president? Might a bad headache derail her?

Migraines, of course, are not normal headaches alleviated with a couple of ibuprofen. They are horribly painful. But in recent presidential campaigns, we had a Democratic male contender who had prostate cancer and another Republican male candidate who had survived skin cancer. In both cases, the men were held up as examples of how far science has come in treating those ailments, and how important early detection is in surviving a cancer diagnosis. But Bachmann? She is depicted as another weak woman who would end up incapacitated, or pushed to a tearful retreat in the Roosevelt Room, should she be elected and have a migraine.

[See a photos of Michele Bachmann]

Being female isn't only a problem for Republicans; Democrat Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz was admonished for not acting like a "Lady" in an angry email sent by a colleague, Florida GOP Rep. Allen West. While it's difficult even for his own party to defend West, a Republican strategist went on television to pronounce Wasserman Schultz as "obsessed" with West. The Democratic congresswoman had orchestrated protests against West and his policies outside his office, the strategist said. That sounds like something both men and women might do in the context of a political campaign. But "obsessed?" That's a word reserved for women--it's right up there with "hysterical," and other words meant to depict women as just too emotional or unstable or weak to hold public office.

It's enough to give you a really bad headache.

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