It sets back the cause of feminism—or female equality and empowerment, for those who, bafflingly, recoil at the word "feminism"—to claim that every woman who doesn't get a job or a promotion or serious consideration for political office is a victim of sexism. True equality means that women can be just as foolish and ill-informed as men, and should be held accountable for it accordingly. But that still doesn't explain why the lone woman in the GOP field is not being taken as seriously as her male opponents.
Michele Bachmann, the Tea Party-approving Republican congresswoman from Minnesota, has said some crazy things. She has gotten historical facts wrong. She embraced the absurd "birther" idea that President Obama was not actually born in the United States. All of that provides a solid basis for questioning her as a candidate and wondering whether she's suited for the Oval Office.
But has Bachmann said or done anything more bizarre than some of her opponents, including several who are above her in polling in Iowa? Has she rallied for the right of Americans to drink raw milk (like Rep. Ron Paul), or dismissed the whole idea of workplace sexual harassment (Paul again)? Has she alienated people in her own party in the House (like former Speaker Newt Gingrich), or suggested that schoolchildren should take the union jobs of adult janitors tasked with handling heavy equipment and toxic chemicals (Gingrich again)? Has she suggested that an entire branch of government be disempowered and subject to the whim of the executive (Gingrich, yet again)? Has she forgotten even her most basic talking points (Texas Gov. Rick Perry), or indicated she does not know how old one has to be to vote in the United States (Perry again)?
Bachmann won an early straw poll in Ames, Iowa, but has seen her numbers drop since then, relegating her to back-of-the-pack status in the media. And there are indeed serious questions about her as a candidate. But they are no more serious than the questions that have been raised—or should be raised—about some of her male counterparts. Why is it Bachmann who's being shunted aside, at least for the moment?
The GOP did a good job recruiting and nominating female candidates in 2010—a much better job than the supposedly more feminist-friendly Democrats. True, a number of those Republican women were deeply flawed candidates, but the GOP gave them a chance. Bachmann deserves to be questioned aggressively for her views and statements. But she also deserves to be taken seriously—or at least as seriously as her male opponents.