Is Newsweek Sexist for its Picture of Crazy-Eyed Bachmann? 7 Signs Point to ‘Nope.’

Labeling as sexist Newsweek’s cover of Tea Party zealot Rep. Michele Bachmann is over-reaching for sure. And I am a woman.

In fact, the National Organization for Women’s spinning of this cover into a misogyny issue makes me feel a bit of rage myself.

Terry O’Neill, president of NOW, told the Daily Caller:

“Gloria Steinem has a very simple test: If this were done to a man, or would it ever be done to a man … Surely this has never been done to a man,” O’Neill said. “… [Of] a woman who is a serious contender for President of the United States of America … they are basically casting her as a nut job. [It says to women:] better not try to be leaders in the political sphere because they will be shamed.”

Several problems prevent O’Neill’s assessment from being true:

  1. If the “nut job” shoe fits, then Bachmann should wear it, sort of speak (more on this below).
  2. Point #1 aside, the presumption that this type of poking-fun wouldn’t happen to a male is incorrect. In fact, Newsweek cast Mitt Romney as an overly giddy schoolboy just a few short issues ago. The headline’s block caps, which read “Mormon Moment,” could easily have been misread as “MORON Moment” against the silly back drop.
  3. Announcing a candidacy makes you a “serious contender” now? Obama has 12.4 spread over Bachmann, while only a 4.3 spread over Romney and 9.8 over Ron Paul. Romney has a 6.9 spread over Bachmann. While candidates have likely beat spreads like this before, I think the conservative media darling has peaked. She may win a straw poll in Iowa, but it would be a mistake for Republicans to put an extremist on the ticket.
  4. On the claim that this cover shames all potential female politicians: Any woman who would like to run for President should have thick enough skin to deal with magazine covers, or they aren’t going to make the bar. You can’t rubber-pad the hostile political climate.
  5. Moreover, it would make more sense to call this cover sexist if “rage” was a stereotypical insult to caricature a woman, such as the stereotypes of “weak,” “hysterical,” or “overly-emotional.” Instead, “rage” is a decidedly more male attribute, if we are speaking in clichés.
  6. Bachmann is unruffled by the cover. For someone who’s quick to jump up on the soapbox and spew retorts, Bachmann is enjoying the publicity on this one.
  7. Newsweek’s editor-in-chief, Tina Brown, is a woman; it’s unlikely she’s looking to humiliate women on the basis of their gender.

Bachmann’s ‘Crazy-Eyed’ Visions

Despite NOW’s claim, what’s really sexist is avoiding making fun of women solely because they are women. That’s unequal treatment. Newsweek’s portrayal of Bachmann is fairly insightful into her extremism – not her gender. Bachmann is outlandish and perverse and she deserved the media treatment she got, woman or not.

Some examples of Bachmann’s ideologue behavior:

  1. Bachmann seems to be pro-slavery. (linklink)
  1. Bachmann signed an extremist “defense of marriage” pledge that seeks to strip people of marriage rights and which, in its original version, implied that slavery was a better environment for African Americans.
  1. Bachmann voted against the debt deal on the fantasy-based assertion that the debt limit shouldn’t be raised (and we shouldn’t pay on our existing debt), which would have caused default, more sizeable credit downgrades, and world-wide economic meltdown.

Obama vs. Bachmann

To pose the discrimination question a different way:

Do some right-wingers hate Obama because he’s black?

Yes, undoubtedly “some” ultra-conservatives are uncomfortable with the power and prestige of Barack Obama, who represents a minority group that has been historically disadvantaged and discriminated against in our country.

To give the other side of the coin its due: Do some left-wingers hate Bachmann because she’s a woman?

It’s possible, but this hypothesis would be an exception to the rule. Most liberals dislike Bachmann because she has no concern for citizens’ rights to marriage equality, quality education, affordable health care, etc. – not because she doesn’t have a penis.

In sum, shielding Bachmann – or Sarah Palin, for that matter – because they’re women is sexist and wrong.

It’s not Newsweek making women weak with their cover. It’s Bachmann who’s casting women as weak with her ultra-radical dismissal of basic social mores, like social equality, race equality and paying your debts.

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