Bachmann, Palin, and the Trouble with 'Evangelical Feminism'
When I heard rumblings about Michele Bachmann's run for the presidency, I got nervous—though not the reasons you might think.
I'm not nervous about the political leanings of the Minnesota congresswoman and conservative Lutheran mother of five. In fact, I often agree with the way she votes. Instead, I'm nervous about ensuing conversations in my circles of feminist friends. As a fish-out-of-water, conservative feminist, I know what awaits the presidential hopeful.
Feminists don't exactly have the best history of supporting politically conservative women. Even as Elizabeth Dole, Arizona governor Jan Brewer, and Sarah Palin sought to shatter some of the last panes of the American Glass Ceiling, they were derided among secular feminists, and others, for supporting traditional moral and economic values. Essentially, they belonged to the wrong party. And women who charge Democratic men with criminal actions certainly get a different response from those who charge Republicans: think Paula Jones's reception versus Anita Hill's.
Feminists of the Jesus-loving persuasion aren't always much different from their secular sisters, if a recent Washington Post guest column by Rachel Held Evans says anything. The author of Evolving in Monkey Town writes, "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.' "
I want to give the witty and wise Evans the benefit of the doubt, especially since in the paragraph before this, she calls evangelical feminism—the new media moniker for us conservative feminists—"meaningless." But her "as a Democrat" affiliation seems to support the notion that feminism is a Democrats-only club.
In fact, Evans left me scratching my head even harder when she states, "If [Bachmann's and Palin's] 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."
Evans is right that exposing hypocrisy or mixed messages in our churches is good. But she misses something huge: the opportunity for the feminist community to face its own hypocrisy and mixed messages. Frankly, there's so much of it, it's no wonder Bachmann herself has rejected the feminist label.
While Evans may even be right about the meaninglessness of the term evangelical feminist, she's wrong about why. What might make evangelical feminist meaningless isn't the evangelical part. Some of us were actually raised evangelical Christians and feminists right in the same buildings: in our churches, our Christian schools, and our Christian homes.