WASHINGTON, D.C.—The cat scratch fever in our patriarchal society has now invaded our political system. Then again, it has always been fun for men and women to see two women cutting each other down and scratching at each other’s eyes both symbolically and literally. This past week, once venerable Fox News Channel journalist, Chris Wallace, made a very misogynistic and outrageous claim against Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, who is running for the presidency. I’m certain women who love Fox News didn’t care about his obviously sexist insult. Sure, Wallace immediately went on YouTube to apologize to presidential candidate Bachmann, but the damage was already done.
When Congresswoman Bachmann went on the Fox News Channel, like all republicans, she was certain that she’d be given respect and deference—something they oftentimes disregard when a democratic politician appears as a guest. However, Bachmann, who is educated and deserves respect, was asked by the news anchor, “Are you a flake?” She rightly seemed offended, angry and betrayed.
Bachmann is a leader in Congress and has remained vehemently supportive of the republican agenda. She has preached and governed almost identically to her male counterpart, Speaker Newt Gingrich. While Wallace, on the other hand, joins a long list of powerful men in America who only have respect for male politicians and only a modicum of respect for female politicians.
Before I go on, let me make it clear that I do not personally like representative Bachmann, nor do I like the behavior she’s engaged in for the past two years in our nation’s political life. She’s been as guilty as Wallace and other right-leaning politicians and journalists in her disdain, disrespect and outright disregard of our current president and first lady. She and Sarah Palin both have engaged in calling First Lady Michelle Obama all sorts of names and trying to elicit and stage cat fights with her as often as they could.
So perhaps many will say she received a measure of karma for what she’s been engaging in, but it is still wrong on Wallace’s part to treat a congresswoman this way.
In fact, this would only happen to a woman. That’s right. Bachmann and Sarah Palin are considered fair game to male news journalists, who do not see women as serious presidential candidates.
Let's take a look at some famous historical situations where women have been blamed for being catty or not good enough. In the Garden of Eden we are taught that Adam was fooled by Eve, who was complicit in taking advantage of him with the help of the Devil; Adam was obviously the victim of a woman in this story. Egyptian Pharaoh Cleopatra slept with her male Roman enemies Marc Anthony and Julius Caesar, but exiled her own sister from Egypt and attempted to have her assassinated many times in her lifetime. Both British queens Catherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn called each other whores and heretics in order to fight for the love of King Henry VIII, who cast one aside and beheaded the other. In the years after their deaths, their beloved Henry married four other women, while never considering either one of the two most famous queens to be his lawful wife.
Former First Lady Nancy Reagan made public comments about First Lady Rosalynn Carter’s lack of taste in decorating the White House, while President Reagan made no such personal attacks on former President Jimmy Carter, except to castigate his lack of political skills as a president. Then Mrs. Reagan went on “60 Minutes” on CBS in the 1990s and was baited into sniping and making comments about then First Lady Hillary Clinton’s ethics, while it was actually Clinton’s husband President Bill Clinton who was the dishonest and guilty party. Also, Nancy Reagan was gossiped about by Reagan administration officials and called “sneaky” on many occasions, even though she was doing what any loyal wife would do—protect her husband from disloyalty within the White House ranks.
Former First Lady Barbara Bush was called “ugly and frumpy,” mainly by American women, who laughed at the idea that handsome President George Herbert Walker Bush could see anything worthwhile in his wife. Not withstanding the fact that Barbara Bush was a genius and was a good wife and mother. Then it was Hillary Clinton’s fault that her philandering husband cheated on her with a White House intern. And, we know what characterizations Monica Lewinsky (White House intern) was given by other women. Yet, the same was never said about President Clinton, who was impeached for committing crimes related to the cover-up of his affair with Lewinsky.
In the past two years, Congresswoman Bachmann has stated that First Lady Michelle Obama wishes to take Americans’ rights away by her mission to encourage schools to feed our obese kids healthier foods. She and Palin have also degraded the First Lady, even down to the skimpy clothes she wears. Yet the right wing politicians and their supporters call her husband a secret Muslim and terrorist sympathizer. President Obama has killed more terrorists than his predecessor, and he also would be the first radical Muslim husband to allow his wife to show more skin than Sports Illustrated supermodels.
First Lady Laura Bush never belittled her predecessor, only referring to her warmly as Hillary or Senator Clinton. To Hillary Clinton’s credit, she was much more fixated on her political agenda than belittling her predecessors Nancy Reagan and Barbara Bush. Michelle Obama knew going in as the first African American first lady of the United States that she and her husband would be attacked by the establishment that does not support African American leadership.
This misogynistic behavior even spills outside of politics. Leona Helmsley was called a “bitch” by Americans, and Imelda Marcos even worse. All the while both men and women seem to revel in the cat scratch fever politics in America.