The last time I saw Michele Bachmann speak, the Minnesota congresswoman was firing up the delegates at the 2010 Texas Republican Convention in Dallas, Texas with a 25-minute story about American fighters who once defended themselves wearing only their underwear against a “U2″ boat, the unintentional humor of Bono and the Edge launching an adult-contemprary-fueled attack against a nearly naked military brigade lost on a rapt audience.
Since then, Bachmann’s fame—or perhaps, notoriety—has escalated as she continues to capitalize on her “lady conservative” appeal, positioning herself as the wife-slash-mother-slash-politician of every Republican’s dreams, second only to Sarah Palin in her dedication to making offensive, ill-considered or downright indefensible statements with aplomb.
On Saturday, she was back in my homeland, Texas, speaking once again to a crowd of white people inordinately excited about another opportunity to bust out their finest bald eagle-themed couture. The occasion: three days of “Restoring Love,” Glenn Beck’s Tea Partyish party for folks who want to “take back” America from those who would force upon us the travesties of affordable health care, marriage equality and reproductive freedom.
But this was not the fightin’-words Bachmann of rallies past; the woman who spoke at Restoring Love’s “Women’s Conference” was a softer, gentler Bachmann, who issued an old-fashioned church lady sermon about the woman with the alabaster box.
Tickets to the Women’s Conference were $25—a price I’d happily have paid had I known that as a media representative, I’d be stuck outside the doors of the High Point megachurch’s sanctuary, watching on a monitor as Bachmann and a host of right-wing media personalities decried the state of America—lamenting particularly the plight of the poor, feminized American men who even now are oppressed by the great gynocracy of progressivism.
Instead, I showed up to cover the event only to be told that Michele Bachman’s people had to approve of my presence. I was left standing around waiting for the go-ahead and eventually gave up when the goings-on inside were broadcast on narthex screens anyway. Apparently Bachmann doesn’t approve of me, which is fine; I don’t approve of her, either.
The conference began with 20-minute live advertisement for a local chicken joint that sponsored the event—capitalism, y’all!—with the audience of many hundreds of mostly women and kids plus a few dedicated husbands, clapping for home cooking and Christianity. The crowd was certainly age diverse, if not especially racially diverse; at one point I spotted group of pony-tailed teenage girls walking arm-in-arm wearing oversized “Save The Constitution: READ IT!” t-shirts. There was even a woman sporting a bright red Mohawk and a man in tight, baby-pink skinny jeans. Remarkably fashion forward for a bunch of people who can’t decide if they’re more nostalgic for 1951 or 1791.
Bachmann spoke early, launching into a rumination on the classic Gospel story of the woman with the alabaster box who poured priceless oil all over Jesus’ head and feet, wiping the latter with her hair. Jesus’ disciples considered this a waste, but Mary—who Bachmann said she initially found “annoying”—was undeterred.
It’s a lovely story of a woman who stood up for her beliefs and who made a powerful statement in going against the wishes of her male superiors.
“How many times has this happened to you, girls?” Bachmann asked the crowd. “Someone tries to tell you your purpose?”
Would have been pretty inspirational, you know? That is, coming from anyone but Bachmann and her admirers, who in both word and deed have done so much to perpetuate the oppression of women through anti-choice legislation, pride in homophobia, and the idealization of patriarchy.
Right-wing radio host Dana Loesch and Michele Bachmann sister down in Arlington, TX on Saturday. Photo: @ChrisLoesch
When it comes to telling women their purpose, conservative talk show host Dana Loesch, who followed Bachmann, didn’t hold back. “First and foremost,” she said to ringing applause, “my two jobs are as a wife and mother.” Feminism, she said, is to blame for (figuratively?) neutering the men in her life.
“I feel like my husband has been neutered!” she shouted over a clapping audience. “I feel like my sons have been neutered!”
Loesch, who converted to “hardcore” conservatism after 9/11, said Christianity is “giving women a purpose” they apparently never had before, to raise “strong children,” and to stand by their husbands and work in the community “to take the place of the government so they don’t exploit me, so I can do it and it can be done properly with love.”
To be fair, if I’m given a choice, I guess I’ll also take being exploited properly with love over the alternative.
Loesch went on to give big-ups to the notoriously anti-gay Chick-Fil-A, a move that my fellow Austin-based journalist Dan Solomon has rightly positioned: “In 15 years, photos of politicians posing with Chick-Fil-A will be as shameful as if they were standing at a whites-only water fountain.” But for now, aligning with right-wing poultry purveyors is all the rage.
Loesch’s closing rally cry: “Stand up for your husbands and your sons!”
Exploit those dudes with love, y’all!