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It’s against God’s will for a woman to be president. At least that’s what one evangelical supporter of Republican Presidential contender Rick Santorum said in an e-mail he distributed last summer after Michelle Bachmann won the Iowa Straw Polls. According to a report in the Des Moines Register, Santorum’s Iowa Coalitions Director Jamie Johnson planted a seed in an e-mail that he sent to a variety of friends that a woman’s place isn’t behind the desk in the Oval Office:
“Is it God’s highest desire, that is, his biblically expressed will, … to have a woman rule the institutions of the family, the church, and the state?”
Johnson claims his musings were only meant for his friends and that it wasn’t sent in his capacity as a Santorum surrogate. But the tone of the message sure sounds like someone who was suggesting that 18 million cracks in the political glass ceiling aren’t enough to convince evangelical Christians that a woman should be the leader of the free world.
Bachmann has protested since her Iowa Caucus loss that one of the reasons she did so poorly was because of sexism like Johnson's in the Republican campaign. I don’t think Bachmann placed last in that contest because of one e-mail questioning whether any woman should be the head of anything. But it does raise a good question -– can an evangelical Christian woman candidate be ever be a winner among those who believe in women’s subservience to men?
After being called out about his comments, which he says were supposed to be private, Johnson says his message was “blown out of proportion” and that he was just sharing his thoughts on “classical Christian doctrine.” But the thing is this with sexism –- those who make these comments often backtrack, saying they were only joking, they were taken out of context or that’s just the way of rough and tumble politics, so get a thick skin and get used to it.
While most men running for president in the 21st century would say, if asked, that there’s no place for sexism in today’s world and that, of course, women candidates for president should be taken seriously. But since we know that political attack ads work, would anyone really be surprised at efforts to raise questions through back channel chatter about whether a woman – especially one who espouses traditional evangelical views about obeying her husband – should be elected to the White House?
So did right wing sexism end Michelle Bachmann’s campaign? If she’s chosen as the GOP VP pick, will the evangelical community support her?
You can read more from iVillage contributor Joanne Bamberger at her blog, PunditMom. Joanne is also the author of Mothers of Intention: How Women and Social Media are Revolutionizing Politics in America, which is on sale now at Amazon.com.