Playing the Woman Card Isn't Going to Help Bachmann

What Women Really Think
Jan. 3 2012 11:14 AM

Playing the Woman Card Isn't Going to Help Bachmann

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Republican presidential candidate U.S. Rep. Michelle Bachmann (R-MI) speaks to members of the media on January 2, 2012 in West Des Moines, Iowa.

Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images

In a last-ditch effort to appeal to Iowans, Michele Bachmann is doing something she's done pretty sparingly throughout her campaign: She's playing the woman card. It's not just that she's comparing herself to "Iron Lady" Margaret Thatcher in a new ad—she's been doing that for several months now. It's that she's outright saying that her gender is an important facet of her ability to lead. "We need an American who is strong, and a female," Bachmann said in Iowa over the weekend. In a post on Friday, Libby Copeland pointed out that Bachmann's advisers are now also claiming that sexism is part of the reason for Bachmann's fall in the Iowa polls.

Using her gender at all is a major strategy shift for Bachmann, who deliberately dodged any questions of sexism until the past week or so. She basically refused to comment on the allegedly sexist Newsweek cover depicting her as a wild-eyed "Queen of Rage" that ran over the summer. When Jimmy Fallon's house band furtively called Bachmann a bitch, she didn't call it sexist—she called it liberal media bias.

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It's a strange move for Bachmann to be making with her campaign essentially dead in the water. It's certainly not a move that's going to endear her to Iowa's conservative Republican base, and it's not a strategy that helped her ideological opposite Hillary Clinton, either. The most successful conservative women lately dodge the gender question entirely, a la South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley who avoids talk of barrier breaking with either her gender or her race. I guess at this point Bachmann's just throwing anything against the wall and seeing if it will stick. New "Iron Lady" campaign ad is below.

Jessica Grose is a frequent Slate contributor and the author of the novel Sad Desk Salad. Follow her on Twitter.