Bachmann Sexism Watch: Get this conservative woman some sex edition

Yesterday Andy Richter, trusted Team Conan sidekick and long-working funnyman, took to Twitter to express his views on the woman that every feminist loves to hate to defend: “There’s nothing wrong with Michele Bachmann that two solid weeks of orgasms couldn’t cure,” he opined.

How lovely. At the time of this writing, this insightful piece of political commentary has garnered over 100 Retweets.

As for those who found the joke less than funny? Richter’s second response is this: “Many cried ‘misogyny!’ re: earlier Bachmann tweet. I take solace in knowing that as bad as I am, I am half the misogynist she is.”

I find Richter’s explanation that it’s not sexism if the candidate isn’t feminist enough to be pretty dangerous, especially coming from someone who makes high-profile media on a relatively progressive-leaning show like the Conan O’Brien Show.

The idea that women, and especially ambitious or conservative or gender non-conforming women, need to be “cured” by sex with men is appalling, and politics isn’t the only sphere in which it comes up. We’ve written before about the awful phenomenon of “corrective rape”, when a lesbian (or someone who is perceived as being lesbian) is raped by a man in order to “cure” them of their queerness.

But Richter isn’t the only one who’s been sexualizing Bachmann as a problematic means of political critique.

This weekend saw the advent of #CornDogGate, in which Bachmann was photographed eating a corndog in a position that resembled the performance of oral sex.

While I’m loath to do this, I’m going to have to agree with former GOP Senate nominee Christine O’Donnell, at least partially, who told ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos on “Good Morning America” that she speaks from experience when she says women candidates –mainly Republican women – are unfairly treated.

“Female candidates get treated differently than male candidates and especially conservative female candidates. And so that’s the double whammy,” she told me. “And there’s all kinds of theories as to why, but I think it’s very clear if you look at the treatment of Sarah Palin, Michele Bachmann, my race.”

O’Donnell is right, and I get the feeling this isn’t the last time Bachmann’s detractors will use humiliating techniques to sexualize and attempt to de-legitimize her views. Which is pretty unfortunate, considering her views could really stand to be de-legitimized on their own merits.

H/t Bryce Covert.

Brooklyn, NY

Lori Adelman is Executive Director of Partnerships at Feministing, where she enjoys creating and curating content on gender, race, class, technology, and the media. Lori is also an advocacy and communications professional specializing in sexual and reproductive rights and health, and currently works in the Global Division of Planned Parenthood Federation of America. A graduate of Harvard University, she lives in Brooklyn.

Lori Adelman is an Executive Director of Feministing in charge of Partnerships.

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  • Megan Zane

    Obviously this is a problematic and sexist thing to say for all the reasons you state, but Richter never said the orgasms had to come from men. (Though that may be implicit)

    • kelly


    • aLynn

      I was also going to point that out. The orgasm statement is sexist enough on it’s own without putting words into Richter’s mouth.

      And as for “Corndog Gate” I’m pretty sure there were many, many more pictures of male politicians involved in that than just Bachmann. Not sure how that story contributes to Bachmann sexism watch.

    • Ms. Smarty Pants

      I agree with this totally. Actually the first thing that came to my mind was masturbation, not hetero sex.

      Does that make it any better? Well, not really. But perhaps not quite as bad. Female candidates seem to be sexualized immediately and often, whereas male candidates seem to only be overtly sexualized when they are embroiled in some sort of sex scandal, and even then, it’s not in the same way.

  • katetheskate

    I agree that the treatment of conservative women is awful, but I completely disagree with O’Donnel (on this as on so many things) that conservative women get it worse than progressive women. There are heartbreakingly abundant examples of sexism against female candidates from across the political spectrum.

  • beet

    As a former staffer on Hillary Clinton’s campaign, I can assure you that “mainly Republican women” aren’t especially treated poorly. Clinton had more accomplishments than Palin, Bachmann and O’Donnell combined and was subjected to incredible sexism by mainstream outlets from the Washington Post to the New York Times. Her volunteers were called sexist names and harassed at caucuses, and every sort of ugly assumption about her was brought out. And unlike Palin, Bachmann, and O’Donnell, for a long time very few people were willing to point out the extent of the sexism– including Feministing. I do believe the Clinton campaign is what started it all.

    Conservatives often say that conservative women in particular are treated badly by the press, but conservative women actually have an advantage. Because conservatives are actually more willing to defend sexism against their women and to speak out against it, than ‘liberals’ and ‘progressives’ were to speak out against the sexism against Clinton. Conservatives have also done a better job at promoting women like Palin, Bachmann, and O’Donnell to prominent, public roles in the media where they get a lot of exposure. The Democratic Party has many more women office holders than the Republican party, yet they get far less media time, energy, or grassroots support from liberals.

    The liberal track record on this score is atrocious. I have a lot of hope for women like Kirsten Gillibrand (who was called ‘Tracy Flick’ and a blue dog flip flopper when she was first picked), Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar. I look forward to the day when intelligent, accomplished moderate and liberal women who don’t need to declare their submission to their husbands get the recognition they deserve in politics.

  • scottishtanningsecrets

    Strongly agree, and thank you for devoting a sexism watch to conservative female candidates as well as liberal ones. I’m not a Bachmann supporter, but I would much rather aim this disapproval at her political views that could harm women, rather than at how much sex she is or is not having. The latter is not the public’s business, even those of us who will be doing our very best to keep Bachmann out of office.

    • C. H.

      I agree completely, and I am proud to be a feminist because of this sort of journalism. Even though I am not a Bachmann supporter, no woman should have to endure such treatment. Great job for pointing this out!

  • Emily

    It’s pretty telling that O’Donnell’s comments lack any analysis of systemic sexism, rather “there are many theories” for why women are treated unfairly.

  • fyoumudflaps

    I hate Bachmann but do not support using sexism against her; liberals that do so sort of catch themselves in a derp derp moment. This one case makes me wonder if he said that to her, as in “get laid, loosen up puritan” kind of way. Probably not though.

  • Sarah

    I agree with previous commenters that

    a) Richter didn’t say anything about sex with men. Yes, his comment was tacky, classless, and gross, but alluding to rape is a little harsh. Orgasms brought on by men, women, or solo playtime all relieve stress. His joke was bad, but I don’t see where he was purposely being an MRA ass.

    b) Women of all political leanings, ideologies, and in all industries are treated differently. Sexism is bad. It’s not constrained to Republican women.

  • Tina K.

    Yeah, and I suppose he’s the one that could give them to her.

    Fuck Andy Richter and his use of women in general, and trans-women in particular, to make a funny. He’s not funny, nor do I find him to be particularly intelligent – especially about issues that affect minority groups. Anything that comes out of his mouth, or keyboard in this case, is worth absolutely nothing.

    If it weren’t for Conan he would’ve been forgotten a long time ago.

  • Sarah

    I agree that it’s infuriating that when women are upset are have strong opinions, some people disrespect them by saying they can be “cured” with sex. This is just another way to say that women shouldn’t be taken seriously and all they need in life is a virile manly man.

    On the other hand, I don’t think “two solid weeks of orgasms” implies rape. Rather the opposite: a considerate lover. Sure, that would perk anyone up. I doubt it would change Bachmann’s thus-far successful political strategy!

    • Emmett J Doyle

      One must remember- to strongly misogynistic men, the idea that women achieve orgasm by considerate loving is nonsensical. There’s a crude but firm, if misguided belief that a man with a significant member can bring any woman to orgasm even unwillingly. Misogynistic men are stupid.

    • Lori

      Thanks for the comments. Point taken that he never said where the orgasms should come from, but I feel the need to clarify that I never said Richter’s comment was “alluding to rape” or “implies rape” as various commenters have suggested. I did, however, and still do think it’s important to connect the dots between attitudes like Richter’s, which jokes about women needing orgasms to “cure” them of various ailments including outspokenness and political disagreeability, and horrific behaviors that take this thinking to the extreme by forcing women into sex to “cure” them of their queerness.

      Fittingly and on a lighter note, a trailer just surfaced for a movie about a time when orgasms WERE believed to be a cure for women’s ailments, namely, boredom and hysteria ;)

  • Emmett J Doyle

    Thank you! I live in her district, and get sick of having to defend her from these misogynistic attacks. I don’t want to ever have to defend Bachmann. I mean, we (the non-Bachmann-supporters of the district) loathe her more than the rest of you- I don’t know how she keeps getting elected! It’s really frankly embarrassing to have her in our district. Even so, these misogynistic attacks are completely unacceptable. Also, unnecessary- call her out on being batshit [redacted], not on being a woman.

  • Jane Osmond

    It is a mark of feminists that we will defend everyone against sexism, even those who would rather cut their own throats than declare as feminist, and in the case of Republican women, actively attack the gains that women have made over the last century.

  • Melissa

    I do agree that women in the Republican party get treated unfairly. Maybe because it doesn’t make much sense to take some of the viewpoints they do as women in the world today. But putting down any women is very far removed from the feminist standpoint and standing up for these women against being bullied in the media is vital.

    However I don’t take offense to Richter’s statement. I think it sounds low and sexist on the surface but I thought celebrating orgasms and living in a sex positive society were good things. So often female pleasure is still very hush hush in society so to have a man suggest that a woman enjoys herself in a way of her choosing isn’t a bad thing. That’s the downside to Twitter. With only 140 characters your message may get muddled.

    • Jenny Gonzalez-Blitz

      I think orgasms, celebrating orgasms, and sex positivity (in it’s original contexts) ARE good things. But I don’t see this as being an example of sex positive philosophy. He’s deciding that she needs to have orgasms, and that the reason she needs them is that it will somehow magically correct her from having views he doesn’t like. Sex positive is about people defining and celebrating their own sexuality, not someone else dictating it to them. If she had personally tweeted that she liked orgasms or wanted to have more of them, I think that would have been more in line with sex-positive thinking.

    • aLynn

      “I think it sounds low and sexist on the surface but I thought celebrating orgasms and living in a sex positive society were good things.”

      I agree and I wanted to articulate this point but couldn’t find the right words, so thank you. I have a (female) very feminist friend who “prescribes” orgasms to everyone because she really believes they are good for what ails you, anger included. I could have easily seen her tweet this and it come with a very different set of implications. I’m not sure about Richter’s intentions about what the statement *really* means for him, but Twitter does leave it open for a lot of interpretation.

      • Candice

        No offense, but your friend sounds irritating. It doesn’t matter how sex-positive you think you are, telling people orgasms will solve their problems is reductive, presumes to know whether or not you’re getting any, and erases the anorgasmic people who are just fine with themselves. Plus joking about someone’s sex life is probably the fastest way to piss most people off.

  • Jenny Gonzalez-Blitz

    Whether the implied orgasms are intended to come from men or women, I’ve always found the whole “so-and-so just needs a good lay” type comments made about anyone exhibiting traits that inconvienience others (be that opinions someone doesn’t like, or just a person who acts unusually tense, angry, or depressed, etc.) to be completely absurd. It dismisses any other causes or factors in the situation, reduces everything to sex. Personally I’ve never found being sexually active or inactive changed my basic opinions on things.

    I’ve heard this type of dismissal occasionally directed at men, but far more frequently at women, both on the right or the left. I’ve heard it directed at women who are very driven in non-political arenas as well, in a career or the arts or what have you. It’s an idea that doesn’t really have any logical basis, and even as a “joke” it’s such an overused trope that it’s seems predictable and trite rather than surprising and funny.

  • Miranda

    THANK YOU for this. I’ve been grappling with how to feel about how Bachmann, et al. have been treated in the media and this really helps articulate it. I do not agree with, well, anything she has to say, but it seriously bothers me how she is treated by the MSM.

    When I was watching the Iowa debates, I was disgusted that the male moderator would ask her whether she would be submissive to her husband while in office. While I understand his reasoning behind asking question (it was in reference to statements she’d make about choosing to study tax law, as her husband told her she should), there is NO WAY a male candidate would have been asked who wears the pants in the family. It’s horribly sexist to presume that a woman wouldn’t be able to make up her own mind without deferring to a male—even if the woman has gone on record as saying she would. (Bachmann, why you gotta be like that?)

    I suppose my bigger problem is why the Republican Party seems to only be able to run female candidates who are virulently anti-feminist.

    (I was so mad I blogged it here.)