Michelle Bachmann Defines a Submissive and Subservient Woman

Here’s a stunner from CBS News:

In 2006, [Michelle] Bachmann said her husband had told her to get a post-doctorate degree in tax law. “Tax law? I hate taxes,” she continued. “Why should I go into something like that? But the lord says, be submissive. Wives, you are to be submissive to your husbands.'”

Actually, the “lord”—by which, presumably, Bachmann means Jesus—said no such thing. In fact, it’s the apostle Paul, or someone writing in Paul’s name, who laid down that particular command.

But, never mind. Michelle Bachmann said it, she believes it, that settles it. She did what her husband told her to do.

Does she now regret her 2006 endorsement of female submissiveness?

Here’s CBS News again:

Asked about the comment by CBS News’ Norah O’Donnell Sunday, Bachmann reaffirmed that to her, “submission means respect, mutual respect.”

“I respect my husband, he respects me,” she said.

“We have been married 33 years, we have a great marriage…and respecting each other, listening to each other is what that means.” O’Donnell asked Bachmann if she would use a different word in retrospect.

“You know, I guess it depends on what word people are used to, but respect is really what it means,” Bachmann replied.

“Do you think submissive means subservient?” O’Donnell asked. “Not to us,” Bachmann said. “To us it means respect.”

Well, if dictionaries matter, then respect is not what submission means. Michelle Bachmann may be submissive to her husband, but not so much the dictionary.

Below are two dictionary definitions for the word submit (or submission). The first comes from Samuel Johnson’s famous Dictionary of the English Language, published in 1756:

SUBMISSION. Delivery of himself to the power of another. Shakespeare. Acknowledgement of inferiority or dependence; humble or suppliant behaviour.

And here’s the Oxford English Dictionary (Sixth Edition 2007): 

SUBMIT. Place oneself under a certain control or authority; become subject or surrender oneself to another.

And here is the first set of synonyms for submit in Rodale’s thesaurus (The Synonym Finder 1978): 

SUBMIT. yield, surrender, give in, give way to; capitulate, succumb to, fall, bite the dust, lay down arms, raise the white flag, cry or say uncle; resign oneself, acquiesce, throw in the towel, give up the ship, cease the struggle, grin and bear it.

And, just to be clear, here’s St Paul’s command (Ephesians 5, KJV) in context:

22Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. 23For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. 24Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing.

Submit in everything. No qualifiers.

And 1 Peter 2:8 offers similar advice to slaves (NIV):

18Slaves, submit yourselves to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and considerate, but also to those who are harsh. 19For it is commendable if a man bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because he is conscious of God. 20But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. 21To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.

Christ was not in a relationship of mutual respect with his Roman tormenters, was he?

Monotheism outside of Christianity also defines submission as, well, surrender of one’s autonomy and will to another (as in Islam, which means submission).

I feel for Michelle Bachmann’s dilemma here. She’s trying to break ground through traditionally male-dominated territory (presidential politics), and, to do this—and still call herself a fundamentalist—she has to fudge the Bible’s sexist language. If she were to become president, her husband would be the “First Husband of the United States,” a second-fiddle role not really in accord with traditional biblical marriage. 

On the other hand, Michelle Bachmann has zero sympathy for gay people—even as they too try to break new territory on the marriage and political fronts—fudging anti-gay passages in the Bible.

When it comes to those passages, Bachmann maintains that the Bible’s plain meaning mustn’t ever be distorted or disobeyed (lest the nation collectively come under God’s judgment).

Ironic that she’s now confronting a dilemma similar to that of gay people: how to square the Bible with the advance of human equality, autonomy, and dignity.

About Santi Tafarella

I teach writing and literature at Antelope Valley College in California.
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2 Responses to Michelle Bachmann Defines a Submissive and Subservient Woman

  1. Pingback: The Tea Party Constitution: Dominionism For All « The Rantings & Ravings Of A (Formerly) Mad Mailman

  2. Pingback: The tea party constitution: dominionism for all | Nuts and Dolts

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