Michele Bachmann will not be running for another term in Congress. There will be a lot of celebratory posts online today, and I’m bracing myself for a final round of otherwise thoughtful individuals posting lazy insults based on her appearance, gender, and perceived mental health status. This happens to a lot of women in politics, regardless of political party,* but it seems to be especially vicious with Bachmann. There are so many ways one could criticize her Tea Party priorities and her conspiracy theory influenced actions. Yet when it comes to women we find unreasonable, the quickest route is often to make fun of her appearance (and deliberately publish unflattering photos), to attack using gendered insults (witch, b*tch, c*nt) and to demean by using ableist mental health related slurs (batsh*t crazy, insane, nutjob). It’s continually disappointing to see people I count as friends and allies so gleefully insult her this way, not realizing that these kinds of insults don’t harm Bachmann, they instead perpetuate stereotypes about women and people with mental health conditions. It reminds women to keep silent, because women who speak up and say the wrong thing aren’t debated on the merits of their argument, they’re just called a b*tch and told to shut up. And every time someone says “she’s bats*t crazy” instead of explaining why her beliefs are contrary to basic human decency, that person is feeding the harmful cultural narrative that says that having a mental health diagnosis is shorthand for being dangerous, intellectually inferior, and not worth listening to.
So yay, Michele Bachmann will no longer have the power to pass legislation that harms women, immigrants, and sexual minorities. Hopefully the rest of us can stop using her as an excuse for making cheap insults and opt for more respectful rhetoric when it comes to talking about how we disagree with someone.
*See also Hilary Clinton, Nancy Pelosi, Ann Coulter, Sarah Palin, etc.