Michele Bachmann Exclusive Interview: “I have not seen gender as a barrier to being in the race”

On July 28, 2011, Christina Bellantoni sat down with presidential candidate Michele Bachmann for an exclusive interview. The full story, "Running (For President) in Heels,"  examines what has changed for women candidates since the 2008 election; the piece appears in the December 2011/January 2012 issue of MORE. Read on for a transcript of the conversation.

by Christina Bellantoni
michele bachmannn pigs pigpen image
Michele Bachmann admiring the pigs at the Marion County Fair in Knoxville, Iowa, in July 2011.
Photograph: Courtesy of Christina Bellantoni

More: Do you think the country has a different view of a woman running for president now than four years ago or 20 years ago?
Michele Bachmann: I have not seen gender as a barrier to being in the race. That’s I think very positive. I don’t see any barrier from people on that score and I think that it seems very normalized for people to see a woman who is running. When I grew up I didn’t feel barriers as a girl. Growing up in a home with a lot of brothers, our parents just expected that all of us could do whatever we wanted and that was a blessing so I never saw myself as having barriers.

I have to say that it hasn’t made any difference whether it’s been South Carolina or Iowa or New Hampshire or Texas or Florida or California or Utah or Nevada, it doesn’t matter which state I’ve been in, I have never detected a barrier. In fact, if anything I’ve been hearing more, especially in the last few weeks, a lot of women come up to me with their daughters or they’ve got their mother with them, and they just, their eyes are dancing, their eyes are dancing, and they’re happy and they’re joyful and they say I want you to meet my daughter.

This just happened. We were in West Des Moines. We were at a deli and a mother said, ‘I want you to meet my daughter and thank you for being such a good role model for my daughter.’ I’m hearing that more and more from women, mothers for their daughters but then also grandmothers too that are saying that. That makes me feel very good when I hear that.

[Talking about my biography with an associate recently] I just paused and I said you know, I think now being 55 years of age at this point just reflecting and looking backwards, I look at my resume and I look at the things I’ve accomplished, but I mean quite honestly there’s just that word, ‘Mother,’ I just saw it on the paper, and I thought, That’s the one that means the most to me. … It’s that word that means a lot to me. Obviously wife and all the rest but it’s that word mother. There’s something I think that I’ve come to value even more recently because we are looking at our youngest child going off to college this fall.

More: Is that Sofia?
MB: Yeah.

We’ve been parenting for 29 years and this will be the first time now that all of them will be gone. We had all the foster children as well. It will be very different. It’s just kind of a pause, a time for reflection.
I’m extremely grateful because one thing my husband and I had decided when we first got married even before we had the children. We always wanted to make sure that one of us were there.

It wasn’t always easy, both of us by god’s grace we were self-made people, we worked our way through college. We came from lower middle class backgrounds and we held various jobs through college but we made a decision … that one of us would always be there, and we’ve tag teamed, sometimes I’m gone, sometimes he’s gone. Sometimes there was a period time when he was the full time parent when he was graduate school full time, and I was a federal tax attorney and I was out working in the business world and we’ve flipped, we’ve gone back and forth.

But our central core is that we’ve been committed to those kids to make sure that all the way through high school there’s always someone there, we want to make sure that someone is paying attention to them. Not that we were entertaining them. But one thing we found, is that it seemed to us over the years, that children needed us more the older they got rather than being younger. When they are babies you can’t imagine they could need you any more than that, but they really need your mind when they’re older and they need to know that you really are paying attention to them, to what they’re doing.

I am grateful and I have to give a lot of credit to my husband, because he is equally been as committed. If he hadn’t been as committed I wouldn’t have been as free to be able to come to Washington and do the things that I’m doing.

First Published November 16, 2011

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