Bachmann's Headaches Reinforce Stereotypes

Thursday, 21 Jul 2011 09:27 AM

By Kathleen Parker

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If only the migraine problem had been Mitt’s. Or Newt’s. Or any man’s rather than a woman’s.

By now Michele Bachmann’s migraine headache problem is well known. She takes prescription medications, sometimes has to be hospitalized, and reportedly is temporarily out of commission when a headache strikes.

According to erstwhile staffers, these headaches are brought on by stress, an overburdened schedule, or, according to Bachmann herself, when her heels are too high.

Oh, no, not the high heels? Does she trip when she’s running from King Kong, too?

Oy. Couldn’t Bachmann have had a limp from a college soccer tournament injury?

Instead, she’s just a woman who gets headaches because she’s . . . impatient? Impetuous? Toe-bound?

Immediately, of course, the mind sprints from Woman With Headache to “Not tonight, dear.” Speeding along the free-associative highway, we pass the Fainting Couch, The Blues, PMS, The Pause, and all the other afflictions that make women “weaker” than men and therefore unable to withstand the pressures of high office.

It’s one thing to lack the inclination to seek enchantment with one’s Very Special Other on a given night, goes the thinking. It’s quite another when the mythical 3 a.m. call comes to the presidential bedroom. One can’t rightly say, “I’ve got a headache. Bomb the SOBs.” On the other hand, perhaps there is precedent of which we are unaware?

Bachmann’s migraine problem mysteriously hit the news cycle just in time to coincide with her moving ahead in the polls, despite constant lampooning about her husband’s interest in dissuading gays from their “satanic” urges. Bachmann’s characterization, not mine.

Jon Stewart must have one heck of a fairy godmother, pun unavoidable, to be the funniest man on the planet when Bachmann’s husband enters the political fray. Marcus Bachmann is a therapist who tries to help gays recognize women’s shapeliness (God made men’s eyes to appreciate the female body, he asserts), rather than succumb to their “barbarian” urges.

It didn’t take long for speculation to begin about whether Mr. Bachmann is a closeted gay, thanks in part to Stewart’s observation that Bachmann is just “an Izod shirt away from being the gay character on 'Modern Family.'"

So here you have a woman with a headache, married to a guy who, frankly, has earned his place as a late-night punchline. And guess what? Bachmann has moved ahead of Mitt Romney in the latest poll.

Such is the comedy that drives clowns to suicide.

On the serious subject of presidential health, debate now centers on whether Bachmann’s headaches are, indeed, a problem for a potential commander in chief. Migraines can be debilitating, but they also can be managed. Other presidents have had afflictions that required treatment. Notably, John F. Kennedy took medicine cabinets of alleviative medications for back pain, among other problems.

But the media weren’t so attentive to every little thing in those days and now there is no detail too insignificant to be exhausted.

There may be other reasons to reject Michele Bachmann as president, but being a woman with a headache isn’t one of them. Whining about high heels that nobody makes you wear; now that could be a problem.

Kathleen Parker's email address is kathleenparker@washpost.com.



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