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Michele Bachmann balks at Sarah Palin 'girl power'

Michele Bachmann says she's not a feminist. In an interview, the sole female GOP candidate for president doesn't talk about girl power the way Sarah Palin and Hilary Clinton have.

July 1, 2011

Republican presidential candidate Rep. Michele Bachmann, (R) of Minn., speaks in Charleston, S.C., June 29, 2011.

Andy Dunawa/AP

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By Kristen Powers

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Newsweek/DailyBeast

She is clearly a trailblazer for women, throwing her hat into the highest ring in politics. But while Michele Bachmann became the first female presidential candidate of the 2012 campaign this week, she does not, interestingly enough, view herself as a feminist.

Unlike Sarah Palin, who has brandished the feminist moniker and spoken of an “emerging conservative feminist identity,” Bachmann told me in an interview Tuesday that she wouldn’t call herself a feminist—instead, she simply described herself as “pro-woman and pro-man.” When I pressed her on the matter, the Minnesota congresswoman said she sees herself as an “empowered American.”

Bachmann seemed loath to engage in the kind of girl-power rhetoric utilized by Palin and Hillary Clinton, who both invoked the perennial—and so far unbreakable—presidential glass ceiling.

Said Bachmann: “I’m a woman comfortable in her own skin. I grew up with three brothers. My parents didn’t see us [as] limited [by gender]. I would mow the lawn and take out the trash; I was making my own fishing lures. I went along with everything the boys did.”

Bachmann is still doing everything the boys do, but as a female candidate she endures indignities that are foreign to your average male pol. Yet she takes it all in stride.

In a joint interview with Bachmann last year, then-Sen. Arlen Specter lectured her to “act like a [lady]” when she strenuously disagreed with him on a point. A recent Rolling Stone diatribe by Matt Taibbi called her “completely batshit crazy” with a “retro-Stepford image.” MSNBC’s Chris Matthews has accused her of being “hypnotized” on the air and has referred to the three-term House member and former tax attorney as a “balloon head.”

And over the weekend, Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace asked Bachmann if she was a “flake.” She was not pleased. “It seemed very insulting,” she told me. “But he did give me a call and he did offer me an apology.” (Wallace also posted a video apologizing and explaining why he asked the question.)

As for Matthews, she has received no apologies, but she is unfazed. Unlike Palin, who frequently decries the “lamestream media,” Bachmann doesn’t attack the attackers. “The media is what the media is,” she says. “It’s part of the territory. A person has to accept that there are difficult questions and unfair questions and it is a part of this process and it is what it is.”

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