The Roots' Big Bachmann #Fail: 5 Songs They Could Have Used To Snark Her -- Without the Ugly Sexism

This piece originally appeared on the Web site of the Women's Media Center. To read other recent WMC Exclusives, click here.

Fans of Jimmy Fallon -- or at least his house band, The Roots -- were waiting with no small amount of anticipation Monday night just before Rep. Michele Bachmann R-Minn., took the stage. Roots drummer Questlove first teased their introductory song selection on Twitter in the afternoon, writing, ”aight late night walk-on song devotees: you love it when we snark: this next one takes the cake. ask around cause i aint tweeting title.”

The song? A cover of Fishbone’s “Lyin’ Ass Bitch.”

Fallon’s initial response the morning after was  “@questlove is grounded,” though he later took to Twitter to apologize for what he termed “the intro mess.” But calling a guest -- let alone a seated U.S. congresswoman who is one of a small number of Republican women to ever run for the presidency -- a “lying bitch” is both sexist and unfunny. It’s not even what one could legitimately call “snark,” which is generally understood to mean a sarcastic comment or snide remark. Calling a powerful woman a “bitch” because you don’t like her views or her attitude is pretty much standard issue sexism -- just ask Hillary Clinton, for instance.

And while some fans of Questlove expressed their appreciation for the song choice and others suggested that, while the song choice was inappropriate, so were Bachmann’s ambitions or her policy positions, the fact of the matter is that sexism aimed at any woman -- even one who opposes reproductive choice, same-sex marriage, equal pay and a host of other issues -- is still sexism. When one of a very small number of women who run for president can take the stage on a late-night talk show to the strains of a song calling her a “lyin’ bitch” in service of “humor,” it makes it harder for any woman of any strong opinions to want to poke her head up and run for office -- and it makes a lot of liberal women fairly sure that if we were to express unpopular opinions (like this one), we’d get the same treatment from our ideological compatriots as conservative women.

All of this is not to say that it isn’t possible to criticize Bachmann, or even that it’s impossible to snark her in musical form. After all, as Spin pointed out Tuesday, The Roots’ snark of Ashley Simpson’s appearance -- a little too intricate to explain here -- neared the sublime. So with that in mind (let alone the inevitable critique that feminists lack a sense of humor), here are five songs The Roots could have used to get the audience snort-laughing without alerting Bachmann as she took the stage.

5. Angel Eyes, The Jeff Healey Band

No one will ever forget Newsweek’s unflattering Bachmann cover -- let alone the Photoshop meme it inspired.

4. Toxic, Britney Spears

If there’s a more iconic pop violin riff that could still escape the attention of a boomer, I can’t think of one. (I tried it out on my mother just in case.)

3. Where’s Your Head At, Basement Jaxx

Given her history of gaffes on the campaign trail, there are few on either side of the aisle who haven’t wondered what in the world she is thinking some days.

2. Our Lips Are Sealed, The Go-Gos

Oh, fine, peeved at the network censors/feminazi killjoys ruining your fun in calling Bachmann a “lying bitch”? This one’s for you.

1. God’s Gonna Cut You Down, Johnny Cash

But if you want to snark Bachmann where it hurts -- do you honestly think she isn’t used to being called “a bitch” by now? -- you have to play on her field. “Go tell that long-tongued liar, go and tell that midnight rider, tell the rambler, the gambler, the back-biter, tell ‘em that God’s gonna cut ‘em down,” Cash sang. That’s a far harsher indictment than “lyin’ bitch,” and lacking in sexism—if you really think the problem is her lying.

The views expressed in this commentary are those of the author alone and do not represent WMC. WMC is a 501(c)(3) organization and does not endorse candidates. To support women journalists who are changing the conversation, donate to the WMC here. 

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