Sunday, July 8, 2007

"Is America ready for a President with a trophy wife?" That's the sexist question a New York Times writer asks about expected Republican presidential candidate Fred Thompson in an article today.

Indeed, the writer gives the nod to the fact that "[t]he question may seem sexist, even crass, but (here goes the writer's justification for asking a truly sexist question, drumroll. . .) serious people — as well as Mr. Thompson’s supporters — have been wrestling with the public reaction to Jeri Kehn Thompson, whose youthfulness, permanent tan and bleached blond hair present a contrast to the 64-year-old man who hopes to win the hearts of the conservative core of the Republican party."

Serious people? What does that really mean? Which serious people have been "wrestling" with this 'serious' question other than the esteemed academics that deal with this issue in the article after being asked about it by the reporter.

Up until now, the reporter points out, she has remained out of the limelight, but it's likely that once Thompson announces his candidacy, that she will have to become more public. Remember how the public and the press didn't like how Dr. Judith Steinberg Dean didn't appear by Dean's side enough because she was focused on her medical career?

I wrote an article about the public reaction to Mrs. Dean in January 2004 for the RedEye edition of the Chicago Tribune. I interviewed Amy Caiazza, study director of the Institute for Women's Policy Research, who told me, in regards to Mrs. Dean, "We want to know her, to know about him. . . If she is a mystery, then the public will think, 'We don't know about his life,' and will ask,'What does this say about him? Does she not like him? Do they not have a close marriage? People will wonder, 'Why don't we know about his wife?'"

So expect to hear more from Jeri Kehn Thompson--she doesn't really have a choice but to become more vocal. This field of the spouses of presidential candidates is shaping up to be a fascinating pitting together of different types of strong, intelligent women, a study in contrasts looking at how these wives choose to portray themselves in the public eye, and comparing them to the formidable persona of Hillary Clinton, that could tell us a lot about the status of the modern woman in the 21st century.

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