Sunday, August 5, 2007

Sex as Strategy for Presidential Candidates

An interesting article in today's L.A. Times on the sexuality in images of the wives of the presidential candidates.

From the article: "What's going on reflects what's happening in the larger culture, a culture increasingly focused on young, attractive women and blatant sexuality, on display for all to appreciate," said Elizabeth Sherman, a political sociologist and Democrat who is married to former Republican Rep. Mickey Edwards of Oklahoma. "The candidate's wife is a strategic asset. How are you going to deploy that asset?"

So, the candidate's wife is basically an object to be purposefully deployed in the media for public consumption. And how the candidate presents his wife (of course, Hillary is an exception here) and his relationship, is going to say a lot about the candidate. Some experts, as the article mentions, say that images of a youthful, sexy wife suggest the candidate's vitality.

Yet Camille Paglia says regarding the image in the March issue of Harper's Bazaar of Judith Giuliani sitting in Rudy's lap, with one hand on his cheek, the other on his shoulder, kissing him: "I think it's a very ostentatious, egregious and rather offensive appeal to women voters, and I think it's condescending and actually off the mark. I feel the great majority of women voters don't like to see a woman with her hands and lips all over her man."

But she's assuming they were trying to appeal to women, maybe they were trying to appeal to men? (Of course, a Giuliani spokesperson responds in the article that the kiss was spontaneous, but really, how could any of these images we see be candid.)

On the flip side, there's Hillary Clinton, who is trying to dress-down her sexuality in dowdy pants suits, and when she slips up, into something a little more feminine, gets articles written about her cleavage. But maybe she's right to tone down her femininity. Read this exchange in today's (Sunday's) New York Times between the novelist Mary Gordon and interviewer Deborah Solomon:

DS :"Are you a Hillary Clinton supporter?"

MG: "I think no woman is electable in America, and particularly not Hillary, because she is married to this guy whom everyone is libidinally attached to. I think there is unconscious sexual jealousy of her among women. "

DS: "But her marriage has been so difficult. Wouldn’t that negate feelings of jealousy?"

MG: "No, because she got him in the first place."

This theory, that women don't like Hillary, because they are attracted to Bill, would explain the recent New York Times poll results which revealed that the majority of college-educated women don't like Hillary, but lesser-educated women do: Bill Clinton must be the more educated women's type. (But if this is the case, then are lower-class women less attracted to Bill than middle and upper class women?)

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