It’s hard out there for a gal. A political gal. On the campaign trail. Even if the gal isn’t the one who’s running for elected office.
The past few weeks have proven challenging for the lone woman running for president, as well as for the women married to the men who are running for president. Being subjected to intense, personal scrutiny – unlike the kind men typically experience – is truly a feminine odyssey. Not one for the timid. Everything from hairstyles, clothing styles and career choices comes under fire in ways the mens’ choices do not. Seriously, what gets more attention, the fashion sense of the female spouses of the men running for president or the clothing choices of the male spouse of the woman running for president? The messages sent by the colors and accessories worn by the woman running for president or the selections made by the men running for president? A teeny sampling of news stories from the past few weeks makes this point delightfully well:
Cindy McCain, a working mom whose youngest child is in high school (McCain heads up an Anheuser-Busch franchise), came under fire  for a recipe. Yep. A recipe. This corporate exec was asked by the New York Sun  – along with Michelle Obama and Hillary Clinton – for the recipe for her family’s favorite homemade dish. Then an intrepid soul discovered that the recipe submitted by John McCain’s presidential campaign on Cindy McCain’s behalf for passion fruit mousse had been copied from the Food Network’s web site by a dimwitted intern. Proverbial egg. On face. For several days, Cindy McCain took a beating for what some media organizations , including CNN, were calling “Recipe-gate.” She may have a son in the Marines who just returned from fighting in Iraq and may return to Iraq, but forget about that, let’s talk mousse recipes, shall we?
Left unsaid and unaddressed was why in the world a news organization was asking these women -- including a candidate running for president -- for recipes. What, Rachel Ray wasn’t available for her cooking advice? Martha Stewart was too busy? If we’re talkin’ parity and first spouse traditions here, why didn’t Bill Clinton, as the spouse of the White House hopeful, get the request? Maybe the New York Sun feared it would get a list of the fast food restaurants in Manhattan.
But let’s be serious for a moment: Does anyone really think that Cindy McCain, who’s busy with running a company, parenthood and, oh, I don’t know, her husband’s presidential campaign is at home preparing passion fruit mousse? Or that Michelle Obama, working mom of two grade school-aged kids, has time to whip up apple cobbler in between TV appearances and campaign stops? Or that Hillary Clinton, in between debates, fund raisers, Senate hearings and running for president has done any real cooking in years? Have we inadvertently hopped into a time machine back to the 1950s? Enough with the stupid recipe questions. And, for Pete’s sake media folks, please do not treat us to insipid news stories this summer about the Democratic and Republican nominee’s female spouse(s) or female candidate’s favorite cookie recipes. (I’m talking to you, editors of Family Circle ) This is politics, people, not a popover contest.
In the meantime, Cindy McCain is slated to be a co-host on ABC’s “The View ” this week. How much you wanna bet that she’s asked about Recipe-gate?
Hillary Clinton has been, according to New York Magazine’s  Amanda Fortini, on the receiving end of a hideous string of misogynistic attacks, snidely cruel remarks on her gender, her voice and her body, not necessarily on her politics or stance on the Iraq War. Aside from some stomach-churning insults about her appearance, Clinton has sustained criticism from some TV commentators who portray her as a castrating witch who cackles. Think hard now, when’s the last time we read or heard reporters or commentators dishing about Barack Obama’s or John McCain’s clothing? Or their laugh? The nastiest things critics are saying about Obama right now have to do with whether he’s an out-of-touch elitist and, on the Republican side, whether McCain’s too old and cranky to be president. However Clinton -- regardless of one’s opinion of her politics -- is hammered relentlessly on items related directly to the fact that she’s a woman.
These broadsides (no pun intended) against Clinton have angered Baby Boomer women, Fortini writes in New York, as they argue with Gen X/Y voters about their support (or lack thereof) for Clinton’s presidential campaign. (Boomers say that younger women don’t appreciate and understand that they should support trailblazers, while Gen X/Yers say that they don’t see every political issue through the lens of gender.) Fortini wrote: “Many women, whatever their particular feelings about Hillary Clinton . . . began to feel a general sense of unease at what they were witnessing. The mask had been pulled off – or, perhaps more apt, the makeup wiped off – and the old gender wounds and scars and blemishes, rather than having healed in the past three decades, had, to the surprise of many of us, been festering all along.”
But the trials female politicians face that their male counterparts do not are not limited to the United States. Just recently, German Chancellor Angela Merkel  went to an opera house and -- quelle horror! -- wore a dress which revealed that she possesses mammary glands, otherwise known as breasts. The world was stunned. They had no idea she was of the female persuasion. Now that the Germans realize they’ve actually got a woman running the place, how long before they ask her to share her recipe for wiener schnitzel?