The phenomenon of 'Palin Dudes' is fascinating, albeit a bit disturbing. Some of the quotations I read in the news recently are amazing, e.g.-
"I'm happy to vote for a hot chick". -- said by a man who no doubt thinks it would be fine for women to vote for the cutest male candidate?
"She's a mom. You can always trust a mom." -- said by a man who no doubt was a Hillary Clinton supporter in the primary elections?
Female candidates' roles as moms are intermittently the topic of discussion during campaigns, and perhaps more so in this election than others once McCain-Palin started making it an issue.
I have written before about perceptions people have of professorial offspring (freaky smart, socially dysfunctional), but I am also very interested in the role that candidate offspring play in elections, perhaps because my mother was involved in politics in our state, starting when I was in high school.
I did a lot of behind-the-scenes work on my mother's campaigns -- e.g. distributing flyers, making lawn signs -- but I was never a part of any public appearances. There was one particular re-election campaign, however, in which I involuntarily became an issue. My mother's opponent was the father of a Beauty Queen, in fact a recent Miss [Our State]*. He mentioned his beautiful daughter and her Miss [Our State] title in every speech and debate. My mother did not believe that the details of her kids' lives were relevant to her political life, and she repeatedly stated that she would like to discuss instead her views on the major issues.
Even at a local level, the reluctance of a mother to speak about her children leads to rumors that There Must Be Something Wrong with the kids, and probably especially the daughter. Was I hideous? Had I no talents whatsoever? In fact, I had recently graduated as valedictorian of my high school and, although clearly not a contender for Miss [Any State, City, Street or Agricultural Product], even had I been so inclined, the rumors that I was hideous didn't persist.
This campaign didn't last nearly as long as more recent campaigns do, but to me it seemed like a long time that a major issue was Beauty v. Brain, in which the beauty queen and the brainy girl weren't even the candidates. The father of the Beauty was widely seen as having an advantage. The beautiful daughter even wore her sash and tiara at some campaign events, whereas I spent much of that summer reading Russian novels and finishing my translation of the Aeneid (note: This was the summer of my third worst job ever).
In the end it didn't matter. My mother succeeded in politics on her own merits, despite having a strange daughter who would never be a beauty queen, and I went off to college in another state, where no one knew or cared that I had never worn a tiara.
* Random additional information: In fact, I knew my 'opponent', the beauty queen, quite well, and, had I a blog then, I would have revealed the (entirely true) story that she had tortured cats during her youth, and that she had often bragged about enjoying this. I truly loathed her, and had never thought her beautiful, having trouble getting past the cat-torturing issue.
I have long wished that beauty contests, if they must exist, would involve a lie-detector test in which each contestant is asked "Have you ever tortured small domestic pets for fun?" If such a test were administered, this particular Miss [Our State] would never have attained the tiara and her father would have had to discuss other issues in his campaign.
8 years ago