Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Mother of All Gender Politics

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.


Anonymous said...

I am obviously not an expert on the but it seems that torturing small animals in ones youth can be a "symptom" of being a serial killer later in life. Not to encourage the issue or anything, but it might have been interesting for your mother to point that out to the public and be done w/ the "my daughter is better than your daughter" campaigning.

Marciepooh said...

If this was a title leading up to one of the major national pageants, I'm surprised she was allowed to wear her sash and tiara at political events (as a supporter of one side). Not that the organizers of the pageant necessarily knew. Too bad your mother didn't check into this.

Anonymous said...

I must admit, I think that ALL candidates, for any election, should be held to a lie detector test. Better yet, why can't we hold them all accountable (once in office) for the things they promised in their campaign?

Good for your mom for not making you part of the deal.

Anonymous said...

Ick, a former-cat-torturing beauty queen. Well, at least she's not a former-cat-torturing doctor.

BTW, the whole lie detector theory would be great, *if* lie detectors actually worked. But, then, if lie detectors actually worked, shouldn't we be administering lie-tests to everyone (teachers, professors, reviewers, doctors, moms and dads, our kids)?

(and, geez, I wish you weren't anonymous so that I could look up the picture of the former cat-torturer).

Anonymous said...

Actually, you can find her in real life right now because of things like Google and write her an email saying:

"Remember me from 25 years ago? You won a beauty contest but I know you didn't deserve it because you tortured cats. Did you block that detail out of your mind so that you could live with yourself? Well, here is a reminder. Your dad probably lost the election because of you. People could see past your little tiara into what you were really like. I hope you're happy with yourself and good luck with the rest of your life. Also, good luck sleeping at night.

"By the way, I'm a full professor at **** university. What do you do? It's always nice to catch up with old friends. If we're both back in the state at Thanksgiving, would you like to meet up and catch up on lost time?"

Anonymous said...

It could be interesting to find out where she is now... doubt I'd be inclined to contact her though :)

Anonymous said...

The Aeneid is piece of fascist Roman trash written by a sellout writer pandering to the base nationalistc feelings of the now morally bankrupt Roman Empire. I guess money was more valuable to Virgil than his humanity.

I hope that when you finished translating the book, none of Virgil's filth rubbed off.

In other news, I need to calm down and get a coffee.

Ms.PhD said...

I enjoy the posts where you freely admit you were a nerdy kid (and in particularly, a nerdy girl). But for this one, I would have liked to know a bit more. Did it make you feel more self-conscious than ever to be the Brains in the contest with Beauty? Did you wish your mom had bragged about you once in a while? How much has your mom been a role model? You often talk about your family as though you aren't like them at all, but I have to wonder if having a mother who did a lot of public speaking has been inspirational or intimidating.