The feminine critique

By SARA FAITH ALTERMAN  |  December 24, 2008

First, Clinton's maternal character was called into question, as David Shuster, an MSNBC commentator, accused her and her campaign of "pimping" out her daughter, Chelsea, to solicit votes from superdelegates on her behalf. Certainly no male Kennedy or Bush ever faced that charge.

Her physical attributes were also fair game. Take, for example, her laugh. Mocked as a "caterwaul" (Slate), an "ear-popping guffaw" (New York Daily News), and "the Clinton Cackle" (New York Times), the lazy-bones media gave more scrutiny to Clinton's laugh than they did to the factors that led to the meltdown of the economy.

Want more? Google "Hillary Clinton" and "cankles" and the Internets will return more than 11,000 hits. And let's not forget the Washington Post's insightful piece on Clinton's cleavage.

Where, pray tell, were all of the articles about Obama's manscaping? Or Mitt Romney's Oompa Loompa–hued spray-on tan? Yes, Clinton was a flawed candidate who couldn't even capture her own party's nomination. But it would have been far more satisfying if she had been considered more for her political acumen than for the peek-a-boo nature of her wardrobe.

Dianne Wilkerson

Tits for tat
Speaking of tits, there's the Dianne Wilkerson scandal.

Wilkerson, of course, was the incumbent involved in a tight primary race for the State Senate seat to represent the Second Suffolk District, against challenger Sonia Chang-Díaz. Wilkerson was a convicted tax evader and, during the course of the campaign, faced accusations of other charges, including perjury. Wilkerson lost the primary to Chang-Díaz, then mounted an aggressive sticker campaign for the general election, until her cause was rocked by her arrest on charges of corruption.

The smoking gun of this case was a series of photos of Wilkerson allegedly accepting bribe money; Wilkerson's chest is the focal point of the most infamous picture, in which she rather non-demurely appears to be stuffing cash under her shirt and into her bra. (Looking at those photos, one could practically hear the Divinyls swelling in the background.)

As if allegedly participating in pay-for-play isn't bad enough, now the fallen state senator has been further demeaned by having her body objectified in the public sphere. Had a male politician been snapped cramming wads of bills in his crotch, would those photos have made the evening news, or would they have been withheld in the name of tact? And yet, when breasts are involved, the public has a right to know . . .

Arm candy
Cindy McCain and Michelle Obama were not running for office, but still they got the great media once-over, which nitpicked their makeup, hair, and couture at great length. ("Michelle's outfit is off-the-rack and ready to wear! Cindy's costs $600,000, plus the horn of a gold-plated unicorn! These are incredibly important things to consider when you cast your vote in November!")

And talk about ass play! Salon allowed writer Erin Aubry Kaplan to pontificate freely on the merits of Michelle's "solid, round, black, class-A boo-tay." Charming. Also, progressive. No, no, wait, sorry. Those are the adjectives that television critics have used to describe episodes of Grey's Anatomy. Dissecting Michelle Obama's anatomy is just plain crude.

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