Image Politics: Everybody Lies About Sex, But Who Knew They Lie About Food, Too?

by Gloria Feldt on April 21st, 2008
in Election Watch and tagged , , , , , ,

For those exhausted with Clinton-Obama debates I thought I’d comment on the recent Cindy McCain “farfallegate” recipe scandal–you can scroll down to the end to see the evidence:

Cindy McCain was probably clueless that an intern on her pugnacious war hero husband’s campaign staff had rifled through recipes published on the Food Channel’s website and presented several as Cindy’s own on Sen. John McCain’s presidential campaign website.

Dubbed “farfallegate” in honor of the recipe combining farfalle pasta with turkey sausage (of course in today’s health conscious world, a low cholesterol recipe gets extra points), mushrooms, and peas that busted Mrs. McCain and docked the non-pay of the unlucky intern tasked with selecting just the right recipes to position Cindy as happy homemaker, the food scandal was bound to come to the attention of the ever-voracious press.

It’s hardly surprising that the campaign wanted to soften the eerily unreal image projected by her Stepford Wife eyes and shellacked hair as she stands ramrod straight as though at perpetual attention beside the senator, whose political career was calculated and in no small part brought to us by her wealthy beer distributor daddy. And what better way to warm up a candidate’s wife than to conjure a vision of the little lady in her conservative Republican apron stirring up some dinner?

Did the intern ask her whether she cooks and if so what her actual favorite recipes are? If so, were his entreaties ignored or rejected? Or was he simply afraid to approach her, so he defaulted to the virtual kitchen where he could construct his own preferred image via the recipes he chose to represent the particular brand of gemutlichkeit he was asked to produce by campaign handlers?

Politicians in the crucible of public attention, with the help of their guru-consultants who often delegate the actual implementation to enthusiastic young staff, spend as much time and energy concocting their images as they do serving up the substance of their platforms. A candidate and his/her spouse are so handled and managed that it is a real question if anyone ever knows who their true selves are. Sometimes least of all themselves.

Who wants to bet Cindy McCain rarely cooks dinner herself in real life? I mean, when does she have time to whip up that passion fruit mousse she was credited with anyway? (Note that this link takes you to the New York sun, which published recipes of McCain, Michelle Obama, and Hillary Clinton, but neither of the male candidates or Bill Clinton.)  And if she doesn’t cook for whatever reason, why doesn’t she just acknowledge the fact and go on? Many women and men would relate to that. Or if she is one of those rare people who actually cooks using Food Channel and Rachel Ray recipes verbatim, she should say that. Using a recipe that’s published precisely so people will use it is hardly a scandal of Spitzer-esque proportions. Who would care? Why be devious about it?

Judging by Hillary Clinton’s much reproduced oatmeal chocolate chip cookie recipe (coming from the woman who during her husband’s first campaign was creamed by the press for saying she wasn’t a cookie-baker, or at least that cookie baking didn’t define her), laying hands on food could be the female gendered equivalent of the tacit campaign requirement that male candidates lay hands on guns.

But voters can’t lay at the campaigns’ feet the entire fault for whatever lack of authenticity results from such aggressive image-making and buffing about things that have little impact in the grand scheme of making policies that affect our daily lives profoundly.

We Americans have always placed impossibly bifurcated demands on our leaders. We want them to be celebrities, we want them to be regular people. We demand they have soaring vision but we want them to be down to earth bowlers and cookie bakers and farfalle makers who can relate to our daily lives and struggles.

Food is after all second only to sex as our most universally humanizing experiences, and universally guilty pleasures.  Wanna bet Bill Clinton still throws back a greasy Big Mac now and then? Pass the French fries please.

Gloria Feldt is the author of No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power. Buy the book here. Engage Gloria for a Speech or Workshop. Tweet @GloriaFeldt and connect on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+ Gloria is the co-founder (with Amy Litzenberger) of Take the Lead, a new initiative to prepare and propel women to leadership parity by 2025. Find them @takeleadwomen and on Facebook.

One Response to Image Politics: Everybody Lies About Sex, But Who Knew They Lie About Food, Too?

  1. I am also commenting to let you be aware of of the fantastic experience my cousin’s girl obtained reading through your blog. She picked up a lot of things, which included how it is like to possess an amazing coaching nature to have many others clearly fully understand specific complex matters. You truly exceeded her expectations. Many thanks for giving these beneficial, dependable, revealing not to mention cool tips on the topic to Gloria.

Take The Lead Presented and Connected in 2014—and Wants Your Suggestions for 2015

IMG_6939-X3Understanding the Role Confidence Plays Would workplaces become more balanced and society more equitable if women exhibited more confidence? Katty Kay and Claire Shipman created a stir with their book The Confidence Code and their article, “The Confidence Gap” in The Atlantic. To continue this important conversation, we were honored to have Shipman speak to the Take The Lead community in July about how personal confidence relates to women advancing in the workplace and in society. Yes, women face very real barriers, no matter how confident we are, but leading with confidence expands our possibilities in ways that change our lives and the lives of other women. (Like this quote? Tweet it!) Did you attend this event with Shipman? What did you learn? This confidence question will surely be an ongoing conversation, so we’d love to hear your thoughts! TakeTheLead-80-X3The Solution to Feeling Stuck: Get a Coach! At Take The Lead we teach women to define their lives and careers on their own terms. But history has also told us how crucial it is to seek help when we need it. That’s why we were so excited to gather some of the best coaches we know for an event in NYC sponsored by the fabulous ALEX AND ANI. Alisa Cohn, Robyn Hatcher, Bonnie Marcus, Dana Balicki, Audrey S. Lee, Maggie Castro Stevens, and Leslie Grossman joined us to share their wisdom and generously donate hours of coaching time to attendees. See photos from the event and learn more here. 15777710358_506c524d16_o-X3Circling Up! One way we achieve leadership parity at Take The Lead is by working with women across all backgrounds, generations, and professional fields. And we’re proud to collaborate with a larger resurgent women’s movement. One way we create connections among women is through our online Take The Lead Community. If you haven’t signed up yet, please do so to network and get honest, actionable advice from other accomplished women having valuable conversations. Soon we’ll be adding a mentoring component you won’t want to miss. Gearing Up for 2015 Stay in touch with Take The Lead by signing up for our newsletter, and following us Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Thanks again to everyone who joined us this year and stay tuned for exciting developments in 2015! Remember! Please take a moment in the comments section to tell us what’s bugging you, highlight learning topics you want to see in our webcasts, courses, or blog, and suggest experts you admire. You can also tweet us at @takeleadwomen using the hashtag #takeleadwomen2015. If you’re moved by the work Take The Lead does to give women and men true parity across all sectors, it’s not too late to donate to enable us to Teach, Connect, and Present to more people next year. Read more about our strategy for change, Take The Lead’s 4 keys to leadership parity, here.