February 25, 2008

Food and double-standards on the campaign trail

Posted in Feminism, Media, Politics at 9:07 pm by The Lizard Queen

Over the weekend I came across an interesting article in Slate titled either (depending on where you look) “What does Hillary Clinton eat?” or “How hungry is Hillary Clinton?” It’s kind of all over the place. It starts out with the idea that one’s eating habits can give others insight into one’s personality:

That food preferences are clues to personality was the firm belief of French gourmand and essayist Jean Antheleme Brillat-Savarin, who in his 1825 work, The Physiology of Taste, wrote, “Tell me what you eat and I will tell you who you are.” In the absence of an interview with the lady herself, I have pieced together clues to Hillary’s eating habits from various reports, to try to determine whether she is tough and self-assured enough to function as president or is merely a food-fashion victim who opts for the flavor of the moment. Does she indulge wild, instinctive cravings with a hat-over-the-windmill bravado, or is she an abstemiously disciplined eater who can be counted on to make the sensibly healthful choice?

Naturally, though, it doesn’t focus simply on what she eats, or even on the psychological implications therein (evidently “people who love hot chilies are considered limited risk takers”). It gets into Clinton’s personal life, from quoting from “soul-searching letters” written to a high-school friend during her college years to — of course — alluding to Bill Clinton’s infidelity:

And if President Clinton was on his own for dinner, he invariably canceled the healthful meal that had been ordered for him and asked Scheib to dig into his secret stash of prime meat and grill a 24-ounce porterhouse steak with béarnaise sauce and fried onion rings, evidence that marital cheating can take many forms.

What gets to me most is that I like the idea of this article.  Life on the campaign trail is interesting to me.  I enjoy imagining what I would ask for if I had a personal chef (“baba ghanouj, hummus, and tahini” would be pretty high on my list, too).  But I just can’t get past the notion that no one would write an article like this about a male candidate — something the author seems to acknowledge when she mentions that “Being a woman, Hillary is expected to cook, something that is rarely demanded of a male political candidate.”

And then the piece ended on a bit of a frustrating note, with the author apparently giving credence to Ann Althouse’s interpretation of the carrot sticks that replaced the onion rings in the Clinton campaign commercial that spoofed the final episode of the Sopranos.  Even Freud conceded that sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.



  1. […] admin wrote an interesting post today onHere’s a quick excerptOver the weekend I came across an interesting article in Slate titled either (depending on where you look) “What does Hillary Clinton eat?” or “How hungry is Hillary Clinton?” It’s kind of all over the place. It starts out with the idea … Read the rest of this great post here Posted by […]

  2. Demonweed said,

    I enjoyed this piece, though I do dispute one observation. I believe pieces like this have been written in the past about many male candidates. In the current cycle, there has been speculation (though perhaps not in any mainstream media outlet) that Gov. Mike Huckabee’s campaign diet (he routinely refuses anything more than a nibble of the local delicacies most candidates happily gobble for the photo op) conceals a stomach surgery that call into question the legitimacy of his weight loss narrative and a related book.

    That may be a new wrinkle, but in general I seem to recall plenty of “what the candidate eats” stories as well as media coverage of White House chefs still actively employed there. I can relate to the sentiment that it is bothersome to be so interested in this sort of story. The purely rational facet of me puts this kind of analysis one baby step up from astrology. Yet there is more to me than the purely rational facet. I suppose analyzing candidates’ diets is visceral politics in every sense.

  3. johnhendel said,

    I’m pretty sure it’s been brought up before. I just read Helen Thomas’s memoir “Front Row at the White House” and I KNOW that had some ridiculous anecdotes about food. And, while more fictional, I remember on the television show The West Wing, the president’s distaste for green beans blew up into a big issue one day due to how that would affect voters in a farming state. This particularly article does seem to just use food as a jumping point into personal commentary though, for better or worse…and it’d be hard to see this being pulled on many other candidates without good reason (Huckabee for his weight issues, Bill himself as mentioned in the article due to his weight and love of fast food, etc.).

  4. yourfootgirl said,

    You are right, no matter what has happened since equal rights, women are still treated much differently. Hillary has a lot of battles ahead of her that have never been faced by male candidates. No matter what becomes of her you have to hope that she is blazing a trail further into the territory of equality.

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