A few weeks after the launch of their barely mediocre no-boys-allowed blog, the XX Factor, Slate has rolled out a new series of articles about the marriages of the Presidential candidates called First Mates. Though the headline might have inspired fears of lady lit ghettoization, Melinda Henneberger's introductory essay is A) not part of the XX Factor (thank god) and B) a fresh take on an issue that's more important than most people realize. "Do presidential unions matter?" Henneberger asks. "Voters think they do. A recent survey found that fully one-third of women voters not only take the happiness of a presidential candidate's marriage into account, but cite it as a significant factor in their decision."
In the same paragraph, Henneberger quotes a registered nurse from Illinois whom she met on the 2004 campaign trail. The RN was not going to vote for Kerry because she thought Teresa Heinz Kerry was a snot:
"I'm a registered Democrat and I'm not for being in Iraq, but I'll tell you what, I voted for Bush. I don't know that Bush is totally truthful, and he's not the smartest person in the world. But Kerry, I really didn't like his wife, and that influenced me. She has a smart mouth and doesn't control it."Yeah, that uppity bitch should shut her "smart mouth." Jesus Christ. Fortunately Michelle Obama, according to Slate, does not have the same image issues that Teresa Kerry did. In fact, Melinda pretty much creams herself over Michelle Obama and her relationship to Barack and their children. Though she is lightly chastised for being TMI (Michelle spilled to Glamour about Barack's being "stinky and snore-y" in the morning), Michelle is portrayed as a tough, no-nonsense kind of woman who is hard on her husband, "not because she thinks he is a screw-up, but because her expectations could hardly be higher."
Unfortunately, Melinda does not bring the same verve to her writing on the XX Factor. For some reason she's become obsessed with the phrase, "big-girl panties." As in: "So what would I tell those aspiring young scientists who see no one like themselves at the conference? In the immortal words of Margaret Spellings, put on your big-girl panties. And go anyway." The phrase has been used three times in the three weeks that the blog has been in existence. Big. Girl Panties. Melinda, stop trying to make big-girl panties happen! It's not going to happen! That said, the XX-factor has sort of improved in the last two weeks since I went off on them the first time. The posts are shorter and vaguely less boring. So, you go girls...or something!
The Obama Marriage: How does it work for Michelle Obama? [Slate]
First Mates [Slate]
XX Factor [Slate]
Your next First Lady? [Glamour]
View of candidates' marriages sways some voters [Boston Globe]