Billionaire Meg Whitman just donated another $20 million of her own money to her campaign for the Republican nomination for California governor. Meanwhile, a new profile in More shows how hard she's going for the female vote.
Writer Amy Wallace points out that many people find Whitman aloof or hard to get to know. And her rival for the nomination is a fellow Silicon Valley billionaire, so clearly playing up her gender is going to be a point of differentiation (and party-line crossover) for the campaign. Hence creating a women's coalition (the creepily capitalized MEGaWomen) — and giving access to More, a magazine aimed at women over forty.
Wallace quotes an excerpt from Whitman's forthcoming book, The Power Of Many, that actually is rather refreshing, particularly after the scrutiny of Hillary Clinton's wardrobe during the presidential primary:
Nearly everything [but family and work] falls by the wayside, including such activities as clothes shopping. "To this day, I walk into a department store and I am slightly baffled about where to begin," she writes. " . . . I once said something offhanded to a Fortune reporter that I know will follow me for the rest of my life. She asked what I thought people thought of me, and I responded: ‘She's frumpy, but she delivers. . . . ' She didn't misquote me. I would love to look snazzy and stylish every day, but something's got to give. I know that focusing has consequences."
You could say that this is what stylists are for — a luxury Whitman could well afford — but the relentless attention on female candidates' appearances remains a prong in the double standard. Then there's that fabled work-life balance:
One story she tells on the stump took place 21 years ago, when her oldest son was three years old and another mother at his preschool called to organize a carpool. Whitman, who then worked fulltime at Bain, told the mother she would be happy to participate, assuring her that on days when the job interfered, her nanny would fill in. This elicited a response Whitman says she will never forget. "In an icy tone she said, ‘I did not quit my job at McKinsey [the management consulting firm] to have someone else's nanny drive my child.' "
I'm not a California voter, but this one strikes me as a little less relatable, at least in its distracting brand namedropping. Opt-out revolution, anybody?
According to Wallace, the campaign website has a "distinctly feminine design...aimed directly at women, the voters Whitman says have had a major role in deciding every California election in the past 20 years." Let's take a look.
Is hunter green a stereotypically feminine color? Perhaps it's the less-than-orthodox font choice that makes it feminine — or more likely, the fact that the candidate is referred to, chattily, by her first name. (Another hallmark of the female political candidate). In any case, right there on the homepage is the below video, which makes it look like all the men have been asked to leave the office so the women staffers, many in top positions, can talk generically as possible about Meg Whitman being a woman.
Women voters were not particularly enthusiastic about Massachusetts Senate candidate Martha Coakley, who lost on Tuesday despite the support of many (liberal) women's groups. Let's see if Whitman's strategy pays off.