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The Week That Was: Behind Every Man...

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With the American presidential race nearing its climax, and the Tory party conference bringing that particular political season to its end, the globe's leaders and would-be leaders have enjoyed significant laser focus from the world's media this week.

Or rather, their spouses have.

The saying might suggest that behind every successful man there's an equally successful woman, but in today's world it seems that behind every successful man, there's a woman whose dress sense/lipstick choice/career path (sadly often in that order) is to be analysed and debated across the political spectrum.

For Downing Street's First Lady, none of this is anything new, so I imagine she was well prepared for the focus given to the post-speech kiss she bestowed on her husband following his performance in Birmingham on Wednesday.

The spin doctors and PR whizz kids certainly know the importance of a well-timed photo opportunity, although perhaps forgot this week that even posed pics should offer a semblance of reality. The arty, apparently Bob Dylan-inspired, snap of the Camerons on their way to celebrate Dave's birthday at the Diwan Balti restaurant was so staged even the subjects of the snap had the good grace to look slightly embarrassed.

Having heard Samantha speak in Downing Street, I can understand how wistfully the party PR machine must wish for her greater involvement in campaigning. As eloquent as she is elegant, David has no greater weapon in his arsenal. But I respect her even more for choosing to keep her words for topics she feels truly passionate about.

On the other side of the Atlantic, of course, things couldn't be more different. And while Obama is still suffering from his post-debate hangover, Michelle is out on the offensive attempting her own form of First Lady damage limitation. A fixture on the nation's talk shows, and proving as adept at campaigning for her husband's re-election as she was the first time they pitched for keys for the White House, where Michelle leads, Ann Romney follows.

The latest round in the wives-at-dawn showdown are two head-to-head Good Housekeeping interviews. The very first comparisons drawn aren't about the women's views on politics, nor even their disclosures of their husbands' foibles, but the fact they both appear to be wearing the same colour clothes. (For the record, they really aren't. Michelle's chartreuse outfit definitely being closer to green than yellow!)

Still, as frustrating as it is that nearly everything written about these women focuses on what they look like and what they're wearing, we should remember that technically they're not the ones anyone is voting for, even if it often appears that way. If Michelle ever decides to follow Hillary Clinton's lead and run for office herself after her husband leaves the White House, then let's come back to that particular argument. Hillary-style, I get the feeling she wouldn't have any issue telling a reporter off for quizzing her on her labels of choice.

In the meantime, we have Australia's Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, reminding the world that you ignore women at your peril.

Clearly sick to the back teeth of the sexist and misogynistic culture in the political community in her country, this week she came out fighting in a blistering put-down to her opposite number, Tony Abbott. If you haven't yet watched the video footage, click here for the fireworks.

Looking forwards, Obama is back for his second presidential debate this week - fingers crossed he's had a good pep talk from Michelle first. If it's an argument laced with passion he wants, then let's hope he's found time to search Gillard on YouTube since his last performance in front of the cameras.

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