The XX Factor

Is There Such a Thing as the Perfect Political Wife?

The big buzz on the Internet today surrounding Scott Brown isn’t about his victory over Martha Coakley, his policy positions, or even his truck. No, instead it’s a music video made more than 25 years ago by his wife, in which she apparently loses her bikini top and squirts a bottle of suntan lotion in a sexually suggestive way. OK, I get it. It’s an easy target. Fun for everyone! But the attention on that, combined with the attention that Ayla Brown’s Web site is getting , leaves me with a serious question. Is being the wife or daughter of a politician an almost impossible proposition?

If they take on the twinsets-and-pearls persona of a dutiful supporter, we call them Stepford wives and mock their lack of individuality, their inability to be themselves. If they have any unconventional aspirations (like Ayla) or skimpily-clad skeletons in their closet, we just mock them. (Shame on Gail Huff for not knowing in 1984 that she was going to grow up to marry the man who would take over Ted Kennedy’s Senate seat!) Hillary Clinton was too ambitious; Laura Bush wasn’t ambitious enough. Silda Spitzer was wrong to stand by her man, and Jenny Sanford was wrong to turn her public embarrassment into a book deal. Granted, Michelle Obama, despite her recent drop in approval ratings (and, by the way, is there a reason the first lady is subject to approval polls?), has thus far pulled off this delicate balancing act. But not every politician’s wife is going to be a powerful lawyer with multiple Ivy League degrees. What are mere mortals to do?