Why the Hell Are We Still Holding First Lady Bake-Offs? Stop It. Stop It Right Now.


Yesterday, Family Circle announced that First Lady and Princeton-educated attorney Michelle Obama’s white and dark chip cookie recipe roundly defeated challenger and stay-at-home mom Ann Romney’s M&M’s cookie recipe. And while it’s tempting to joke about the metrics of stay-at-home mom success versus lawyer success, let’s get down to the crux of the matter here: why the fuck are we still making the candidates’ wives bake cookies?

Believe it or not, the First Lady bake-off started in 1992, not 1952, after a terribly uppity Hillary Clinton remarked that after her husband was elected Governor of Arkansas, she chose to pursue her career rather than “stay home and bake cookies.” America did a collective spit take at her unbridled, raw, unfeminine ambition. Who did this be-pageboyed Delilah think she was, eschewing cookie baking? If every mom in America followed Hillary Clinton’s dangerous example, cookies might nearly go extinct, like the California Condor. If future Americans wanted to show their children what a cookie looked like, they’d have to drive to a zoo. No more cookies in the wild!

Cookie-bakers were offended by Clinton’s remarks because if there’s anyone who is terrible at taking criticism, it’s people who are defensive and insecure about their own choices. News outlets called Clinton’s remarks “careless” and “dumb.” Columnists rushed to defend stay-at-home moms and their choosey choices, saying Clinton’s pointed defense of her own choices was akin to attacking or criticizing them. Shitstorm ahoy!

Something had to be done. Enter Family Circle, that bastion of family-friendly popsicle stick gluing tips, to save the endangered mom-cookie and defend the bruised honor of the stay-at-home mom by going straight to the top and challenging Hillary Clinton to a bake off with First Lady Barbara Bush. And the Yale-educated attorney responded by changing her cookie baking tune and participating wholeheartedly, pitting her recipe for oatmeal cookies against Babs and invited Americans to vote for which one they liked better and dropping bizarre pro-cookie quotes like this one:

“I want people to vote for my cookies. It’s a matter of honor.”

You can almost hear her gritting her teeth.

Clinton won, natch, and the tradition continues to this very day. But why? With women ascendant in both parties, how much longer will Family Circle magazine gamely nudge the spouses of Presidential candidates back into the kitchen for some good old fashioned Mom-ing? Not every candidate will be married to an Ann Romney — someday soon, someone will be married to a Bill Clinton. The cookie bake-off’s days are numbered, because the all-male Presidential ticket’s days are numbered. To people offended by Hillary Clinton or Michelle Obama’s career choices, a man baking is probably more offensive to rigid gender identities than a woman not baking.

So what will replace the cookie bake off when a woman finally, inevitably nabs a major party Presidential nomination? Is there such thing as a traditionally gender neutral in-home activity? My editor Jessica suggested sleeping or locking the door. I nominate complaining about dirty dishes or balancing the checkbook. And, if by some feminist Christmas miracle two women end up getting their two parties’ nominations, clearly their husbands will be invited to go head to head in a grill-off. Meat is like a man-cookie.

[Obama Foodorama]

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