Those things, my friends, are all the same as the Prime Minister of Denmark, the head of the government of the Kingdom of Denmark. She has a name, Helle Thorning-Schmidt, two university degrees and a long career in Danish politics. She is the first female Prime Minister of Denmark and the first female leader of Danish Social Democrats.
But according to several American conservative pundits and writers, she is also a piece of Danish pastry. This is because of the pictures taken of her sitting between to president Obama and the British Prime Minister David Cameron at the memorial service for Nelson Mandela last Tuesday.
These pictures, including the "selfies" the three leaders took, "some" have interpreted as proving that Obama and Thorning-Schmidt were flirting and that Michelle Obama was not amused.
Others have written more about all that, though the photographer's statement seems the most important there.
What I want to write about is the the way the first female prime minister of a country is treated, by Rush Limbaugh, by Fox contributors David Webb and Andrea Tantaros, and, most recently, by a conservative columnist at the New York Post, Andrea Peyser.
Imagine, for a second, this reversal: Some right-wing columnist in Denmark sees the pictures and interprets them in reverse. Thus, when Andrea Peyser writes this about Barack Obama:
Maybe he went into sugar shock over a Danish pastry
The imaginary Danish columnist would write:
Maybe she went into sugar shock over some Boston cream pie.
And so on.
This little episode fascinates me because it shows that tendency to focus on women's bodies as public property, available for comments by all and sundry. Being a political leader does not exempt a woman from that treatment.
Thus, that Thorning-Schmidt has good legs, say, is something pundits think they can comment on. That she wears black tights (at a memorial service) Peyser turns into something quite different:
Not to be outdone by the president’s bad behavior, the Danish hellcat hiked up her skirt to expose long Scandinavian legs covered by nothing more substantial than sheer black stockings.
In Peyser's world, Obama is seen as only acting badly, but Thorning-Schmidt is seen as both acting badly and looking wrong. Note that I wrote "in Peyser's world." What actually took place there is most likely something quite different.