If Hillary Clinton, or any woman, runs for president in 2016, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee argued she would need to be treated as a “special treasure” and with a “sense of pedestal.”
Huckabee told The New Republic, “I’ve twice run against women opponents, and it’s a very different kind of approach. For those of us who have some chivalry left, there’s a level of respect. … You treat some things as a special treasure; you treat other things as common.” He added that a male opponent is “common,” while a woman requires “a sense of pedestal. I’ll put it this way. I treat my wife very differently than I treat my chums and my pals. I wouldn’t worry about calling them on Valentine’s Day, opening the door for them, or making sure they were OK.”
Huckabee explained more to Salon, saying that while he believes in “equality,” it “doesn’t mean sameness.” “I was raised to treat women with respect,” he said. “I still will invite a lady to go first, will open a door for her, and will place her in the center of the photograph. And yes, I would seek to treat a female opponent with the same respect I give to all women, even though we may disagree on the issues.” Earlier this year, Huckabee drew fire for accusing birth control proponents of thinking women cannot “control their libido.”
Republicans have grasped for ways to appeal to women voters — along with any demographic that is not white and male — after 2012 election results pointed to a widening gender gap between the two parties. The Republican National Committee is even helping their candidates learn how not to offend women with trainings that focus on messaging against women opponents. Some Republicans are at the point of begging their own party not to say “stupid comments” about women. “Please think before you make pithy, obnoxious comments,” Kate Obenshain said at the Conservative Political Action Conference last week.
But these efforts are just as often undermined by the candidates themselves, who push restrictive abortion legislation, mock rape exceptions for the bills, get the basic facts wrong on assault and pregnancy, and argued that a wife’s role is to “voluntarily submit” to her husband.
Even without Republicans discussing women in blatantly sexist terms, the media still treats women candidates differently by default, focusing more on their appearance and personal traits rather than the issues.