AUGUST 2, 2012
Mindy Meyer is sexy and she wants you to know it. At least, that's the message from her campaign website, which blares an instrumental version of the campy LFMAO hit as accompaniment to a hot-pink color scheme and a slogan ("I'm senator and I know it") rendered in flashing, faux-rhinestone font. The Flatbush Republican told reporters her inspiration for running for New York state senate was Elle Woods, the ditz with a brain of gold from Legally Blonde, but thanks to her Michael Kors complexion and general air of having just stepped on the train to Seaside Heights, she's been dubbed the "Snooki candidate" and become an object of fascination for a summer-bored press corps eager for even the faintest whiff of shore air in their dead-air cubicles.
It's true that Meyer's publicity grab borrows a lot from the aesthetic values of reality television—though, if you watch her out on the campaign trail, she's clearly got more of a Bethenny Frankel/Jill Zarin bluntness thing going on than a vodka-swilling, smooshing vibe—and so observers have said the 22-year-old is "trolling" for attention, in the fine tradition of Internet natives everywhere.
Sure. But that's not her only cultural antecedent. One thing that reality TV stars share lately with politicians (other than a willingness to allow cameras to follow them virtually anywhere) is an extremely unsubtle concept of gender performance. On Bravo, ladies are scheming and shopping and wearing ensembles that practically border on drag, so tight and bright and shiny are they. It's a different version of femininity that we've seen on the campaign trail in a post-Sarah Palin era—one that plays up motherhood, more often—but, as on reality TV, being a woman eager to revel in her gender has become an advantage.
"Mindy intends to utilize her religious values and moral compass as her guide," says her website. (Meyer happens to be an Orthodox Jew.) It sounds familiar: The mama grizzlies like Kelly Ayotte and Nikki Haley who ascended to the stage in 2010 are what Meyer is channeling when she decided that wearing a pink blazer would help her more than hurt her, and when she deploys the sharp, no-nonsense style she favors campaigning. She's doing a far, far less subtle version of it than those women, of course—and her taste has not been run by image consultants, clearly. That she's a young woman playing up her sexuality without cloaking it in the unimpeachable modesty of motherhood complicates things a bit, but it's as obvious as her eyeliner that Meyer become politically aware during an age when canny campaign managers (particularly on the right, it seems) have decided that playing the girl is a good thing.