It’s the end of a weird era. The first lady cookie competition, in which the spouses of presidential candidates submit cookie recipes to be voted on by Family Circle magazine readers, will not take place this election cycle for the first time since 1992.
While it may come as a surprise that this seemingly dated tradition wasn’t already retired years ago, its demise actually has nothing to do with the contest’s regressive air of domesticity or even the coronavirus pandemic, which is the main reason most things are canceled this year. Rather, the cookie contest has finally come to an end because Family Circle, the magazine that has hosted the competition since its inception, ceased publication last year.
A rep from Meredith Corporation, Family Circle‘s former publisher, told the Washington Post that the company has no plans to bring the cookie contest back to any of its other brands, which is probably a good thing. Given our current political climate coupled with the general state of literally every other aspect of life in 2020, the idea of Melania Trump and Jill Biden engaging in a folksy cookie competition seems, frankly, a little jarring and vaguely grotesque.
Moreover, while this competition may seem like a relic leftover from the 1950s, this particular ode to wifely domesticity in the White House was actually launched in 1992 as an act of damage control after Hillary Clinton made the grave error of publicly identifying as a woman with a career. After Clinton defended her career to a reporter with the now-infamous line, “I suppose I could have stayed home and baked cookies and had teas,” the Clinton campaign decided baking cookies might in fact be the perfect way to rehab the prospective first lady’s unwifely image.
Thus, the first lady cookie competition — later re-branded as the gender-neutral “Presidential Cookie Poll” — was born. The contest was a staple in the past seven election cycles, correctly predicting the election results five times. The two misfires happened in 2008, when Cindy McCain’s oatmeal butterscotch cookies beat Michelle Obama’s shortbread recipe, and 2016, when the nation chose the Clinton family’s chocolate chip cookies over Melania Trump’s sour cream stars.
The fact that the American political landscape was ever a hospitable enough place that such a contest could have once come off as cute and folksy instead of tone-deaf and garish sheds a somewhat unflattering light on the current state of our nation, but ultimately, the cookie contest’s demise is probably long overdue. RIP to a weird, potentially misogynistic tradition.
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