Jodi Enda

is a former White House correspondent for Knight-Ridder

No one has called Barack Obama a witch.

No one has suggested John McCain is too ambitious.

No one has disparaged Mitt Romney for misting up.

No one has accused John Edwards of faking emotions.

No one has depicted Mike Huckabee as calculating.

No one has critiqued the pitch of Rudy Giuliani's voice.

No one says male presidential aspirants are cold or feisty or careless about their cleavage (or any other anatomical feature). If they tear up, or even - gasp! - cry, no one says men are too weak to run the country. If they blow a gasket (à la Bill Clinton), it's manly. If they blow off a question (classic Reagan), it's strategic.

But when a woman has a chance to win the presidency, all bets are off. It's no conspiracy; this is America.

Sure, Hillary Clinton is a popular target in ways that other women are not. Clinton-hating is something of a blood sport, and nothing Clinton does will undo that. Still, the haters did little to diminish her husband's popularity (no matter what he did to help them) when he was in office. We're talking about something different now, something . . . sexist.

In the 1970s, a feminist adage suggested that women had to work twice as hard as men to be considered half as good. Women earned far less than men and hit glass ceilings no matter how hard they worked. Things are markedly better today. Women more often (but not often enough) earn something closer to their male counterparts, and they have more recourse if they don't. Employers no longer can fire women for getting pregnant. The glass ceiling has moved higher, and it contains more cracks.

Still . . .

There

is

a double standard, and, with Clinton's candidacy, we see it in sharp relief. She is judged differently than her male competitors, and not just because she's a Clinton.

When she doesn't show emotion, she's cold. When she does, she's - what? - feminine? Soft? Un-commander-in-chief-like? Unless, of course, she's faking it, in which case she's calculating. When she's serious, she's humorless; if she laughs, she cackles. If she attacks, she's partisan. If she plays nice, she's acting. If she wears pantsuits, she's manly. If she shows a millimeter of cleavage, she's flirty.

She didn't leave her husband because she's too ambitious, or so the story goes. Then again, she drove him to cheat. And she rode the public's sympathy all the way to the Senate.

Earlier this year, Clinton was routinely diminished when pundits referred to her solely by her first name. When I asked one to explain, he said it was because her own campaign signs called her "Hillary." True. But when Lamar Alexander's signs proclaimed simply "Lamar!" the chattering class properly used his last name.

In many ways, it remains socially acceptable to be sexist. Whether that's because it's not always easily defined, or because women have been lulled into tolerating it, or because men still hold the keys to success is difficult to determine. Could it be that the men who dominate the airwaves and oversee most election coverage don't recognize the code words, that they honestly don't see the disparate treatment?

It could. Even younger women, those who haven't had to fight their own battles against wage discrimination, who haven't had to persuade employers they could do a "man's job," often turn a blind eye to the travails of those who went before them. The generational shift was evident in Iowa, when older women supported Clinton while younger ones flocked, like their male contemporaries, to Obama.

Then a funny thing happened. Clinton was written off. The media practically staged a coronation for Obama. And women in New Hampshire reacted. Was it Clinton's brief display of emotion? Her strong debate performance? Obama's snide aside about her likability? Or was it that women weren't ready to stand in the way of the first woman with a shot at the presidency?

Valid questions all. But they ignore another piece of the puzzle: While the women of New Hampshire voted overwhelmingly for Clinton, their husbands, brothers, fathers and sons voted overwhelmingly against her. Did they really prefer the male candidates? Or did some judge Clinton to be an ambitious and calculating witch (or worse) a woman who's too weak, too emotional, too cold or too shrill?

In other words, too

female

?