'Mean Girls' or 'Sisterhood': The Politics of Women

Simultaneously, there is less of a "sisterhood" aspect among women, and that is not surprising, experts say.

"For many people, sisterhood goes out the window when you're fighting to see whose going to get the most media coverage," O'Connor said. "As a result, they're in direct competition in terms of getting their messages out and having the public know more about them, so it's not surprising."

"I don't necessarily know how much people expect women across party lines, or running for different offices at the same time, to have all that much bonding," she added.

Even before Fiorina was caught on camera, much was made in the California press about her relationship and competitiveness with Whitman.

A Fiorina spokeswoman said the two plan to campaign together and are also friends.

Lewis said few people question how male candidates treat one another but when the candidates are female, the way they interact with each other is immediately under a harsh spotlight.

"They are held to a double standard, they not only have to be professional candidate, talk about issues, but they're going to get measured as how they get along with one other," Lewis said. "If candidates in the Senate got in based on how they got along with one another, I don't think the chamber would be empty but you would have a somewhat smaller set."

But it isn't all doom and gloom.

"Gender has not disappeared. The good news is it's an aspect, it's not a controversy," Lewis added.

Mean Girls Vs. Sisterhood: Appearances Still Matter

Women in politics may not be an idiosyncratic phenomenon anymore, but most women concur that appearances still do matter.

A Google search of any female candidate or public office holder inevitably turns up numerous postings -- depending on the woman's popularity -- about her fashion sense and appearance. It's a web phenomenon few male politicians face.

"Nobody covers the bad combovers and the beer bellies in Congress," said Republican pollster Kellyanne Conway.

Susan Molinari, a Republican member of the House of Representatives from 1990 to 1997, said the pressure to look and act like men when she was in Congress was formidable, especially for young women like herself and those new to national politics.

"There was this pressure back in that day to cut your hair shorter, look more business-like, if you will," Molinari told ABCNews.com. "It's still there a little bit but you see women candidates with longer hair now, not in a business suit, and that's the way it should be."

"I think we have evolved to a place where women feel more comfortable being able to dress in ways they feel more comfortable."

In 2008, then-Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton was always under scrutiny for her suits and hair style. Even today, the style and length of Clinton's hair is an ongoing phenomenon among bloggers.

Former GOP presidential candidate Sarah Palin's style is also fodder for much consternation. In 2008, news of her eyebrow-raising clothing budget spread like wildfire on the Internet. Just recently, Palin caused a buzz with an image that sparked speculation about whether the former governor had breast implants. Palin cleared up the "Boob-gate" rumors on Fox News, clarifying that it's all natural.

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