Melissa McEwan has the best, most succinct post I’ve seen yet on what’s wrong with the current Ms. cover, shown at right.
According to the press release (and a note on their site here), the cover was conceived after Ms.‘ publisher, Eleanor Smeal, and chair of the Feminist Majority Foundation board, Peg Yorkin, met Barack Obama and “he immediately offered ‘I am a feminist’.”
Which is nice to hear—in fact, I wish I’d heard it from him myself, at any time during the campaign, ahem—although I’m not sure his private admission to feminist women whose support he was courting warrants the cover, particularly when there are prominent female politicians who have never been given such glowing treatment, despite being authentic feminist champions who are quite willing to publicly identify as feminist.
And would enthusiastically wear the actual shirt on their actual bodies in the actual physical world in actual reality.
It’s not that I don’t appreciate the sentiment–although it would have been nice (as McEwan said) to see the President-Elect actually f’real posing for the cover proudly wearing a feminist tee shirt. She continues:
Yet he’s represented here as a superfeminist, which reinforces the same old narrative we see played out over and over again when it comes to men’s participation in a “women’s domain”—the women of feminism (or parenthood, or housecleaning, or rape prevention, or early childhood education, or nursing, etc.) are doing What Women Do, but the men who engage strongly in these areas are ZOMG SO SPECIAL AND BRILLIANT AND SELFLESS AND HEROIC!!!!11!
Rarely does an image so perfectly, depressingly capture this phenomenon, this reflexive tendency to over-reward men for doing what, in a just world, would be the bare [effing] minimum to be considered a decent person.
I hope Ms. is right about Obama, but this cover looks like 70% wishful thinking plus 30% celebrity worship, which just makes the magazine look silly. Presidents aren’t supposed to be fluffed by their constituencies–they’re supposed to be pushed by them and even threatened by them. One thing you have to say about George W. Bush: he knew his base, and was extremely loyal to them. He was beholden to Evangelicals and right-wingers, and they took every opportunity to remind him of that.
UPDATED, later this morning. Oopsie! I missed other feminist blog commentary about this, as Knitting Clio pointed out in the comments below, both at her blog and at Feminist Law Professors, where Ann Bartow writes, “In 1972, the cover of Ms. featured Wonder Woman with the tag line ‘Wonder Woman for President.’ In 2008, Wonder Woman was on the cover of Playboy, and Ms. is instead symbolically looking to a male superhero to “rescue” feminism? Very problematic imagery, in my view.” Don’t you understand, Ann? Plastic pr0n boobies are so liberating! Who needs a woman in the White House when we can have plastic pr0n boobs?