By now, you've likely seen Time magazine's new Hillary Clinton cover (opens in new tab) that's been labeled (opens in new tab) lazy, sexist, and depressingly overdone. And just in case you haven't, here you go:
Let's put aside my primary problem with the issue: The fact that the man dangling from the heel looks more like a dancer from F.A.M.E's musical poster (opens in new tab), which frustrates me because it's one of my favorite musicals ever and this cover is not. Just kidding—my primary issue is that there's still half a presidential term left and that Clinton has not yet announced her plans for 2016. But let's put that small detail aside and take a gander at the cover making waves across the Internet (opens in new tab).
According to Nancy Gibbs, Time magazine's first female managing editor, the cover story really focuses on Clinton's undeniably powerful path to the Democratic nomination. Gibbs told MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell (opens in new tab) on Thursday that, "in a way, [Clinton] is a force that we have not seen before in how much bigger and more powerful she is terms of being able to raise money, build a network, her name recognition, the attention she can command, whatever she says or does."
Why, then, deliberately select imagery that undercuts the very power the magazine is recognizing by reducing the whole cover story to that picture? The depiction of a woman crushing a man with her high heel is a common, absurd metaphor for strong women for many reasons, (among other things, a high heel is the least effective shoe to wear for the soul purpose of crushing someone. A boot would be far more useful). The concept was most recently lampooned by Jessica Valenti (opens in new tab) and on The Cut, with its "Feminism According to Stock Photography" (opens in new tab) story.
The decision to lead an issue with an image of Clinton's iconic pantsuit and a reasonably comfortable high heel instead of a portrait of her face was another factor that raised eyebrows. Clinton has appeared on Time's cover before (opens in new tab), usually in the portrait form. Yet for a story specifically about her forceful presidential nomination prospects, the magazine decides to run with an image of her shoe in the most predictable fashion?
So may I request one small favor of the media? Get it all out now. (I thought you got it all out in 2008, but I guess there's still some straggling sexism left to help create some buzz?) The real disappointment would be if such covers cropped up when/if Clinton actually announces her plans to run for president.
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