Photo: Courtesy of Time.
It's a sad (but true) state of affairs: So often when a magazine puts a woman on its cover, it's a cause for debate. Maybe she's too Photoshopped; perhaps the retouching was skipped altogether as a shock-value tactic. Then, there's messaging to consider, nuance to nitpick. Either way, it's not always a pretty picture when a woman with serious ambitions lands on a mag cover. Case in point: Time magazine's current Hillary Clinton cover.
The cover depicts a giant pantsuited leg stepping through the frame, while a tiny man clings to the giant's kitten heel. (Giant = Hillary Clinton, in case the pantsuit-and-kitten-heel references passed you by.) And, the debate has already started. "[The image] basically says that Hillary isn’t entitled to play the political game on equal footing with men," writes Bustle's Nathalie O'Neill. "Instead, the very idea that she might even be thinking of running for president in 2016 is depicted as a threat that will lead to the emasculation of men everywhere."
Nancy Gibbs, the magazine's first female managing editor, appeared on MSNBC yesterday to discuss the cover with Andrea Mitchell. Gibbs defended the image as a visual way to demonstrate Clinton's advantage over any other potential Democratic candidates. “We could have done any number of men or women who might be trying to catch up to her and slow her down, but what we looked at in the story is just how hard it will be for any Democrat looking to block her path to the nomination to stop her because of really unique advantages that she brings,” Gibbs explained. “In a way, she is a force that we have not seen before in terms of how much bigger and more powerful she is.... It is unique in our history really, and we wanted to capture the challenge that that poses to anyone else that might have their eye on the White House.”
So, on one hand, the cover adds to the sexist notion that women can only exert real power at the expense of men. On the other, the cover is actually pretty boring — it's not like they've Photoshopped Clinton into a pair of boxing gloves, or something ridiculous like that. In the mag's defense, we can understand a desire to convey a message in a new way — after all, Time has featured Clinton's portrait numerous times on the cover. But, is this really the best way to shake things up? Should we expect more from the magazine's first female managing editor? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!