Maybe my feminist radar is dimming. But I honestly can’t understand why so many women are getting all bent out of shape about the recent cover of Time magazine (I know The New York Times Magazine has its own controversial cover of Clinton, but I’m not getting into that).
The outrage isn’t directed at the story (which analyzes—yawn—Hillary Clinton’s presumptive run for the presidency) but what it shows: A giant woman striding with purposeful obliviousness while a tiny man hangs precariously on the heel of her shoe.
The blogsphere has been abuzzed with complaints that the image reinforces negative stereotypes about female ambition. As Samantha Escobar writes in Gloss, the image depicts successful women as “ruthless, arrogant, ball-crushing bitches who stomp on the sad rich white guys who are just trying to make an honest living in a world.” (I’m cool with that, but that’s just me.)
In Slate, Amanda Hess takes a deeper dive, finding all sorts of insidious sexual meanings behind the image. Here are some of Hess’s fascinating (if bizarre) musings:
The cover trades in the imagery of several sexual fetishes—macrophilia, in which (mostly) male fetishists get off on images of (mostly) female giants; trampling, in which (mostly) female dominant parties walk all over (mostly) male submissives; and the common foot fetish…
I’ve heard of foot fetish, but macrophilia? How did I miss that one in college?
Hess’s main point, though, is that women in power are often shown as a threat to men, rather than as “fair and square” rivals. She says that if you search for images of “feminist” and “businesswoman” on stock photo sites, you often come up with images like the Time cover. I thought she might have a point there, but then she lost me when she writes, “trample fetishists mine these “feminist” stock photos for masturbatory material.”
Yuck. But seriously, does anyone believe that the Time cover is that arousing? If I didn’t know better, I’d say that this is a parody analysis.
I think all these criticisms and (over)analysis of the Time cover point to our own (women’s) self-consciousness about female power. Are we uncomfortable coming off a bit brazen and arrogant? Should we be?
I actually think the cover was mildly amusing, even “flattering” toward Hillary Clinton and powerful women. For one thing, the cover depicts a fairly attractive female form (not fat, not thin), wearing a tasteful pair of pants (flowy, not stiff), and a fashionable shoe (the heel is not too stumpy or too high).
Personally, I would have picked a pair of Jimmy Choos with a six-inch stiletto heel.
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