I’ve been meaning to write on that absurd, and frankly tabloid-worthy Newsweek cover photo of Michele Bachmann, mostly to give props to Terry O’ Neill, of the National Organization for Women, who has kept her word since declaring that “from here on” (meaning from the point of the 2010 elections) she was going to speak up when female candidates — even conservative ones — were subjected to sexism. Not that my opinion would matter, but I doubted she’d do it, and she’s proved me wrong; O’Neill did the right thing in calling out Newsweek, even though it went against her grain:
“It’s the combination of they snap the photo of her with her eyes very wide – people call it ‘crazy eyed’ – plus that huge label they slap on her as the Queen of Rage,” O’Neill continued. “Her policy positions are diametrically opposed to NOW’s positions and I intend to defeat her. That’s my job. But no male politician is treated this way. As much as I disagree with everything she stands for, she is a serious viable candidate for the United States presidency and there is no male viable candidate who has ever been treated this way.”
“What you’re talking about is sending a message to good women everywhere who would be wonderful presidents that they better not to step out of line, that they better not try to be leaders in the political sphere because they will be shamed – and that’s what this cover does.”
It was good, and gutsy, of O’Neill to go against Our Lady of the Air Kiss, but her complaint is only partially valid. As demonstrated here, if Tina Brown likes a female candidate — and she adores Hillary Clinton — then her magazine is perfectly capable of choosing a flattering cover photo over a bad shot that any professional journalist worth her salt would reject. Terry O’Neill seems not to realize that it is mainly women of a conservative bent who cannot trust mainstream media to do the right, and fair, thing.
I agree it was not sexist; this is simply malice married to unprofessionalism and fornicating on the side with partisanship; it has less to do with the content of one’s chromosomes, than the character of the editor. I am quite sure that given the opportunity, Newsweek under Tina Brown will publish harshly-lit cover photographs emphasizing Chris Christie’s chins; Tim Pawlenty’s nose hairs or Sarah Palin’s broad jawline (oops, been there, done that!) while surrounding President Obama with halos, his wife in soft light and flowing fabrics, and Nancy Pelosi with tastefulness and artful airbrushing.
It’s childish, of course, and in the end, it says a great deal more about Newsweek and its editors than it does about any of the candidates — when I look at that Bachmann cover I don’t think “crazy eyes, crazy lady.” What I think is, “what an small, nutty editor.”