Many political observers thought that when Hillary Clinton gave us those 18 million cracks in the glass ceiling, that finally, FINALLY, women were going to be taken seriously as leaders. Unfortunately, those in the media who are more concerned with selling ads in magazines, as well as perpetuating the myth that the little ladies just don’t belong in a man’s political world, didn’t get that memo.
The editors at Newsweek outdid themselves with their most recent cover featuring Tea Party favorite and presidential candidate Michele Bachmann with a glazed over, deer-in-the-headlights gaze with the caption calling her “The Queen of Rage.” No matter what you think of her politics, or whether you’re a Democrat who’s been brave enough to lunch with her, how about if we try something refreshing like, I don’t know, using our words to show why we think she shouldn’t be President instead of using a crazy photo and name calling to get your points across?
Clearly, the choice of photo and headline – which I have to assume came with the blessing of publisher Tina Brown - was done with superb effect not only to boost magazine sales but also to send the message through political shorthand that Bachmann is an unstable crazy woman. That’s what much of our “news” has become — find ways to sensationalize to bring in more ad money through tried and true sensationalism.
Bachmann is in good company. She’s not the first woman, and I am sure she won’t be the last, the media will use this strategy with. Instead of portraying Hillary Clinton as a highly educated woman with a natural political ability the press turned her into a wrinkly hag who looked weak when watching the assassination of Osama bin Laden. Instead of focusing on whether former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin was qualified to be vice president, the media resorted to overly familiar shorthand sexist imagery to turn her into nothing more than a babe in short shorts.
Most recently, the New York Times portrayed Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who was elected to head the Democratic National Committee, as a nothing more than mom in a pink sweatsuit packing lunches for the kids, instead of as the powerful political player that she is, as former DNC Chair Tim Kaine was portrayed just two years earlier in a photo of him with the President, not with his kids in his kitchen.
Editors around the country continue to make women leaders the brunt of not-so-subtle sexist mockery, rather than taking the time to dissect whether it’s fair to portray political women as misguided chicks who are nothing more than outdated stereotypes of womanhood.
I had an even longer post percolating in my head about all this, but then I read David Wescott’s fabulous essay at his place, It’s Not a Lecture, and realized that if I had a friend who so wonderfully wrote about the big picture problem with the current Newsweek cover of Michele Bachmann and other political women, why reinvent the wheel? Plus, it’s pretty refreshing to have a guy take on these issues. But then again, David is a “Father of Intention!”