We get it. Selling magazines is tough. As a feminist nonprofit swimming in publishing world, we know how hard it is to keep your head above water. (Completely unrelated: Do you have your Bitch magazine digital subscription yet?) But some magazines feel the need to push their publication with provocative cover photos and headlines in order to compete with the Huffington Post. Here are some recent offenders:
The Cover: Here we have a "conventionally" attractive (thin, white, blond, young) woman breastfeeding her child. This could have been an opportunity for TIME to say "A woman breastfeeding her child in public: Really not that big a deal." But the exposed breast, model-esque mom, the three-year-old (who looks twenty four)—this isn't mean to make a statement about breastfeeding, it's meant to titillate and provoke.
The Headline: "Are you mom enough?" I know! You forgot about this headline immediately because SIDE BOOB. THAT KID LOOKING RIGHT AT YOU. No matter how you feel about attachment parenting (the subject of the article), this headline isn't only gender essentialist (hey dads, parents, and caretakers—are you mom enough?) it's classic "mommy war"–baiting bullshit. I'm sure they had "Motherhood and Feminism: TWO ENTER ONE LEAVES" as an original title but they had to scramble for something else when the New York Times beat them to it.
The Cover: A thin, white model, blindfolded (to the nines!), presumably topless, wearing red lipstick. It looks like someone handed the art director a copy of Jean Kilbourne's documentary Killing Us Softly about harmful images of gender and advertising and said "We're going for something a little like this!"
The Headline: "The Fantasy Life of Working Women: Why surrender is a feminist dream." Ugh, this again? The article is actually a Katie Roiphe–penned piece about how "empowered" working women are pathetically turning to domination in the bedroom. Because 50 Shades of Grey! </argument>
The Cover: From book covers to op-eds, Western media loves reducing the complex lives of Muslim women to two eyes staring out from a scary and oppressive head scarf. This imagery implies that sporting a niqab, chador, veil, hijab, burqa, etc. means you're oppressed, and that wearing it is something women are subjected to, never something they choose for themselves. This cover is no different, and the weird black body paint on a naked woman makes it even worse. As Sherene Seikaly and Maya Mikdashi put it, the cover "[invites us] to sexualize and rescue her at once," and the takeaway message is "The female body is to be consumed, not covered."
The Headline: "Why Do They Hate Us?" Um, I guess you get some credit for not saying "Beyond the Veil," right? Mona Eltahawy's meditation on women in the Middle East has sparked controversy, but one thing's clear: This cover and its accompanying images are not appropriate for an article about women in the Middle East. Oh, and thanks, Foreign Policy, for finally covering this topic—for your "sex" issue.
The Cover: My first thought upon seeing this was "They've finally done it. They're making full-formed babies out of recycled plastic and bright blue LED lights." It turns out "this blue-eyed little angel [is] warning us of America's coming obesity crisis." Hey Newsweek, this giant creepy Photoshopped baby is disturbing because it's a giant creepy Photoshopped baby, not because of "obesity epidemic" scare tactics.
The Headline: "When I grow up, I'm going to weigh 300 lbs. Help!" Besides the obvious fat shaming, Melissa McEwan at Shakesville broke down some other aspects of the cover already :
I just want to point out the assumption that the baby is female and note that "she" is a "blue-eyed angel," in order that we may be extra worried about the possibility that she will grow up to be a fat white lady who fails to fulfill her primary purpose as privileged sex object for straight men. Sure, sayeth Newsweek, it's terrible when white dudes and people of color are fat because gross I MEAN HEALTH, but it's a GODDAMNED TRAGEDY when a nice blue-eyed white girl weighs THREE HUNDRED FUCKING POUNDS (guess how much this blue-eyed white girl weighs? go on, guess!) and ruins what could have been a perfectly good opportunity for straight men to sexualize her.
And unfortunately this isn't going to be the last we see of provocative covers. Did I miss any? Share them in the comments!
Update 5/15/2012: Newsweek is not going to be out-done by a little side boob! I just had to share this week's cover because of its redonkulousness.
The Cover: Is that...a hula hoop? Why the savior face? Sure he's the first president to say he supports same-sex marriage, but that doesn't grant him sainthood, nor does it mean he's....
The Headline: "The First Gay President." What? WHAT. Apparently writer Andrew Sullivan makes this comparison because Obama "had to discover his black identity and then reconcile it with his white family, just as gays discover their homosexual identity and then have to reconcile it with their heterosexual family." As any multiracial queer person can tell you, it is not that simple. But also, POTUS has enough trouble with people questioning his citizenship and religious views, let's not give him one more incendiary (and more importantly, untrue—Barack Obama does not identify as gay!) attribution. Plus, what message does this send to openly gay politicians with presidential ambitions? "Sorry, you can hang your hula-hoop halo dreams up! A straight dude beat you to it."