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Is Time’s New Hillary Clinton Cover Sexist?

Is Time’s New Hillary Clinton Cover Sexist?

A picture is worth a thousand words, but sometimes people don’t entirely agree on what those words are. That appears to be the case with the cover of this month’s issue of Time Magazine, where a moderately high-heeled pump and pant-suited leg is used to embody the inevitable presidential run of former Senator, former Secretary of State and former First Lady Hillary Clinton.

Their disagreement? Whether or not the cover is sexist.

“I’m pretty sure it marks the official starting point for the next two years of talking about Hillary in the same old bullshit, sexist tone: she’s scary, she’s pushy, she’s stepping on men – guys, she is LITERALLY STEPPING ON A MAN IN THIS PHOTO – and oh, her high heels and her pantsuits,” writes Chloe Angyal at Feministing.

Amanda Marcotte, writing at Talking Points Memo, agrees. “It’s a direct, highly gendered provocation that strongly implies that electing Hillary Clinton would somehow be a tragic thing for men, and even some how ‘end’ men the way the man in the image is about to be ended through stomping,” writes Marcotte, who also calls it “a single cover image,” that “has successfully dashed any hopes that electing the first president who isn’t white would ease the passage for the next potential president who isn’t male.”

Even the attempts to look at it from both sides seem to fall flat. In Slate, Amanda Hess, trying to analyze the image from all viewpoints, still concludes:

On the other hand: A giant woman trampling over a measly businessman suggests a form of power beyond the political. 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, which also looms large over the image.

“[My thoughts] went something like this: ‘Wow, they couldn’t even be bothered to use a photo of her face. Wait, why is she crushing a tiny man? Is that what TIME thinks powerful women do? Dangle tiny men on their powerful yet stylish kitten heels?’” writes Nathalie O’Neill at Bustle, who then says, “It basically says that Hillary isn’t entitled to play the political game on equal footing with men.”

It seems that overall, I may be the only person who actually doesn’t think the cover is sexist. Perhaps that’s because unlike nearly every feminist writer I’ve come across, I don’t see the man on her heel as being “crushed,” “squashed,” “trampled” or in any other way diminished. He appears to be hanging onto her heel (literally) for dear life, and is in the process of being shaken off.

Over at The Frisky, Jessica Wakeman calls it correctly:

[T]his particular photo-illustration doesn’t set off my sexism alarm bells. It actually struck me as illustrating a powerful female candidate leaving a lesser man behind her in the dust because she is so much bigger/better. Hillary is stepping past her rival; the rival appears to be either jumping out of the way or clinging to her heel. It’s not the heel (the femininity) that is scary, per se, but the size (the toughness) of the opponent.

To me, it makes perfect sense. Even without declaring a candidacy, Clinton has become the frontrunner in the Democratic presidential nomination race. She quite literally leaves the other likely candidates, all of whom are male, nipping at her heels, and it is impossible for many of them to keep up. Also quite literally she has her own enormous shoes to fill, saddled not just with the expectations of her run and the fact that she would be expected to live up to the legacy of her own husband, but that she would be the first female candidate for president from a major party and potentially the first female president.

It’s a lot to pack into one cover image and, frankly, this picture nails it. This isn’t about domineering women and tiny, emasculated men. This is about a powerful candidate outrunning her rivals already, and the massive shadow her potential candidacy casts over the race. That the major candidate is a woman and the others are male is simply a result of the players that have to be invoked in the image.

Our society is inundated daily with sexist images in the media. This cover, in my opinion, isn’t one of them.

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Photo credit: Time Magazine

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174 comments

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12:42PM PST on Jan 22, 2014

No matter what Time puts on their cover, Mrs. Clinton still has my vote. May she win in 2016 and enlighten Time magazine.

6:00AM PST on Jan 22, 2014

Noted.

1:13AM PST on Jan 22, 2014

Thanks!

7:27PM PST on Jan 21, 2014

I think we could all use a dose of estrogen in the White House! Maybe then we could get some things done in a better than timely manner!

4:31PM PST on Jan 21, 2014

Idk.. I think they were just trying to get creative. This isn't necessarily a sexist cover image.

11:06AM PST on Jan 21, 2014

It doesn't look like she's stepping on him, it looks like he's trying to hang on to her walking shoe.

Had she been stepping on him he would have been under the front/toe of the shoe.

I'm a female veteran and I won't be voting for Hillary or any career politician. I've come to the conclusion that we keep electing the same people and ending up with a government that view us as property.

9:37AM PST on Jan 21, 2014

Hi All. Hillary may be the next USA president, but will she be universally accepted? NO WAY!
If Hillary does become President, I cannot help but feel that the rage of her enemies and eextremists will erupt like Krakatoa.

4:55AM PST on Jan 21, 2014

Macrophiloa?? She really thinks it's trying to portray some kind of crazy fetish no one's ever heard of? I think by showing the high heel it's showing just how powerful Hillary, or another woman can be. It's a positive image to me, showing that Hillary is strong and on the move! Here's to Hillary for president!

4:45AM PST on Jan 21, 2014

You people are crazy. If it was a mans foot wearing what men wear, there'd be nothing said, unless of course he was stepping on a woman. Is any image of a woman sexist?

2:58PM PST on Jan 20, 2014

Couldn't this picture also be interpreted that no one can keep up with her? She's ahead of the race? She's just that intelligent. She's always one step ahead. Also, this could be seen as Bill hanging onto Hillary. Her personality and image is larger than life. The world is looking to Hillary to run for office. I think it's time the US catch up with other industrialized nations and hire a woman to do the job.

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