1. News & Issues

Will Obama Be a Feminist President? The Controversial Ms. Magazine Inaugural Issue Cover

By January 19, 2009

Follow me on:

Will Barack Obama be a feminist president? Ms. magazine thinks so. And they've published a special inaugural edition with Obama on the cover, ripping open the chest of his dress shirt-and-tie la Clark Kent to reveal (instead of superhero spandex) a t-shirt declaring, "This is what a feminist looks like."

Explaining why the iconic women's issues magazine went with what's turning out to be a controversial cover, Eleanor Smeal -- the publisher of Ms. and president of the Feminist Majority Foundation -- explains in the Huffington Post:

It's not every day Ms. puts a man on its cover.

In choosing the cover for this special Inaugural issue, Ms. wanted to capture both the national and feminist mood of high expectations and hope as the 44th President of the United States takes the oath of office....

When the chair of the Feminist Majority Foundation board, Peg Yorkin, and I met Barack Obama, he immediately offered "I am a feminist." And better yet, he ran on the strongest platform for women's rights of any major party in American history.

Noting that "we are in one of those rare transformational times in history," Smeal argues that we need to think big to move forward at this extraordinary moment.

But many women believe Smeal and Ms. are not thinking big but thinking wrongly. BlogHer co-founder Lisa Stone reports on this in "Kryptonite? Ms. Magazine's inaugural issue." She cites the comments of several bloggers and women's organizations who are unhappy with the Ms. decision.

One of those is Washington, DC blogger PunditMom, who asks "Do Feminists Need a Male Superhero?" and writes:

I wanted to put my finger on exactly why I had a gut negative reaction to this cover. I don't have a philosophical objection to a man on the cover of Ms. My problem is that they chose to portray President-elect Barack Obama as a superhero who will swoop in and use his superhuman feminist cred to save women.

Sorry, I'm just really uncomfortable with that.

A forum at hillarysvillage.net has 50 comments on the cover decision, the majority of them negative, and over at TheNewAgenda.net, a non-partisan group for women's rights, co-founder Amy Siskind spoke with CNN about the controversy:
The problem with the cover is it's a man standing in a superman pose, and thank you, but the women of this country can stand up for themselves....If they had put "Is This the Face of Feminism?" instead of "This Is the Face of Feminism" it would have been a provocative cover. But I think by proclaiming it, it was a real mistake.
BlogHer co-founder Stone closes her post with a consideration of Superman and Wonder Woman, observing:
Ms. Magazine's January 1972 issue proclaimed, "Wonder Woman for President," depicting her as a 50-foot brains-meets-brawn woman who rescued whole neighborhoods with her golden lasso. As a life-long comic-book geek, I'd like to point out that Wonder Woman is arguably as physically strong as Superman, mentally more prepared for battle and a lot less creepy than the guy in the red cape....[who] has serious trouble relating to women and sustaining long-term goals of what he wants to accomplish....
For a look at the many commentaries opposed to the Ms. cover, Tennessee Guerilla Women has a thorough roundup.


March 10, 2011 at 11:20 am
(1) Ruthie spates says:

why would any one think amout a supper hero, to day when Ameica is turn up side down who cares, awoman or a man we need help Wake up America you have failed in so manythings supper hero’s are my least concern.

Leave a Comment

Line and paragraph breaks are automatic. Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title="">, <b>, <i>, <strike>

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.