Kryptonite? Ms. Magazine's inaugural issue

BlogHer Original Post

Some women are reacting to Ms. Magazine's new cover as though it is kryptonite. The magazine's special inaugural issue depicts President-elect Barack Obama as Superman, pulling aside his camera-ready red tie as he pops open a white button-down shirt to reveal the slogan, "This is what a FEMINIST looks like."

"Who at Ms. could possibly have thought this cover was in keeping with the mission of Ms.? ...Showing a man, any man, on the cover in the guise of a superhero doesn't really seem to fit with that," blogged PunditMom. "And is it in keeping with that mission for that man to be Barack Obama, a candidate who commented freely during the presidential campaign using sexist language about Hillary Clinton, talking about her emotions going up or down and having her claws out, among others?"

Tennessee Guerrilla Women provides a comprehensive round-up of a dozen critical links, and writes, "I will be overjoyed if Barack Obama proves to be a feminist or pro feminist president, but this preemptive and gushing teeny-bopper declaration that he is one -- on the cover of Ms. Magazine -- should be an embarrassment to feminists everywhere."

Perhaps anticipating this response, Publisher Ellie Smeal stated on

"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. Expectations have only grown since the election, with President-Elect Obama now enjoying over 80% of the public’s support. Most people wish him well, and indeed hope he does “save” us from economic disasters, unending war and occupation, global warming, the decline in our international reputation, and relentless attacks on women’s rights, civil rights, human rights, science, privacy…the list goes on..."

Is Ms. baldly noting that Mr. Obama might just need superpowers in order to resolve America's economic and military messes? Hey, solving the health care crisis will be harder than leaping tall buildings in a single bound.

Or could this cover even be a Ms. bow to Mr. Obama's accomplishment, overcoming racism to be elected as America's first Black president? (It can't hurt white feminist leaders to build that bridge after the controversy ignited by magazine co-founder Gloria Steinem in last year's New York Times editorial, in which she stated that gender (not racism) was probably the most restricting force in American life. Members of this community had something to say about that.)

Or is Ms. simply saying that guys can be feminists too?

"Wasn’t the first cover of Ms. Magazine an image of Wonder Woman?" asks The Frisky editor Wendy Atterberry. "So I think this Obama cover is a play on that, like the face of feminism can be a “super man” as much as a “wonder woman.”

It's true, 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. Sure, Superman's bulletproof and can fly without a plane, but he has serious trouble relating to women and sustaining long-term goals of what he wants to accomplish, plus he's an outcast from a dead world. Wonder Woman's vision -- peace -- exceeds her brawn, her military know-how and her own ego, which allows her to go incognito for awhile when her magical sisters send a new Wonder Woman to Earth after she disappears. (Don't worry, she's back, thanks in no small part to Steinem herself.) But I digress.

So tell -- what do you think? Do you think President-elect Obama belongs on the cover of Ms.? Can feminists have male heroes?

Photo credits: Ms. Magazine, Tennessee Guerilla Women. Please click on images for sources.


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