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Week in Review

The debate: Is Newsweek’s cover of Michele Bachmann sexist?

It’s been all the “rage” across media platforms this week: Is this Newsweek cover of GOP presidential candidate Michele Bachmann sexist?

As soon as Newsweek posted this TwitPic of the week's cover Aug. 7, the debate began over whether the image of Michele Bachmann is sexist.

The cover (right) features a close-up of a wide-eyed Bachmann with the headline “QUEEN OF RAGE” that some are saying makes her look “crazy.” The accompanying story has received far less attention.

This isn’t the first time Newsweek has come under fire for its cover of a female politician. Many on both sides have drawn comparisons to a cover of Sarah Palin in running shorts two years ago that was deemed “sexist.” (This also isn’t the first time charges of sexism toward Bachmann have come up in campaign coverage and its not likely to be the last.)

Conservative commentators, like Michelle Malkin, have said the image shows the mainstream media’s liberal bias and have particularly called into question the treatment of conservative women.

Jessica Grose at Slate’s XX Factor said the cover was “unnecessarily unflattering” and pulled out past covers of Republican male candidates that were done using a serious tone (though these were before current editor Tina Brown took over the magazine, as was the Palin cover). Jon Stewart made a similar criticism of Newsweek’s cover photo during “The Daily Show” this week, noting “…Here’s what you can’t say about Michele Bachmann: That she is not photogenic.” (Watch the video here).

The National Organization for Women spoke out against the cover through the Daily Caller. From NOW President Terry O’Neill:

“It’s sexist… Casting her in that expression and then adding ‘The Queen of Rage’ I think [it is]. Gloria Steinem has a very simple test: If this were done to a man or would it ever be done to a man – has it ever been done to a man? Surely this has never been done to a man.”

Gloria Steinem herself has called the photo “borderline.”

Others, like Joan Walsh, have said Brown has “nothing to apologize for.” She points to the fact that there are plenty of shots of “a deranged-looking” George W. Bush, John McCain and Howard Dean that have cropped up in the past. She also linked to a piece from 2006 with what she called “crazy-scary” cover images of Al Gore and Sen. Mark Warner.

As for Newsweek, Brown responded by defending the cover and releasing outtakes from the shoot to show the other options the magazine had and that display a “similar intensity.” In a statement, Brown said, “Michele Bachmann’s intensity is galvanizing voters in Iowa right now and Newsweek’s cover captures that.”

Bachmann herself has for the most part shrugged off questions about the cover by saying, “I didn’t pay a lot of attention to it really.”

What do you think? Is the cover sexist? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.

This is the Gender Report’s Week in Review, a weekly post that highlights some of the major stories related to gender issues this week. Some of these stories may have already appeared in our News Feed or in the week’s Gender Checks. We’ll at times include a longer analysis of stories as well as bring attention to stories that may have slipped through the cracks of the week’s news cycle.

About Jasmine Linabary

Jasmine Linabary is a PhD student with an interest in media, technology, and feminist theory. Her background is in newspaper journalism.

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