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Powerful Women Are Scary (and Kinky)

The Careerist

January 28, 2014

TimeMagazine-Jan2014Maybe my feminist radar is dimming. But I honestly can't understand why so many women are getting all bent out of shape about the recent cover of Time magazine (I know the New York Times magazine has its own controversial cover of Clinton, but I'm not getting into that).

The outrage isn't directed at the story (which analyzes—yawn—Hillary Clinton's presumptive run for the presidency) but what it shows: A giant woman striding with purposeful obliviousness while a tiny man hangs precariously on the heel of her shoe.

The blogsphere has been abuzzed with complaints that the image reinforces negative stereotypes about female ambition. As Samantha Escobar writes in Gloss, the image depicts successful women as "ruthless, arrogant, ball-crushing bitches who stomp on the sad rich white guys who are just trying to make an honest living in a world." (I'm cool with that, but that's just me.)

In Slate, Amanda Hess takes a deeper dive, finding all sorts of insidious sexual meanings behind the image. Here are some of Hess's fascinating (if bizarre) musings:

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…

I've heard of foot fetish, but macrophilia? How did I miss that one in college?

Hess's main point, though, is that women in power are often shown as a threat to men, rather than as "fair and square" rivals. She says that if you search for images of "feminist" and "businesswoman" on stock photo sites, you often come up with images like the Time cover. I thought she might have a point there, but then she lost me when she writes, "trample fetishists mine these “feminist” stock photos for masturbatory material."

Yuck. But seriously, does anyone believe that the Time cover is that arousing? If I didn't know better, I'd say that this is a parody analysis.

I think all these criticisms and (over)analysis of the Time cover point to our own (women's) self-consciousness about female power. Are we uncomfortable coming off a bit brazen and arrogant? Should we be?

I actually think the cover was mildly amusing, even "flattering" toward Hillary Clinton and powerful women. For one thing, the cover depicts a fairly attractive female form (not fat, not thin), wearing a tasteful pair of pants (flowy, not stiff), and a fashionable shoe (the heel is not too stumpy or too high).

Personally, I would have picked a pair of Jimmy Choos with a six-inch stiletto heel.

 E-mail me: vchen@alm.com     Follow me on Twitter: https://twitter.com/lawcareerist

 

Comments

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Yo, I like the cover. If I really have to get deeply into analyzing it, I see it as a man who is one of many (and so, I would have shown many) who've been trying to hold us back. We keep on walking. We are not held back. Scary? Not at all. The guy could just let go!
And I am not the biggest fan of Ms. Clinton. I am not even a self-proclaimed feminist. That is a name (among others) that folks like to throw at me though, when what I propose or advocate does not computer with their approach, or the outcome they want.
Love your writing - keep it up!

I also like the cover. It simply shows Hillary's step-ahead place in the current line up for the primaries.

I remember an evening many years ago when my husband came home from a poker game at an event for an international firm, where he worked. My husband walked in chuckling. A partner of his, in a good marriage with a Federal Judge, had asked him, in a boozy poker game (with women) if he wanted to know how to make powerful women happy. The answer: "Give them anything they want." Clearly that was a joke, but also largely true. (Except for your wives, you may not always want to make them happy. And in equal marriages, pushy, one-sided, requests are rare.) Jokes are allowed. So are images.

I now see how that cover can frighten away votes, and therefore was a bad idea for Hillary. The press does that, and it's reverse, all the time.

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About The Careerist

The Careerist takes an inside look at how lawyers shape their careers and manage their lives. The blog aims to dissect developments in the profession, provide useful information and advice, and give lawyers a platform to voice their views. The goal is to provide a fresh, provocative take on the state of lawyering.

About Vivia Chen

Vivia Chen

Vivia Chen, The Careerist's chief blogger, has been covering the business and culture of law firms for a decade. A former corporate lawyer, Chen is fascinated by those who thrive (as well as those who don't) in the legal profession. Her take: Success in the law (and life) doesn't always travel a linear path. If you have topics you'd like to discuss or information to share, contact her: VChen@alm.com

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