Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has not yet said one way or the other whether she intends to run again for president in 2016. But that hasn’t stopped the chattering classes from dissecting every single item related to a “Hillary ’16” run ad nauseum. The latest iteration is the TIME magazine cover this week: a coverline reading “Can Anyone Stop Hillary?” over a photo-illustration of a huge, high-heeled woman in a pantsuit stepping past a miniature man who jumps out of the way.
See the full image after the jump:
Over at Femisting, blogger Chloe Angyal called the image “lazy” and asked why the media can’t discuss “female politicians without talking about their freaking shoes.” She wrote: “[It’s] 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.” The cover has also provoked much retweeting of a Tumblr post by Jessica Valenti about high heels and emasculated men and a “Feminism, According To Stock Photography” post on New York magazine’s web site. There have been complaints on Twitter that the pantsuit is “frumpy” (really? all we can see is part of a leg) and that the heel used to illustrate Hillary’s footwear is a “sensible heel,” which is code for “unsexy.”
Angyal is right that the cover is lazy. It is tiring to see images of men being stepped on/over with high heels illustrating so many articles about successful women outpacing men — i.e. symbolizing a cliche male fear. And it’s tiring for high heels to illustrate powerful women, period. Women do wear other footwear, you know. To be sure, it is sexist for a feminine article of clothing to always be used as a symbol of female political power.
But while I understand those interpretations, this 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.
What do you think about the TIME cover? Tell us in the comments.