“She’s a powerful woman; he’s a powerful man. It’s basically the female equivalent of the Clinton cover”

// 8 October 2008

Via Jezebel:


The photographer, Cliff Watts, composed the cover featuring Halle Berry because she has been named Esquire Magazine’s “Sexiest Woman Alive”. It’s a homage to the older cover, featuring Bill Clinton, on the left.

But are the images equivalent, as Watts says?

“When I first looked at the image, I thought, Are we really gonna do this with Halle? But after I talked to her about it, it just seemed right. She’s a powerful woman; he’s a powerful man. It’s basically the female equivalent of the Clinton cover. There’s a sensitivity and a sexuality there, but also the strength.”

As Dodai says at Jezebel:

So, um, why isn’t she wearing pants?

Comments From You

Bee // Posted 8 October 2008 at 11:17 am

Er, nooo…. they’re not equivalent. To be equivalent, Bill would’ve had to be shirtless and in his Y-fronts. Eek.

JENNIFER DREW // Posted 8 October 2008 at 11:24 am

Are the photos equivalent – yes like the colours red and blue are equivalent!! So why is Clinton depicted wearing pants whereas Halle Berry is depicted as a ‘sexualised commodity’ for men to leer at? Answer because women are not human only men are and women are men’s sexualised commodities.

Note too Berry is showing cleavage so why isn’t Clinton depicted as wearing very tight knickers. Equivalent? Just shows how far we have to go to demolish belief women are not human but just men’s sexualised disposable commodities.

Stephanie // Posted 8 October 2008 at 11:39 am


If Clinton had been pictured pantless, shirtless and wearing a bra….maybe it would have been equivalent. Alas, no.

Leigh Woosey // Posted 8 October 2008 at 11:40 am

Thanks Clifford! I am now ashamed of my own gender and I could do with a bit of self loathing before lunch!


just *headdesk*

over and over again.

Sabre // Posted 8 October 2008 at 11:59 am

Hmm. On the one hand I get how this is annoying and yes, if it was meant to be equivalent she should be wearing trousers or something. However Halle Berr is not a world famous politician (to the best of my knowledge), she is an actress, and for actors and actresses looks and sex appeal are always factors in success. If she was a businesswoman or politician/similar this image would be outrageous.

I don’t like this image because there is nothing ‘powerful’ about it – she’s half-dressed, wearing a man’s tie and placed next to the Bill Clinton cover it looks like she’s playing dress-up in his clothes. If she was wearing the shirt and trousers she might look powerful, but then why should she have to wear mens clothes to achieve this?

Jennifer-Ruth // Posted 8 October 2008 at 12:04 pm

Because female power is derived wholly from our sexuality! Duh!!! The most powerful thing about us is our ability to be treated as sexual objects…oh, sorry, I meant our ability to enslave men with our boobs.

Poor Halle.

Weirdly enough, I had a dream a few nights ago that involved me, Halle and Sarah Palin peeling carrots in Halle’s kitchen. What does it mean?!

Cara // Posted 8 October 2008 at 12:50 pm


One is soft porn.

The other is a guy sitting, fully dressed in a business suit. OK his legs are apart…and? I see men sitting with them further apart on the bus.

The Clinton image is only sexual if you make the mistake that for men sexy=powerful.

The Halle Berry photo could just as well be in Nuts or Zoo ffs.

Shea // Posted 8 October 2008 at 1:20 pm

There is also the way they are posed. Halle is leaning forward, its an inviting, slightly submissive pose whereas Clinton leans back ,which to my mind smacks of “what can you do for me?” and is much more powerful. He also has that self satisfied smug look on his face too, which Halle lacks.

Also is it just me or do Clinton’s hands look massive in this photo?

Flo // Posted 8 October 2008 at 2:04 pm

Asides from the obvious difference in clothing, it also strikes me that the picture is taken differently…

The photo of Bill appears to have been taken by someone crouching down in front of him, which (in addition to making his hands look amusingly big if you switch your depth perception off) adds to his appearance of power. By contrast, Halle’s photo appears to have been taken from around the height of her chest, enhancing her appearance of, er, chestliness. So even if she had been fully dressed, I don’t think she would have looked as powerful. The photographer may not have purposefully set out to make her look less powerful in this way, but it’s all about assumptions of how men and women should appear – we can’t have actresses risking disproportionately large hands, because they might not look so sexy (gasp), but it’s ok for Clinton because his power isn’t seen as lying in his appearance.

Maggie // Posted 8 October 2008 at 2:40 pm

Yes she isn’t wearing trousers and she forgot to put on her shirt.

Sitting with your legs apart is a power thing.

Levantate // Posted 8 October 2008 at 3:52 pm

The Halle Berry image is sexualised in a way that the Clinton cover is not. Looking at the two together just makes it even more obvious, and insulting to women.

Jacqui // Posted 8 October 2008 at 5:10 pm

god its so depressing – its so obvious- how could she be so STUPID – powerful – in comparison to Clinton? I really do think sometimes this a fight we’ll never win.

Ellie // Posted 8 October 2008 at 5:12 pm

Plus the whole ‘woman sitting with her legs apart’ isn’t a symbol of power or domination for women, its seen as a symbol of sexual availability. So if it was supposed to be equivalent in meaning, Berry would be posed with her legs positioned differently.

Tom // Posted 8 October 2008 at 9:39 pm

Err.. the Clinton one is taken straight from the Leni Riefenstahl playbook. Shot from below, the heroic figure of our awe, strong and in charge (see: http://www.historyplace.com/worldwar2/triumph/triumph-will9b.jpg). The most aparent difference, Clintons hands and deliberatley the focus. They arefirmly atop his knee, they, more than anything else, are the visual manifestation of his power. Everything else confirms the power his hands represent – the suit, the tiw, the smug grin. Halle, in case you had not noticed, does not have her hands on her knee. Her hands are at the end of her thighs as though pushing her legs apart. The implication, by the confident near-grin in her smile, is that she gets her authority, her power, from her sexuality. Considering she’s only on the cover because she won the “sexiest woman alive” award, perhaps we should be thankfull. It remarkably more tastefull in that regard than anything I’ve seen in a UK ‘Lads mag’ publication.

Aimee // Posted 9 October 2008 at 9:08 am

… Also with regards to the angles the photographs are taken from… Clinton’s is taken from a low angle which makes him appear towering and as if we’re looking up to him. Halle’s on the other hand is taken straight on, giving the impression that she is accessable. The subtle differences speak so many volumes.

Bee // Posted 9 October 2008 at 10:11 am

That’s so interesting how you’ve all pointed out the differences in angle, etc. It’s obvious when you look, but the differences in how they’re dressed are so glaring that I initially overlooked the more subtle differences. Such nonsense they are described as equivalent – maybe if she was wearing a business suit, rather than half of one, it would be closer. But then as someone pointed out above, she’s a Hollywood star (and “sex symbol”), not a politician or businesswoman, so I guess they were never going to do it in any other way. But please, Esquire… don’t pretend these pictures are in any way equivalent!

It just reinforces the idea that the only way women can hold power is through their sexuality. What a shame that so many women have been indoctrinated with this idea.

maggie // Posted 9 October 2008 at 12:11 pm

I forgot to add that had a woman, dressed just like Halle but the same age as Clinton, been sitting with her legs apart….

The picture tells you all you need to know about how women are perceived in society. It speaks volumes.

Laurel Dearing // Posted 9 October 2008 at 1:34 pm

i agree with what everyone said, but i guess shes like that coz she was named sexiest woman. clinton wasnt named sexiest man as far as i can imagine. was there a sexiest man award? as for saying its an equivalent thats blatant BS

lisa // Posted 9 October 2008 at 1:57 pm

Surely Condelezza Rice or Angela Merkel are the most powerful women in the world at the moment ?! The Queen ?! Hilary Clinton ?! On the other hand I’m glad that this clearly says that no matter how well educated, powerful a women is – all that matters is how attractive she is. It’s what women sadly suspect in their heart of hearts. The bitter truth is we have to take French-Italian female politicians as our role models – and look like models AS WELL AS be successful and powerful politicians. Better the truth is out and we can prepare our daughters for the harsh realities of life than pretend otherwise.

Danielle // Posted 9 October 2008 at 6:07 pm

(Jennifer-Ruth) Peeling carrots eh? I’m sure a few things could be read into that…

starsign // Posted 2 November 2008 at 4:51 pm

Halle Berry will continue to pose in these types of photos for two main reasons, 1) ego, 2) money. Female celebrities, like Berry, play a part in the misogynistic, sexist, ageist, society we live in. They buy into the idea that they MUST look sexy, young and desirable. They are in a business that values beauty and youth above all else. They are constantly being fed compliments on their looks. They are lauded for their physical beauty. They are held up as examples of what women SHOULD be. They are victims of the superficial crap that is thrown at women from the media and society. Some of these women go to great lengths to stay thin, young looking and beautiful. Diets, plastic surgery, killer workout routines are all part and parcel of their desperation to be SEEN as sexy and desirable. Celebs like Berry are also paid bucket loads of money to pout and pose and look seductive. Their egos and wallets can’t say no.

How do we fight against sexism when women like Berry agree to be objectified?

Tony Moll // Posted 3 November 2008 at 10:49 am


“How do we fight against sexism when women like Berry agree to be objectified?”

Would you rather take away her right to be justified? The way to fight sexism is to fight cases where women rights are under threat not by complaining about how individual women use their rights.

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