MS declares Obama feminist super hero

// 14 January 2009

It was sort of inevitable, no? Get your own copy from Ms magazine.

Or join in the debate about what it all means:

Is the cover a giddy celebration of the feminist potential in the Obama administration or a patronizing depiction of feminism’s “male savior”?

Hat tip: Ben Cornish

Update: Read what MS publisher Eleanor Smeal has to say about their choice.

Photo by QueenofSpainErin, shared under a Creative Commons license

Comments From You

Laurel Dearing // Posted 14 January 2009 at 3:06 pm

i stay pretty suspicious but its an achievement these days for any man to say they stand up for womens’ rights these days sadly. it takes a bit of courage to in such a high place in office. *sigh* so for now… yay

Kez // Posted 14 January 2009 at 3:36 pm

Definitely don’t find it patronising. I don’t think he is being depicted as “feminism’s male saviour” – I don’t get that feeling from the cover at all. It’s saying he is “a” feminist, not “the” feminist.

I say – yay for Obama.

JenniferRuth // Posted 14 January 2009 at 4:02 pm

Well, it’s just a photoshopped picture, isn’t it? It would be pretty cool if he had actually worn that t-shirt in the real, physical world, rather than just metaphorically.

To be honest, there is part of me that almost feels happy that Obama said he was a feminist. But when you think about it, how sad is that? How sad is it that we all get excited over a man saying that he believes men and women deserve to be treated equally?

We should be *expecting* people to be feminists just as we should expect them not to be racists/homophobic/ableist/etc. i.e. not an asshole.

Treating men like they are a superhero just because they have simply *said* they are feminist? Wow.

We tend to over-reward men when they do the bare minimum of feminist work – I know I do it. But I think getting excited over Obama wearing a photoshopped t-shirt is taking it a bit too far.

Catherine Redfern // Posted 14 January 2009 at 5:29 pm

Just to say that Borders shops in the UK usually stock Ms Magazine. It’s sometimes in the Culture section, but sometimes its in the Gay/Lesbian section, so look there if you can’t find it in Culture. This issue may not have reached our shores yet though!

Anne Onne // Posted 14 January 2009 at 6:35 pm

I think Liss at Shakesville sums up the reasons to be reserved about this very well.

It would be much easier to like the cover if Obama had actually publicly stated that he is a feminist, or you know, actually worn the t-shirt. As it is, this all feels a bit premature seeing as he hasn’t done much yet. He may do a lot to undo some of the damage that Bush has already wrought, but there have been plenty of things in his speeches to make us wary of just how progressive he may or may not be.

Dare I even link to The Onion’s ‘Man finally put in charge of ailing feminist movement’? Whilst I don’t think this is quite the same, there is an element of this involved. Obama hasn’t done or said anything particularly radical, so applauding him for saying he’s a feminist behind closed doors is a bit too much.

Whilst I like him and hope he will do great things, I’m worried that this may be a case of the ‘dad taking kids out for a second is a superhero’. I would love to see him publicly identify with feminism, and put his money where his mouth is, but whilst I have hopes I do think it’s all too soon to be painting him as a hero. We need all the allies we can get, and he’ll definitely do more for equal rights than Bush, but whilst I’m happy with him identifying with feminism in any kind of way, it would be nice to have something more tangible, and more recognition of those that are much more public about women’s rights.

Emily // Posted 14 January 2009 at 7:19 pm

I think it would have been better if he wasn’t clearly in the superman pose. Why couldn’t they have him just wearing the te-shirt. Or holding it up. The superhero imagery I think is veeery questionable.

zohra moosa // Posted 14 January 2009 at 9:53 pm

Hi Emily

I thought maybe it was a follow-up to the Spider Man situation

zohra moosa // Posted 14 January 2009 at 10:12 pm

Hi Anne Onne

Do you really think ‘he hasn’t done much yet’ for feminism or put ‘his money where his mouth is’? What about all his work on domestic violence legislation? And his positions and voting record on health care, reproductive rights, and LGB issues?

This doc (pdf) has more details.

Anne Onne // Posted 15 January 2009 at 6:55 pm

@ Zohra: Thanks for the link. I had been aware of a lot of the stuff he did/supports, but it’s good to see a handy breakdown and learn a few more things. I admit, it looks very good. to clarify, I meant that since he’s only now becoming President, he hasn’t yet done the things he promises. I don’t feel he’s on the cover because of what he achieved as Senator, but rather what he may yet achieve, and personally, I don’t feel like celebrating just yet. *

There are elements that could be better, which is what a lot of the feminist blogosphere rightly points out.

Overall, it’s hard to say where I am on the issue. Whilst I can see the artistic reasons for the superman pose, it feels to be too soon for me. I’m sure he’s made some good decisions so far in his job as Senator, and I hope for a lot of good things from him (and reversals of bad things), but it feels really odd to see an artistic impression of Obama on the cover of Ms. magazine, before he’s even been in office. I expected more trepidation, more ‘are you going to be an ally?’ grilling of a politician.

It seems too soon to declare him a feminist superhero. It’s not personal: he seems like an all round great guy, as well as a charismatic policician and very intelligent person. But considering the marginalised groups are often very easily left to the side, and platform promises forgotten or changed, maybe I’m afraid to get my hopes up too much.

In conclusion, it’s not that in his previous job he hasn’t done anything (he has) or that he hasn’t got a progressive stance on many issues (he has) but that he’s just starting as President, and I feel it premature to celebrate an achievement that hasn’t happened, and an announcement he hasn’t made. I hope that 4, or even 8 years from now, we’ll be able to look back on that cover with a smile.

* All this from someone who watched the TV and online coverage constantly, despite having an exam to prepare for, and was ecstatic for days after he won. He’s already been amazing for offering so much hope to people, and if nothing else, even bringing up these issues is more than what the Republicans would have done.

Sabre // Posted 19 January 2009 at 4:58 pm

Catherine Redfern

Which Borders stores stock Ms magazine? I went to Oxford Circus and found Bitch. I went to Charing Cross Road and found Bust*. I didn’t find Ms though. Any helpful tips?

*it tickles me to say Bitch and Bust together, hehe

Catherine Redfern // Posted 19 January 2009 at 7:19 pm

Hi Sabre – I usually see it in both of those stores normally, so maybe they haven’t got the new issue in stock yet. Like I said it’s sometimes a bit random where they shelve it, so keep looking!

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