Is Newsweek's Michele Bachmann Cover Sexist?

What Women Really Think
Aug. 8 2011 10:49 AM

Is Newsweek's Michele Bachmann Cover Sexist?   

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The conservative blogosphere is out with guns blazing about the Michele Bachmann Newsweek cover photo. They're decrying Newsweek's anti-Republican bias, and they're also saying the photo is sexist. Tea Party queen Dana Loesch wrote of the wild-eyed Bachmann, "When your premise is an unflattering photo (and if you don’t have them you’re a liar or Miranda Kerr) to sell your bias, you just might be a chauvinist." (Loesch also invites readers to caption an unflattering photo of Newsweek editor Tina Brown). If you'll recall, two years ago, Newsweek faced similar criticism for using this photo of Sarah Palin in her running shorts:

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"The out-of-context Newsweek approach is sexist and oh-so-expected by now. If anyone can learn anything from it: it shows why you shouldn't judge a book by its cover, gender, or color of skin. The media will do anything to draw attention - even if out of context," Palin said at the time.

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That the magazine has a liberal bias under Tina Brown is debatable (see this image of Mitt Romney as a character from the Book of Mormon for evidence that supports Loesch et. al.), but charges of ongoing sexism from the magazine have a lot more back up. Before that Romney cover, almost all of the male Republican candidates from previous years were portrayed in a serious light. It should be noted that these covers were before Brown's time--but so was the Palin cover. See the following images of John McCain and Mike Huckabee:

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Even Rush Limbaugh--not a candidate, but a very prominent conservative--was not made out to be a joke:

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I hate it when Michele Bachmann makes me defend her, but I'm with Loesch on this one: The Newsweek cover was unnecessarily unflattering. I doubt Newsweek would portray a male candidate with such a lunatic expression on his face. As much as it pains me to admit it Bachmann is a legitimate candidate and major magazines should treat her like one.

Jessica Grose is a frequent Slate contributor and the author of the novel Sad Desk Salad. Follow her on Twitter.