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University of Wisconsin–Madison

Gargantuan heels and face planets: Portraying women of power in media

At first glance, this month’s TIME cover featuring a woman’s leg in a pantsuit may appear like a just another generic cover photo.

However, a more careful look at the royal blue, pantsuit-clad back leg in full stride, as if it’s almost walking off the cover, while a small male figure in a suit desperately hangs from the gargantuan black-but-modest heel, may prompt a few questions.

The first: What is going on here, exactly?

TIME cover - Hillary Clinton

The cover, headlined “Can Anyone Stop Hillary?” sparked a vigorous online conversation about media’s portrayal of females and the consequences of using stereotypes to depict women of power.

Amanda Hess, writing for Slate, acknowledged TIME‘s nod to Clinton’s potential Presidential competition as a group of “comparatively powerless men.” However, she warns against depicting female political ambition as just another stereotype.

Clinton’s presumptive bid to become the first female president does position her as a powerhouse poised to stomp through the patriarchal status quo. But when publications like Time frame that feminist pursuit with images of women in pointy heels that leave feminized male “victims” in their wake, they undermine the female politician’s power even as they attempt to acknowledge it.

Read the entire article here.

The NYT Magazine recently presented another side of Clinton–her face. The former Secretary of State’s smiling face appeared as a planet at the center of an exploding red and blue cosmos on the recent cover.

NYT Magazine cover - HillaryClintonSamantha Grossman of TIME, which had already published the faceless Clinton cover, described The NYT Magazine’s depiction of Clinton as “bizarre.”

This week’s New York Times Magazine cover focuses on the “gravitational pull” of           Hillary Clinton’s possible 2016 campaign. And indeed, it portrays that concept in a pretty literal way by envisioning the former Secretary of State … as a planet. Just           her disembodied head fashioned into a fleshy planet.

Read the entire article here.

The Internet responded to the extraterrestrial Clinton with a barrage of mocking memes, often negating the cover’s intent to convey Clinton’s immense political power and possibly reiterating Hess’s argument that as media brings attention to Clinton’s political success, it in turn undermines her political power by primarily portraying her through the lens of female stereotypes.

Read the TIME’s cover article here and the NYT Magazine cover article here.

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