Letter to the Editor: Name It. Change It. Responds to Sexist Newsweek Coverage of Michele Bachmann
August 15, 2011
395 Hudson Street
New York, NY 10014
Re: “The Queen of Rage” (August 15)
To The Editor:
On behalf of the Women’s Campaign Forum Foundation (WCF Foundation) and the Women’s Media Center, we are writing to express our disappointment with the sexist nature of your August 15th coverage of presidential candidate and Congresswoman Michele Bachmann (MN-06). As organizations committed to eliminating political gender bias in the media, we found the cover photograph, title, and accompanying article to be demeaning and degrading. It is ironic that you also featured Gloria Steinem in this issue. As the creator of the name of our joint initiative, Name It. Change It, she stresses that media coverage of candidates must pass the test of reversibility – if it wouldn’t be directed at a man, it shouldn’t be directed at a woman. Newsweek failed that test.
Women make up 51% of the United States population, yet occupy only 17% of the seats in Congress and a mere 23% of state legislatures. Only six out of fifty state governors are women. The United States ranks 86th in the world in the number of women elected to public office. Having a greater female presence in government would be exceedingly beneficial to our national discourse, and yet the media continues their disturbing trend of judging women based on their gender rather than their professional merits.
The media’s unfair portrayal of women is one of the leading reasons cited by potential female candidates for declining to seek public office (1). Choosing an unflattering picture of Congresswoman Bachmann and representing her as “The Queen of Rage” is precisely the type of subversive sexism that depresses female involvement and deprives our nation of a much-needed balance in perspective. Our research shows that this type of mild sexism can be just as electorally damaging to female candidates as out-and-out misogyny (2). In order to combat this, WCF Foundation, Women’s Media Center, and Political Parity have joined forces to create our national Name It. Change It. initiative. Name It. Change It. is a non-partisan project devoted to erasing the pervasiveness of sexism against women candidates across all media platforms. With the U.S. economy in crisis, wars being fought overseas, and attacks on women’s health running rampant, it is time to choose our politicians based on their resumes instead of their wardrobes.
Neither WCF Foundation nor Women’s Media Center take any position on Congresswoman Bachmann’s political views. However, a sexist attack on one woman is an attack on all women, regardless of party. We challenge the editors of Newsweek to stop engaging in the same tired, sexist portrayal of women that has become the unfortunate norm in our media. This type of coverage moves our national discourse backward at a time when we need to push ahead. For more information on sexism in the media, we encourage your readers to visit www.nameitchangeit.org.
Siobhan “Sam” Bennett Julie Burton
WCF Foundation Women’s Media Center
(1) Lawless, Jennifer L., and Richard Logan Fox. It Takes A Candidate: Why Women Don't Run for Office. Cambridge University Press, 2005.
(2) Lake Research Partners, (September 2010). Name It. Change It: Sexism & Equality Don't Mix. http://www.lakeresearch.com/news/NameItChangeIt/NameItChangeIt.pres.pdf
Published by Michaela on 10/11/2011