Is The Sarah Palin Newsweek Cover “Sexist”?

Ken AshfordElection 20123 Comments

From Sarah Palin's Facebook page, posted last night:

The choice of photo for the cover of this week’s Newsweek is unfortunate. When it comes to Sarah Palin, this “news” magazine has relished focusing on the irrelevant rather than the relevant. The Runner’s World magazine one-page profile for which this photo was taken was all about health and fitness — a subject to which I am devoted and which is critically important to this nation. 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.

Descriptionnewsweek Her point is worthy of consideration, but in the end, I don't buy it.  And here's why.

What Sarah is saying is that Newsweek purports to be a serious "news" magazine, dealing with serious issues, etc., and therefore, it's not right that its cover depicts her in running shorts — a "cheesecake" shot, for lack of a better phrase.

The biggest problem with that argument, as I see it, is that Sarah Palin herself isn't "serious news" or about "serious issues".  She's in the spotlight now because she came out with a book.  Is she running for political office?  She has no plans to, but hasn't ruled it out — that's been her pat response over the last few days.  Is she a serious analyst on serious issues?  No, she's not.

Sarah Palin this week is using the media to plug her own book — a book which is about her, her family, her life, etc.  From everything I have read, the small portions of the book that deal with her political philosophy are rather mundane (certainly nothing "deep" or novel) — she's boilerplate Reagan-worshopping.  Is that news?  Is she to be taken seriously for holding views also held by half the country?

So she's using the media to plug her non-academic book, and she scolds the media for not being taken seriously?  Taken seriously about what?

Let's not forget, she posed for that photo, only a few months ago.  During the presidential race, she spent $150,000 of campaign money on clothes (a time when she did warrent some respect, if only because of the office she sought).  In other words, she's quite happy to eschew serious issues if it gets her the spotlight.  So what exactly is her problem?

Don't get me wrong — I think a woman can use her "female appeal" and still ask to be taken seriously in matters political, academic, etc.  But Sarah hasn't asked us to take her seriously — not yet.  You can't cry "sexist" or claim to be the victim of media bias, when you yourself use your sex to the exclusion of what supposedly passes for thoughtful discourse, or even political ambition.  You have to have a cause — something other than self-promotion — in order to accuse someone else of trivializing it.

When Sarah gives a lecture at Harvard School of Political Science, or announces her intentions to run for office, or does something instead of appearing on Oprah or Runner's World, I will acknowledge that she is a "newsworthy" woman with something to say or something to contribute.  But until then, she's nothing more than a media star — someone famous for being famous.  Or more accurately, she's someone famous for (once) being famous (last year). 

At this point in time, Sarah Palin is a mere media outlet using other media outlets to promote her media ("Going Rogue").  So what exactly is wrong with media outlets (Newsweek) using "cheesecake" shots of her to sell their wares?  Sarah Palin is knowingly selling herself as a pop icon — not a world leader, great thinker, learned author, etc.  And since people are buying, then why shouldn't Newsweek get in on it?