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CNN interview: Amy Siskind attempts to educate; Ms. Mag editor uses airtime as commercial

(cross-posted from Heidi Li’s Potpourri)

Watch the video here. Listen to The New Agenda’s executive director Amy Siskind succeed as she raises pertinent, relatively mild objections, to the Ms. Magazine cover for its special inauguration issue.  Then listen to Ms. Magazine’s executive editor Katherine Spillar as she first a) dodges the issue, which is not whether men can be feminists, but whether there is any basis for referring to this man, President-elect Obama, as “what a feminist looks like” and then b) tells people to read the magazine so as to understand the cover (read = buy the magazine) and then c) evidently indicated to the CNN anchors that subscriptions to the magazine are up because of the inauguration cover, and thus the cover was a good idea.

Successful covers do not require a magazine to explain or justify their meaning. For example, most thoughtful criticisms of The New Yorker’s satirical cover of the Obamas faulted the cover for being failed satire: for its failure to broadcast its satire and thus its potential to be taken too seriously. In other words, that cover, in many people’s opinion, failed on its own terms. Similarly the Ms. Magazine cover fails on it own terms. The intention was not to satirize the claim that Barack Obama, who has not one achievement in public life that can be considered as his own contribution to advancing feminism, is the paradigm of a feminist. No, the intention was tell us just what the cover said: that Barack Obama is a feminist, indeed a heroic – if closeted – one (note it is only his undershirt that reveals the truth of his feminism). If the intention was to say that men can be feminists, they should have put Bill Clinton, who put his career on hold to assist his wife achieve greatness in hers, on the cover. Or they could have put Terry McAuliffe on the cover, for his unwavering devotion to a candidate who happened to be female but who also had a record of standing by the once-core Democratic Party principles that have, in the past, made many of us proud to be Democrats. No way was Ms. Magazine’s intent  to suggest that men can be feminists, a point that anybody who has given two thoughts to feminism gets.

Apart from an intent to laud and fuss over President-elect Obama, the intent of the Ms. Magazine cover is the intent of most magazines: to sell the merchandise.  Fair enough, some will say. What’s wrong with trying to sell the merch? Generally, in the case of magazines not much. But Ms. Magazine was founded to lead a cause. If it simply wants to bump up subscriptions – assuming there’s enough data in yet to support the claim that the current cover does that – then Ms. Magazine should, straightaway, start with centerfolds labeling whoever is trendy at the moment as a stealth feminist. For those with more salable physiques, have them pull the over-clothes apart a little more widely; or maybe pose them with the slogan on the back of their panties, briefs or boxers, and wearing nothing else. They can shyly peek over their shoulder, indicating that they themselves are as surprised as the rest of us that Ms. Magazine has singled them out as archetypical feminists.

In the CNN interview, Ms. Spillar says “some people” have “overreacted” to the cover. This sounds an awful lot like the sexist tropes used by the cover subject’s language during the primary season, such as his imagery about Senator Clinton’s “claws” and “fangs” coming out. Just who is Ms. Spillar calling “some people”? Women. You know, the people whose claws and fangs come out when they get periodically down.

Ms. Spillar, you are completely correct that a man can be feminist. And in your interview today you demonstrated the corollary, that a woman can be a misogynist, belittling the concerns of those who once depended on publications like Ms. Magazine to give voice – and the front cover – to matters central to equalizing opportunities for 51 percent of this country’s population.

67 Responses

  1. lets face it half a dollar hookers have more integrity than MS magazine.
    George Soros bought them.
    They forgot what their purpose was supposed to be, The betterment of women”.
    The have become the vichey French of the women’s movement.



  2. Let’s not forgot that the quote came from the president of the LA Chapter of Now’s endorsement of Sarah Palin as “This is what a feminist looks like” so I take that quote as a slap in the face to Sarah Palin as well — as in “no, you aren’t a feminist — he is.”

    Do you think Ms. magazine knows it has sold out or do you think they are just in denial?

  3. It’s all about the money. Obama is such a cash-cow that everybody wants to cash in. (Pajamas? Sure! Sex toys? Why not! Obama fighting alongside Spiderman? Absolutely!) Ms. is trying to be relevant, but they’re doing it the wrong way. There’s enough Obama memorabilia out there; their cover won’t get them any lasting fans.

    Then again – perhaps they really do believe in that cover! Somebody posted at the Confluence a day or two back that Steinem is very angry with people for being angry at the cover. Robin Morgan wrote that vicious Palin hit-piece at the Women’s Media Center – which itself was silent silent silent throughout the general election. All of these “women’s rights” organizations have made themselves irrelevant over the past year.

    Like myiq2xu wrote: What do we want? Equal rights? When do we want them? Later!

  4. I watched this on the tube this morning and Spillar infuriated me. Condescending and belittling with the “some people” and a “few people” being upset – it was the primaries all over again. Sickening.

  5. But Ms. Magazine was founded to lead a cause.

    I love your posts Heidi and this is a great one. I just have a comment to make about the above sentence. And that is that MS Magazine has always been in it for the profit. It’s not a Consumer Reports or a Mother Jones. MS has a history of accepting questionable ads and it’s editors have a history of having questionable friends.

  6. Oh Heidi!

    You’re just being hysterical. You should go shopping – some new shoes will make you feel better!


  7. I think Ms magazine has Donna B. as a contributor and it’s a slap in the face to PUMA. They think we sold out and this is their answer to our behavior.

    They cannot possibly believe he’s a feminist.

  8. What f~~~~~g sell-outs! Ms. is a joke just like all the pseudo-feminist organizations that I once held so dear and worked so hard for. I even have chosen throughout my life since age 18 to refer to myself as “Ms.”, not “miss,” and still retained that address when married. In fact, I was introduced as “Ms.” not “Mrs.” at my wedding.

    I completely agree with Amy Siskind: If they were trying to be informative of the issue than they should have posed it as a question. It still would have sold copies because it had The One on the cover.

    No, it is very obvious that Ms. is trying to sell both an image and a belief that Obama is the epitome of the closet male feminist.

    Sorry, but I ain’t buying it.

    You are absolutely 100% correct that Spillar has shown that a woman even a feminist one can indeed be a misogynist. If Ms. has any chance to regain its legitimacy as a front woman for feminism, than it has no choice fire Spillar.

    Moreover, for the MSM to attribute the same sort of comparison of what Rolling Stone or Ebony or any of the other mags to Ms. magazine just shows how little power Ms. has a legitimate feminist publication now.

  9. One of the conservative reporters invited to dine with Obama, Krauthammer, gives his opinion of the dinner and why Obama dined with them:

    “Also in part because he wants to co-opt the vast right wing conspiracy and I’m here to tell that speaking for myself—he succeeded. I’m brainwashed entirely. I’m in the tank and I’m a believer now in hope and change and above all audacity.”


  10. I don’t think that MS really believes that shit. I don’t think that Gloria Steinam, back in the day would have believed that shit. What it’s about is money. What corporation owns MS magazine now? Conde Nast? Time-Warner?
    Whichever it is, all they’re interested in is surfing the Obama cash wave. It’s about profits, not prophets.

  11. That’s meant to be tongue in cheek, I assume?

  12. Hi Katiebird – you are correct that Ms. has a checkered history when it comes to their advertising content. That was part of starting in 1991 they decided to print without ads, which they did until 2001. At that point, they were owned by Liberty Media (which was organized by Gloria Steinhem) and Liberty Media couldn’t keep the magazine afloat. At that point, Feminist Majority Foundation bought it and they reintroduced ads.
    Just filling in some fun facts.

    My more general point is that Ms. Magazine never has presented itself as just another for profit venture and the hypocrisy is ridiculous. On that score, I give The Nation higher marks.

  13. myiq2xu, on January 15th, 2009 at 2:26 pm Said:

    Actually just freshening my makeup will do the trick! (smile)

  14. Ah, Heidi — I guess I stopped following them at some point and didn’t know about the stopping/starting ad-taking stuff. I had a roommate who subscribed to MS in the late 70s and since then I’ve thought they were pretty shallow thinkers.

    On the makeup thing anyone who wears makup or uses lotions should read this: Is your makeup Killing You?

  15. Heidi Li, you seem to be the only person in D.C. with any commonsense these days. I’d love for anyone at Ms. to respond to any of your excellent posts. It will be interesting to hear what excuses they come up with next.

  16. I was trying to remember the name Quisling.
    That kind of describes what MS has become along with a lot of the so called feminist organizations.
    They forgot what they were supposed to do.
    Make people aware of the treatment of women and try to make life better for women.



  17. Mother Jones has questionable ads, but they put their ad policy where everyone can see it. I don’t think Mother Jones makes much of a profit and I think they see it as taking ad money from pretty much anyone to fund investigative journalism.

    i still read Mother Jones cover to cover. I just try to skim over the BO love. There was an article in the most recent issue that I had a really hard time with, but it was more enjoyable than not.

  18. (taking a quick break to comment…)\

    Ms. Spillar, you are completely correct that a man can be feminist. And in your interview today you demonstrated the corollary, that a woman can be a misogynist, belittling the concerns of those who once depended on publications like Ms. Magazine to give voice – and the front cover – to matters central to equalizing opportunities for 51 percent of this country’s population.

    YES, yes and HELL YES!!!!!!!!! Heidi – you rock (as usual!)

    Ms. Magazine never posed the question as to WHY should women celebrate closet-feminists, like Obama who has to wear his alleged pro-woman stance underneath his clothes?

    Especially when Obama specifically recommends women to consult their male family and religious overlords for permission to assess their reproductive health.

    What, did Ms. Magazine do a W.O.R.M. moment there too? Or did they selectively forget that quote?

  19. I guess Ms. will now encourage women to empower themselves by dressing in sexually provocative and revealing clothing.

  20. jmac: surely Krauthammer is being facetious right? He is pretty hard core to the right. Do you have a link? If not, I need to move to Mars. I do not understand this bizarre group think that has capitivated thinking individuals. One dinner and he caves on all his principles?

    As far as Ms. is concerned: there is a reason Axelrod succeeded as campaign director. He was an ad exec. It’s that simple. We live in a voracious consumer society, and he branded Obama with his seal, and mantras, and it is now a phenomenon. Couple that with the starvation post-Bush, and people are eager to suspend analysis and “feel good.” It’s really frightening and nauseating–ESPECIALLY after their complicity in the savaging of HC & Palin. These women have betrayed the women who courageously fought for us, so they can join the “it” crowd. Good for them. Sell outs!

  21. katiebird
    I can remember my father saying when I was young,
    “there is enough lead in lipstick to paint a house”.
    Maybe these so called women’s mags could do an article and really help young girls and women to decide what make up is good and what makeup is bad.
    I do not consider that a silly thing as it does affect women.
    If wearing make up makes you feel better then go for it.



  22. it is interesting they put him, as Heidi says, as a “stealth” feminist. He’s been in the closet and now he can burst forth as a feminist and save the day.

  23. I started to watch the video this morning and could stomach only 5 seconds of CNN’s trash. Thank you, Heidi, for your brilliant analysis. BO divided the country not only along race lines but drove a wedge right into the feminist movement like no one in recent memory. He isn’t Bush-lite, he is another face of the Bush phenomenon.

  24. Fif – I found that on Crooks and Liars and yes, Krauthammer is mocking Obama and the fact he has the audacity to try to change minds by simply meeting for dinner. Although milk-toast Brooks and Will and Kristol might fall for it.

  25. I’m assuming Krauthammer is kidding, but after Etheridge said Warren is a nice guy, and the Ms. cover (etc. etc. etc.) – it’s impossible to tell!

    There’s a lot of terms we can use to describe what NOW and Ms. and NARAL are doing: mob mentality, Lord of the Flies, “mean girls.” We can even compare them to the German and Austrian people of the 1930s and 40s who – against many of their own better judgments – did the Nazi party’s biddings. They weren’t all forced into it. There was a very interesting book I tried reading (and ultimately failed because the writer is the most academic individual who has ever written a book) called “Hitler’s Willing Executioners.” From what I did manage to get through, his entire point is that every day civilians willingly helped Hitler along the way. These were regular folks, like you and me. Also, did anyone ever read Kozinski’s “The Painted Bird?” Same thing. Which is not to say that Ms. and NOW are just like Nazi collaborators (not yet anyway!), but it’s the same mentality. When they say they think Obama is a real-life honest-to-Goodness feminist – I’m going to take their word for the fact that it’s what they actually believe. They are doing this willingly – their motives must be pretty complicated.

  26. fif: Kudlow is singing bambam’s praises now .. he’s agone gaga for president charming now

  27. This is OT, but does anyone know if C-Span will re-air Hillary tonight and what time? My sister is taking care of a sick friend in Tennessee and they do not have access to the internet.

  28. ThinkProgress has their take on the dinner with the conservatives:


    Kristol concluded the interview by taking a sarcastic, subtle dig at liberal pundits who had a one-hour morning meeting with Obama the next day (the Obama dinner with conservatives went for 3 hours):

    Yesterday, he met with the liberal columnists. And they had a pleasant hour in the conference room in his office. They got some coffee in some styrofoam cups. We had a pleasant dinner at George’s house, and they had some coffee from the machine in the office. But I wouldn’t read too much into that.

  29. DYB: I think Helen’s metaphor of Vichy France is a good one

  30. Jmac: Obama really thinks he can charm every one into supporting him since it obviously worked so well on Kennedy and Kerry and a few others …

    there’s still so a lot of old fat old white guys that fall for faux ass kissing–they’re need for ego stroking in washington dc is beyond the pale

  31. Oh, and when these women’s rights groups throw out Palin’s name (not a real feminist, barely a woman!), my response – and it’s one I’ve never seen explained – is: forget McCain/Palin. What about McKinney/Clemente. Two very progressive feminists running on the Green Party ticket. Did a single women’s rights group endorse them or give them any time of day? No.

  32. dakinikat> Yes, I think the Vichy comparison is a very good one!

  33. Kudlow falls for Obama! Yes, I can see that one. Who’s next – O’Reilly?

    I’m still amazed at the comments on the left blogs over Hillary as SOS – a lot of them are still very upset she was chosen.

  34. helenk and katiebird: here’s a link to safe cosmetics.


  35. I have worn paraban free makeup for years. Your grandfather was wise Helen, but mine also said, “Every old barn looks better with a fresh coat of paint.”

  36. Bottom line? Subscriptions are up. (Or so they say.) If it’s true, I’d look for Ms. to sell it’s soul again and again….. in the next four years.

    F U Ms. Magazine. You are no longer my ally!

  37. The Left is more upset over Hillary than they are over Rick Warren/FISA/Gitmo/Iraq/blah blah blah. With a Left like that, who needs Left?

  38. helenk- I liked your “Vichy” France comparison. We have seen many sell outs of late in more areas than feminism, although this is obviously significant, and are bound to see more. The comparisons are scary. Let’s hope that our holding out will be more peaceful than what occurred to those in the Resistance.

  39. Subscriptions may be up – everyone from IKEA to Quakers Oats to Pepsi is jumping on the Super Bowl of Inaugurations (with pj’s and unmentionables) but Ms selling it’s soul to boost one issue – not good.

  40. Viva le resistance!

  41. Is this story about a plane crash in NY real?

  42. “Ms. Spillar, you are completely correct that a man can be feminist. And in your interview today you demonstrated the corollary, that a woman can be a misogynist”

    Oh I love this part the most Heidi!

    Which reminds me, someone should photoshop HEIDI’S face on the Ms. mag as HERS is the face of a feminist. A real, honest, strong, capable, BRILLIANT, ethical, funny, tough feminist.

    Plus, she is very tall and will knock you down if you give her friends a hard time! 🙂

  43. Plural; Yes, it is.

  44. Yes, CNN has it now.

    US Airways flight in the Hudson River.

  45. Wow. That pilot deserves a freaking medal.

  46. Geez, KB, I don’t wear makeup but that article even had me thinking about giving up toothpaste!

    Heidi – spot on as usual.

  47. DYB

    I read Kozinski’s “The Painted Bird” years ago. That is one of the scariest/creepiest books I’ve ever read. Didn’t Kozinski later commit suicide? His vision of people was pretty bleak…even misanthropic? The Obot derangement of so many is very disappointing, but I gotta have *faith* that eventually (another 1000 years?) things will work out. Mind you, 1000 years is only 50 generations.

  48. Geez my last comment was grim…I’m a little more optomistic than that. PUMA’s will make a difference!!!

  49. Made me laugh – Biden says –

    “I’m the most experienced vice president since anybody.”

  50. “They can shyly peek over their shoulder, indicating that they themselves are as surprised as the rest of us that Ms. Magazine has singled them out as archetypical feminists.”


    I imagine Michelle and Barack had a good laugh over the Ms. cover. Michelle laughing the hardest!

  51. Imagine my surprise to hear from Ms. Spillar this morning that ony ” a couple” of people complained. I know I sent an email. Not Murphy’s template, ( though hers is really good) because I figured they’d try to minimize our objections to “those few crazy PUMAS”. So if there were only “a couple ” of us, who was the other one?

  52. Micki, on January 15th, 2009 at 3:57 pm Said:
    Wow. That pilot deserves a freaking medal.

    you ain’t kiddin. This could have been a disaster of unbelievable proportions given the size of the plane and the location of the crash. Absolutely amazing, he landed that baby so smoothly. thank god.

  53. There were more than a couple of complaints = she is a tool…


    Also I can’t remember but when I first saw it this morning, the news anchor said = he was getting a message from his female directors saying People need to get a sense of humor and get over it… Huh, what, Come on.. this is completely hack attack….

  54. I’ve been thinking-
    if they REALLY wanted to sell more magazines
    they should have put Sarah Palin on the cover with the
    title : is SHE a feminist?
    Phew……… they would have sold MILLIONS, and started
    some bloodshed probably…… touchy subject ,isn’t it?

  55. firelight> Yes, Kozinski committed suicide. I read it in high school in an AP English class. We were reading The Bible (as literature) and a lot of other books and plays as companions to the various Books. With The Book of Job we were given the option of reading Voltaire’s “Candide” or Kozinski’s “The Painted Bird.” The teacher held up the two books and everyone immediately said “Candide” because it’s less than 100 pages. The teacher then proceeded to read a few pages from “The Painted Bird” – and 3/4 of the class switched to that. The book is harrowing, even nauseating, and extremely powerful. I brought it up as a literary example of how people just follow a mob mentality and do awful things just because others are doing them too. In fact, I always thought the most disturbing chapter was about a woman in a village who is accused of “whoring around,” so the women of the village attack her and kill her in a really horrifying way.

  56. I’m in moderation at 4:36. I said…what?

  57. My daughter always said this about me, ” you would look the queen in the eye and say “UP the Rebels”.
    When I was very little my father called be Rebel.
    I guess being a rebel comes natural to me.



  58. bluelady, on January 15th, 2009 at 4:36 pm Said

    Interesting observation.

  59. DYB, on January 15th, 2009 at 4:36 pm Said

    I wonder if that story about the village women killing the woman who was “whoring around” has ever happended or if that is just a fiction of a misogynistic/misanthropic Kozinski. Anyway, more reason to profess faith in optomism, kindness, etc.

  60. I will never support this magazine, never. The fight of real feminists does not include those who run Ms. magazine, they are simply sell-outs.
    They are no longer feminists, fighting for the betterment of women everywhere, they are simply a corporation that no longer speaks for all women, in fact I don’t think they speak for women at all anymore.
    Ms. Magazine has become nothing better than the national enquirer, put whomever you want on the cover just to sell a copy of your rag.
    Ms. magazine has become a rag, it no longer represents we feminists nor our views, if they did Obama would be nowhere near the cover.
    Hillary Clinton deserved the cover, she won the popular vote, received more votes than any other candidate in history, yet they would pass her and her accomplishments on behalf of all women, for a sexist pig who gave Hillary and all women the finger!
    Way to go Ms. I hope to God your rag winds up where it belongs, in the trash.
    I would hope that this is the end of this so-called magazine.
    Real feminists do not exist in the pages of Ms., they are out here continuing to fight the good fight for women everywhere.
    We, the real feminists, not the cheap sell-outs at Ms., know who our champions are, and Obama should be nowhere near the cover of any magazine that fights for the rights of women everywhere.
    Obama is an Abomination to women everywhere, he has done nothing for us, he never will, the only reason he is on the cover of Ms. is simply to make money for the shareholders.
    We know who is running this rag, and I hope to God each one of you burn in hell.

  61. Heidi: Excellent post. Apparently nowadays it is perfectly acceptable to say and do whatever you choose without merit or discussion. Naming him as a “feminist” is just a perfect example. Of course, he is The One, The Transcender, The Messiah all wrapped into one so this one is not a stretch by a longshot either.

    Have we reached saturation point yet?

  62. Thanks Heidi and Riverdaughter.

    I notice that Spillar points out that she has received mostly positive comments – ah, sorry. You must be kidding me.

  63. they could have done better ramping up subscriptions with a picture of Princess Di and it would have been a lot less silly and offensive too.

  64. Is Palin a feminist? Interesting idea. I know that even here we have many different opinions and I do think she is being yanked in to being a reluctant feminist. Good for her and her growth. I hope she goes with it. In fact I have more hope for her than I do for Obama.

  65. oh how nice, Spillar has gotten mostly positive comments. Please someone post her email address and lets fix that.

  66. The pathdic part is Ms has sold out for less than a million
    Ms Magazine is owned by the Feminist Majority Foundation. George Soros, through his Open Society foundation, donated $770,000 to the FMF between 1997 and 2004…..

    gee whiz…hold out for a bigger payday will ya?
    Moveon and other groups sold out for peanuts….pretty sad. Seems the going price for one’s soul is cheap!
    On another note, my obot friend is SO EXCITED Barry is our next POTUS!! She knows nothing of what went on and could care less. Barry is black and there for for “the people” and her forever dreamboat . End of story . Whatya gonna do? She’s gay and has never heard of Rick Warren….so where do I even start? Anything Barry does that stinks, he’s been “forced” to do.


  67. It was astounding to me that Ms Wolfe said that she can’t understand the criticism because for years feminist have been wanting the ear of the President….I began screaming at the TV that she would have had that, unconditionally, had she supported Hillary! What an ass!

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