Girl Crush: Ms. Magazine Publisher Eleanor Smeal

Posted at 3:40 PM Jan 15, 2009

By Kathleen Wilcox

obama ms mag.jpegPundits have been questioning the relevance of Ms. Magazine for years - and sometimes they even bring up a few cogent points.

Let's face it: Ms. was launched by Gloria Steinem as an activist bras a-blazin' feminist magazine when abortion was still illegal. The sense of urgency, incipient revolution and potential calamity that made it a must-read for our mother's generation has in many ways dissipated.

But just as I'm ready to dismiss it with an eye-roll and a pat on the head like an out-of-touch second-waver who uses the phrase "herstory" sans irony and passes around petitions to outlaw Manolo Blahniks, Ms., and its publisher Eleanor Smeal,
make it clear that the pub is more relevant than ever.

The latest issue (in a clever echo of Ms.'s first issue featuring the caption "Wonder Woman for President" above the crusading superhero) features a Photoshopped pic of President-elect Barack Obama as Superman, tearing away his "disguise" to reveal the caption "This Is What a FEMINIST Looks Like."

The cover has ruffled feathers, as all smart, controversial political images do. But the overly simplistic naysayers are missing the point: Ms. is hardly suggesting that women are no longer capable of being feminists - it's merely acknowledging that Obama (a self-declared feminist, according to Smeal) and progressive men in general can and should be recruited and commissioned to help us all keep fighting the good fight.

Saying women alone can be feminists is as preposterous and ultimately defeatist as saying that only people of color can fight racism. The fact that this needs to be explained speaks volumes about the long way baby we still have to go and the need for women like Smeal to help guide us through this thorny path.

Comments

Andrea said:

The "Can men be feminists?" debate came up often for me last semester in school. I think for this Heartless Doll, it's a semantic argument. Men can't be feminists because they aren't women, and they haven't experienced what being a woman is--whatever that means. I think they can and should be pro-feminist, however, and if we don't have the powerful pro-feminist guys on our side, we're screwed. One must work with and within and without the system in order to change it, methinks.

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