The New York Times Magazine has been heavily promoting its upcoming cover story this Sunday, in print, on Texas candidate for governor Wendy Davis, days in advance. They produced a good-sized ad for it in today’s print edition—and posted the entire feature, by regular writer Robert Draper, online yesterday. It naturally revisits the flap over her bio as a young woman and mother.
Then there’s the cover image itself (above)—and cover line.
As is so often the case with politicians in recent years, the Times goes the extra mile to make them look odd or ugly or off-putting, usually in close-up shots. Then there are the downright dumb efforts, such as the woman-in-the-moon Hillary Clinton graphic earlier this month.
So: to my eyes, the in-her-face Wendy Davis photo is another bummer, but it’s the cover line that has more people upset.
Yes, it’s “Can Wendy Davis Have It All?” Underneath we see references to “ambition” and “motherhood.” Not to mention “mythmaking.”
In the headline for a new profile of the besieged Democratic gubernatorial candidate, the New York Times Magazine wonders whether or not Wendy Davis can “have it all,” that most hackneyed of questions. And while much of the piece is enlightening and worthwhile, it continues to fall into all the tired tropes of the mainstream discourse surrounding successful, ambitious women, starting with asking if they can “have it all” (read: have what dudes purport to have) in the first place.
And while the piece takes issue with the sexist way Davis is “now being condemned as a maternally deficient careerist for not spending enough time” with her children in a way that male politicians almost never do, its author nevertheless feels no qualms about continuing to grill Davis about her parenting choices.
Eric Boehlert of Media Matters tweeted: “profile of Wendy Davis so disheartending. virtually NO DISCUSSION of policy. all bio/family/custody etc. unthinkable for male.”
Columnist Connie Schultz (she’s also married to Sen. Sherrod Brown): “Dear NYT Magazine: We don’t want it all. You can keep your cliches, for example.”
Our own Katha Pollitt: “Can Wendy Davis Have it All? can you imagine NYTmag editorial meeting that came up with that sexist cliche hed?.” And: “NYT mag: First Hillary as giant bald fleshball, now ‘Can Wendy Davis Have It All?’ Sexist much?”
Aaron Bady of New Inquiry (who is doing his post-doc work in Austin) proposes a headline for a Davis opponent: “Does Greg Abbot Have The Balls To Be Governor? A NY Times Investigation Into Whether He Has Testicles.”
I’ll add more in a bit…
Among Greg Mitchell’s many books on US election campaigns is one on the epic 1950 U.S. Senate contest between Richard Nixon and Helen Gahagan Douglas, Tricky Dick and the Pink Lady.
Read Next: Jessica Valenti: “The Empowerment Elite Claims Feminism’