Can anyone stop the overt and subtle-but-powerful sexism that escalates when women appear close to taking jobs traditionally held by men? This is a serious question, and one that might have made a better Time magazine cover than the one the weekly ran this week called "Can Anyone Stop Hillary?"
Set aside, for the moment, the annoying fact that the magazine, like so many media outlets, insists on referring to prominent female officials by their first names while men get the seriousness of being called by their last names. The cover depicts a scary-big woman, in a pantsuit and heels, with a tiny, poor, helpless man clinging for dear life to one of her heels.
Poor men. There they were, still making more money than women for doing the same job, despite fair pay laws. There they were, overwhelmingly running the governments and economies of the world. And now, they might have to – gasp! – consider the horrific possibility that a female might actually become commander in chief.
Clinton's early status as a presumed frontrunner is indeed a story (though the frontrunner status attached to her in 2007, a moniker that was based on nothing more than polls, which themselves were based on little more than name recognition, didn't pan out so well for her in the 2008 contest). That, then, merits a cover of Clinton looking powerful – ominous, even – and the headline "Can Anyone Stop Clinton?" But the cover suggests that somehow it is emasculating for a woman to challenge men for the top political job.
If that's true, then we have a much bigger problem with gender bias than the pay scale numbers indicate. We will never achieve any kind of gender equality in the professional and economic arenas if the definition of maleness includes dominating and controlling women. And the Time cover is worse, because it adds another element to it – that somehow it's the combination of a woman's feminine wiles (those provocative heels!) and her intellectual power that give women an unfair advantage over men. The old pretty-or-smart dichotomy is all about that – how dare a woman distract men with her sexuality, then think she can play in a man's world?
President Obama's candidacy and election has brought out a hateful and shockingly racist reaction from some corners of this country. But it's nothing compared to the sexism and out-and-out misogyny we have seen and will continue to see if Clinton indeed runs and is nominated. What makes the gender bias more difficult to counter is that there's still an offensive sense that it's cute to remind everyone that we are, after all, different. The Washington Post's Richard Leiby recently weighed in with his own insulting take on how we all need to remember we're not exactly the same, reporting on how female Marines couldn't do as many pull-ups as men. Thanks, Mr. Leiby (or "Richard," as he might be called on a magazine cover if he were female). Girls are fancy on the inside, and boys are fancy on the outside. Adorable. But it wasn't – it was pretending to be a stupidly cutesy piece on how nature makes us different. But it was really an essay of resentment over women infiltrating men's domains.
The 2016 campaign hasn't even begun, and the misogyny is already gearing up. As offensive as the Time cover is, it's nothing compared to what will come.