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The New Yorker, the Obamas and the Rest of Us

July 17, 2008

I've spent a considerable amount of time examining and thinking about the much maligned  "satiric" New Yorker cover-the one with Michelle and Barack Obama dressed as terrorists, a portrait of Osama bin Laden on the wall, a flag burning in the fireplace. Michelle Obama, armed with afro and AK47, gives Barack a conspirational fist bump. I've been accused by friends of not having much of a sense of humor, so I wanted to give it a fair appraisal before responding. I even reviewed the definition of "satire."  It doesn't have to be funny--satire can be ironic--and can have elements of atta ck, ridicule and censure. That said, The New Yorker owes the Obamas, and the rest of us, an apology--and retraction of the cover. I know that those of us who demand this will be called predictable "whiners,"enemies of free speech and, of course, humorless. But a line was crossed here by a publication seemingly not the least bit in touch with the murmuring, low grade fires of unrest burning across this country.  Not clever enough by half, the cartoon reinforces the worst fears of those who experience the Obamas  as "unknown" and legitimizes those who've been agitating  a colossal smear effort. The characterization of Michelle Obama is particularly gratuitious--the militant, angry black woman--complete with an attack weapon.  In the old days, before everybody  (women, people of color, the working class) got hot under the collar, this "satire" would have been acceptable, ever so charming stuff. Now it's singularly obtuse, and worse. It makes one wonder, again, about the makeup of the New Yorker staff--was it not diverse enough to elicit even a single protest? The Women's Media Center joins our colleagues at NOW, The Feminist Majority,  The National Council of Women's Organizations,The Women's Coalition for Dignity and Diversity in the Media, The National Council for Black Civic Participation, The Coalition of 100 Black Women, and others--representing over 15 million women and men--in calling for retraction of the cover. Go here ( and here ( to sign our partners' petitions to let the publishers of The New Yorker  know how you feel. As a result of last week's newsletter addressing the issue of op-ed writers, we were invited to submit one to The Christian Science Monitor, available online (link to and in print today. And take a look at what columnists Ellen Goodman (link to and Carol Marin (link to,CST-EDT-Carol25.article) have said about WMC. Please help us continue our work.         DONATE Finally, we are pleased to announce WMC's newest class of Progressive Women. Launched in January of this year, Progressive Women's Voices is a media training and spokesperson program from The Women's Media Center, seeking to connect media professionals with smart, media-savvy women experts in a variety of fields. Click here ( to learn more about the latest participants.  Best, Carol Carol Jenkins, WMC President P.S. If you have not had the chance to review our new video, click here.