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Time's Sexist Landrieu Illustration

November 25, 2009

Illustrating yet again the additional hurdles women leaders have to overcome, Time Magazine's Mark Halperin used an offensive, manipulated image to evoke a comparison between Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA) and the notorious “hair gel” stunt in There’s Something About Mary, in which a woman's hair is held up by semen. The connection between Senator Landrieu and a juvenile visual gag? Landrieu lobbied Senate leadership for federal funding to help Louisiana shoulder its share of increased Medicaid spending proposed by the Senate health care bill, a move considered suspect by some commentators.  How is this offensive imagery supposed to pass as a valid critique of Landrieu’s record? Although Time has removed the photo-shopped illustration of Landrieu from its site, this careless choice by a respected, national outlet is especially disturbing, as it is only the most recent example of sexualized insults.  As Media Matters points out, Halperin's illustration fits within a larger conservative framing of Landrieu as a "prostitute." Notable examples include Glenn Beck's description of Landrieu as a "high class prostitute" and his televised declaration to the senator, "So we know you're hookin', but you're just not cheap." Rush Limbaugh joined the chorus on Monday, asserting that the Senator "may be the most expensive prostitute in the history of prostitution." These sexual attacks on Landrieu are unacceptable and should be roundly condemned. Last week, the WMC released a statement objecting to Newsweek's sexist cover photograph of Sarah Palin, which undermined any serious analysis of the former governor's policies. Regardless of the negotiations and squandering taking place in Congress as countless health care policies are debated - including the Stupak Amendment, which was widely recognized as a bargaining chip to gain votes from anti-abortion House representatives - the media must not resort to sexualizing and harassing women to prove political points.