Commentary

Ms.

I love the image of Wonder Woman floating on the cover of Ms. magazine's 35th anniversary issue. Timely and clever, it's even smarter on closer inspection. Constructed from hundreds of teeny little rectangles, each miniature box turns out to be actual cover of Ms. dating back to the magazine's inception. It also recalls an iconic cover image from that founding year: a cartoon depiction of a 50-foot Wonder Woman madly running along a highway, carrying an entire city in her golden lasso of truth under the headline, "Wonder Woman for President."

In 1972, having a woman run for president seemed about as possible as carrying a city in your lasso, and that's why Ms. magazine had to be born. Obviously, in the years between Wonder Women covers, there's been a revolution for women in terms of work, marriage, and social issues. Huge progress has been made, yes, but there's also been much backlash, and some so-called "progress" is unquantifiable and just bizarre. For example, would any of the founding mothers have considered posting sexually compromising pictures of oneself on Facebook a feminist act?

And if there is any anger left about the male hierarchy, I have two words: Paris Hilton. She and the whole Pussy Cat Dolls culture seem to have missed every issue of Ms., and have continuing power over adolescent girls.

So no matter what wave of feminism we seem to be passing through (fourth or fifth?) there's always room for Ms.

I just wish this issue seemed less like an academic quarterly. Yeah, I know it's a giant cliché that "feminists" are humorless. It's a myth, just like the idea that any "libber" ever burned a bra. As a matter of fact, the bra-burning issues is addressed head-on in a page titled '"Backtalk," by former DNC chair Donna Brazile. She writes, "I learned from Gloria Steinem that a feminist protest scheduled to include a bra-burning was denied a permit, so it never happened." (Some bras were thrown in a trash can during a protest of the 1968 Miss America Pageant, but not burned.)

The image was just too titillating to give up, though, and Brazile maintains that "the image of flaming bra may have subconsciously kept thousands of women who believe in gender equality from labeling themselves feminists."

Well, that and the Birkenstocks, maybe. Kidding. See? Right there, she had the chance to turn the whole flaming bra thing around in an entertaining way, and instead writes a decidedly dull piece about amazing historic and political events. There are so many issues important to women around the globe that don't get touched upon in the largely advertiser-driven girly-girl magazines that we all need the Ms. platform.

Unfortunately, Brazile's piece is typical: The writing here teeters from overly earnest to fairly turgid. Sure, the cover promises names like Margaret Cho and Whoopi Goldberg, the go-to gals for tell-it-like-it-is humor. But it turns out that those two are merely quoted in a paragraph or two, and the quotes and pictures of everyone from Yoko Ono to Billie Jean King sometimes read like filler. Plus, it's too worried about being politically correct -- all the books reviewed, for instance, get kudos. Surely there's a feminist tract or two that's a C-plus at best?

With the exception of the cover, the art direction is dull -- the layouts remind me of a college alumnae magazine that's not winning any awards. And some of the headlines are repetitive -- "Faceless in Gaza?" is followed two pages later by "Feminist Polygamy?"

Come on. I am a feminist, and I'm rooting for Ms. to hang around for at least another 35 years. But I'm also a journalist, and this issue is as dull as a macramé planter from 1978. What I don' t get is why the editors didn't reprint some of the great articles and illustrations from the archives. That would have been highly entertaining and educational for younger women. Sisterhood used to be powerful. And easily, this issue could have been, as sister Paris Hilton would say, "HOT."

MAG STATS

Published by: Liberty Media for Women (wholly owned by the Feminist Majority Foundation)
Frequency: Quarterly
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