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Vanity Fair, Shame on You!

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April 5th, 2007

By Guest Blogger Jennifer Mattson

So, what’s up with Annie Leibovitz’s April Vanity Fair cover and the fact that no one seems to be remarking on how incredibly sexist it is?

The Sopranos cover photo shows a naked woman, her back to the camera, being grabbed with one hand by a completely clothed and coldly disinterested James Gandolfini, who is standing next to show creator David Chase. The blonde is depicted as nothing more than a body; she is fully nude except a pair of blood red pumps.The photo is the epitome of the male gaze. We, the viewer, stare at her, an object, displayed in front of us for our viewing pleasure. Can you say “woman as commodity?”

Adding insult to injury, this faceless woman isn’t even given the dignity of a name. In the photo credits all she gets is a tag that mentions she is “a friend” of Tony’s.

For those who want to argue that’s it’s somehow okay since a woman took this photo, let me just lay that argument to rest. It’s not okay for either gender to objectify women. And it doesn’t make it any less real, either. (Likewise for the argument that this kind of photo isn’t new — just because we’ve seen this before, too many times, doesn’t make it any more acceptable.)

In the age of Hillary, where women seem to be making strides in so many fields, it’s a good reminder of how the underlying currents of sexism are everywhere, so much so, that although this magazine is on hundreds of newsstands across the nation, no one seems to have even noticed a problem. Such images are so ingrained in our psyches that they have become invisible. To even point them out has become a hard sell. I wonder, what would Jean Kilbourne say now?

Guest Blogger Jennifer Mattson is a journalist and former producer for CNN and NPR. Her work has appeared in USA TODAY, The Boston Globe, The Boston Herald, CNN.com, The Women’s Times and The Women’s Review of Books.

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