The cat-ladies of design

News & Politics

In its Women of Design issue (image left), Step Inside Design magazine portrays the designers it highlights as kittens in cute poses. As Folio writes: "Step Inside Design thought it was being cute... Many of its readers, though, didn’t...":

"Congratulations on degrading your well-written, well-researched articles with a cover that portrays these hard-working, intelligent, and creative women as a bunch of adorable, cuddly and nonthreatening housepets," one reader wrote in a letter to the editor. Wrote another: "I was shocked and greatly disappointed. In fact, my response was visceral to the point of nausea … STEP has shown itself as a magazine short on integrity and depth. I have canceled my subscription."
Not to take anything from these readers (full disclosure: I'm a man), but it's possible that the female editors of SID feel so empowered they don't give much truck to the sensitivities of representation. Maybe.

But then you read the editors' lame response and that optimism fades:
"It is indeed true that kittens play into a stereotype of women (and have been used to represent women for centuries)," Emily Oberman and Bonnie Siegler wrote in a statement published in its February/March letters page. "But we honestly believe you can change connotations by re-appropriating them (especially with humor). That’s why it’s OK for Spike Lee to make a movie about minstrel shows but it would not be OK if Woody Allen did. Mel Brooks can get away for Springtime for Hitler, but Prussian Blue can’t … context is everything."
But those re-appropriations were explicitly about lampooning said targets. Are SID's editors really claiming that the kitten cover was for the expressed purpose of showing how silly and damaging representations of women as cats can be? (Folio; HT: Poynter)

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