This week’s attack by Hustler Magazine on conservative pundit S.E. Cupp wasn’t the first time that the infamous porn rag printed a faked photograph of a celebrity with a penis in her mouth. But their weak attempt at justification—citing Cupp’s “dumb ideas like defunding Planned Parenthood”—represents a new low in political discourse. Such debasing sexualization of a female commentator as retribution for her political views sends a clear signal that women who voice their opinions in the public sphere do so only at risk of the most blatant objectification.
We at Women's Media Center can and do disagree with Cupp’s position on women’s need for access to the healthcare services provided by Planned Parenthood, among other issues. Only last week, Women’s Media Center called out her characterization of the Violence Against Women Act as a “redundancy.” But the Hustler image seeks to deny her participation in public dialogue entirely, in a way that crosses all boundaries of taste and conscience.
Sexualization of women in the media is not a partisan issue—it’s an ongoing problem that makes it harder for women on both sides of the aisle to run for office or to be taken seriously as political commentators and media makers. From Gloria Steinem to Sarah Palin, a woman’s political opinions, whatever they are, should never be met with sexist attacks.
We don't expect Hustler to change. Degrading women behind a thin curtain of legally-protected “satire” is the way they have sold magazines for decades. But the boundaries of taste and conscience are drawn much more narrowly than the boundaries of legality. We call on women and men, no matter where they are on the political spectrum, to stand with S.E. Cupp against media misogyny against outspoken women. No matter where they are on the political spectrum.
Your publisher called this attack on S.E. Cupp “satire,” referring to a Supreme Court decision protecting satire as necessary to freedom of speech. But your attempts to effectively shut down a political commentator by Photoshopping her into nothing more than a sexual object call your commitment to open political discourse into serious question.
We believe that S.E. Cupp has every right to participate in public debate without being subject to sexualized attacks as retribution, and we call on you to reaffirm the same.
We stand with S.E. Cupp.