Covering a Movement
Near the top of my list of must do errands this past weekend was a stop at the national chain bookstore where I was reasonably certain I could pick up a copy of Time magazine. I was looking forward to owning the issue with a single pink pussy hat on the front cover, and the headline: “The Resistance Rises: How a March Become a Movement.” A movement is what I hoped would happen as a result of both the conscientious organization and overflowing spontaneity that went into the DC gathering (not really a march, it turned out, due to the massive crowd) and the other marches – big and small – all over the country and the world. My perhaps overly optimistic expectation was that we would not just march for a few hours but mobilize for as long as it is going to take to overcome: the 60,000 people, including my husband, who turned out for the one in Atlanta which started at the entrance of the Civil and Human Rights Center; the 150,000 people, including my daughter-in-law and three year old granddaughter, in Boston; the 25,000 people, including my daughter, in San Jose, one of three in the San Francisco Bay area. The small but courageous coterie of ex pats in Singapore, including my oldest son. The several million who showed up.
The Women’s March has quickly evolved from being just a single January Saturday event. The evidence is mounting. I saw it in the actual physical signs of continuing activism: the pussy-hat wearing protesters at airports, in front of the White House, and at other public places in response to the ban on Muslims entering this country and the welcoming of Syrian refugees. In the many specific appeals each day on social media in the name of the march to call, write, and in other ways resist the seemingly endless list of assaults on human rights in this infant administration. It can be seen in the loud and persistent objections to the ludicrous, reactionary cabinet nominations being rushed through with minimum vetting.
It turn out that I will have to wait for the Time documentation of all that is already happening. The March issue not is on the newsstands until February 8. And I will be there to grab one for herstory.
This was not the first time in recent weeks that I wanted to get hold of an actual print copy of a mainstream magazine for posterity. While others ventured out in the days after Christmas to take advantage of sales, I went in search of the January National Geographic for its special issue on the shifting landscape of gender. Like the Time cover featuring the pussy hat, the National Geographic general (vs. subscriber) cover was also previewed ahead of the publication date: a group portrait of transgender, bi-gender, intersex, and androgynous people along with a cisgender male.
The note from editor-in-chief Susan Goldberg on this topic – which was researched for more than two years – suggests the approach the content inside the covers. “All of us carry labels applied by others,” she wrote. “The most enduring label, and arguably the most influential, is the one most of us got. It’s a boy or it’s a girl. Today that, and other, beliefs about gender are shifting rapidly and radically.”
Inside the magazine there is a general overview of gender today, with the most current definitions; a piece on helping families talk about gender; profiles of nine-year-olds and how gender affects their lives; an essay on how science helps us rethink gender; and another on some of the dangers that still surround identified genders.
The actual design of the cover and the philosophical/ethical design of the coverage of gender in 2017 has not gone without pushback and critique from National Geographic’s readers, much of which has been thoughtfully addressed by the editors. Questions like why there are no cisgender females in the cover photo? (Many are featured inside.) Why was the focus on children? (Because they are keen and articulate observers who are candid in reflecting our world back at us.) Why was intersex called a disorder? (References to disorder were removed from online editions and the definition was corrected.)
On Feb. 9, the National Geographic Channel will air a two-hour program on “The Gender Revolution.” It will be hosted by Katie Couric, who had been called out as being insensitive three years ago during an interview with two transgender women – Carmen Carrera and Laverne Cox. For the upcoming special, Couric interviewed scientists, activists, and families, with an emphasis on personal stories.
Look for a blog review next week of both the television special and the print issue.