Former WH Chief Defends Powerful Women Appearing in ‘Women’s Magazines’


You may have noticed a not-so-recent trend: powerful women in politics, technology and other fields appearing on the covers of magazines like Vogue and Cosmopolitan as they make major career transitions.

Unfortunately, these very women often receive a steady drumbeat of criticism after making such appearances. This doesn’t just apply to politics, either–remember Marissa Mayer‘s 2013 cover shoot?

Last week, Marie Claire’s newest contributing editor Alyssa Mastromonaco finally stood up to defend the practice in The Washington Post with the simple headline “Being informed and fashionable is natural for women.

Mastromonaco is more qualified than most to comment on this topic: she spent six years as President Obama’s White House Deputy Chief of Staff.

We’ll review what she wrote after the jump.

On women driving the popular media narrative:

“…when the women’s magazine Marie Claire offered me a post as contributing editor, the opportunity felt perfectly timed. After all these decades in the trenches, working women like me are finally having our moment.

And yet I’ve been startled by some of the critical reactions to my announcement.”

One she mentions is this Politico piece. Headline:

“The Princess Effect: How Women’s Magazines Demean Powerful Women–Even When They’re Trying to Celebrate Them”

Hmm. Mastromonaco’s not having it, writing that “Such dated arguments assume that women are incapable of being both informed and fashionable”–and that women in powerful positions open themselves up to criticism by making such appearances.

We all know this isn’t true, but the perception persists:

“Is it so inconceivable that a smart, accomplished woman would have both the latest issue of the Economist and the second season of The Mindy Project downloaded on her iPad?”

If it is, then it certainly shouldn’t be. Mastromonaco notes that such magazines were “the first to dispense with the requisite work-life balance questions men invariably ask powerful women in favor of far more revealing inquiries about how they got to the top and what the view was like once ensconced there.”

Yet no one thinks twice about “demeaning” a powerful man by describing his attire in a GQ profile.

The question: how can we work to eliminate the obvious double standard? Maybe we don’t have to; in a response piece, Kat Stoeffel of New York magazine notes that Jill Abramson chose Cosmopolitan for her first post-Times interview.

Now if only we could get the rest of the media world to agree…