Was using this athletic cheesecake shot a sexist decision? Julie Millican at Media Matters thinks so, opining that "this photograph may have been completely appropriate for the cover of the magazine for which the picture was apparently intended, Runner's World. But Newsweek is supposed to be a serious newsmagazine, and the magazine is certainly not reporting on Palin's exercise habits:"
Like her or not, Palin is a former governor and vice presidential candidate. She deserves the same respect every single one of her male counterparts receives when they are featured on the cover of the magazine. I must have missed the cover of Vice President Joe Biden in short shorts or of Mitt Romney in a bathing suit.
What is missed in that analysis, however, is the fact that notorious publicity-hound Palin was apparently an eager participant in the original photo shoot; her inability to dictate her public image isn't de facto sexism--it's a fact of life in a free-press society, whatever the subject's gender. Palin posed in running garb with a US flag and other props--now she needs to live with her decision. This would only be "the latest in a pattern of the media's sexist coverage of female politicians" or "sexist treatment of Palin's physical appearance" if Joe Biden had tried to exploit his physical condition to garner attention.
Palin called the photo choice "unfortunate," and complained:
The out-of-context Newsweek approach is sexist and oh-so-expected by now. If anyone can learn anything from it: it shows why you shouldn't judge a book by its cover, gender, or color of skin. The media will do anything to draw attention - even if out of context.
Ron Chusid at Liberal Values suggests that although the photo is "somewhat sexist,"
...if Sarah Palin did not want to be shown in pictures of this nature she should not have posed for this photo. Sure Newsweek could have used a number of other pictures available of her but Palin's own behavior encourages covers such as this. Her winks and use of sex appeal are part of her act. [...] This is far more a case of conservatives loving to play the victim than anything meaningful.
Pandagon's Jesse Taylor notes that "[t]he problem with crying 'sexism' about Newsweek's use of this picture is that it's photo she took for calculated appeal being used to show her calculated political appeal:"
If you're a politician, you don't trip and fall into the feature article and photo spread in a nationwide magazine. No governor of a state and former vice presidential candidate stands up in front of a professional photographer with an American flag draped over a chair...just because. [...] It's hard to argue the sexism of others when you're portrayed exactly as you yourself chose to be portrayed.
Sheril (Unscientific America) Kirschenbaum writes "I'm (Actually) with Sarah" at Discover, asking "How are we to encourage more women to consider a career in politics when the media casts every female as a 'pin-up' or 'bitch' with no middle ground?"
I often wondered how many girls might be completely turned off to politics by watching the unrelenting onslaught of ogling, sexy photo-shopping, and worse that ensued from across the aisle.
I'm certainly not recommending a burka, but that Runner's World photo series was intended to draw attention to her athleticism, not her politics--Palin could have posed in a modest sweatsuit instead, but chose not to. Nina Berman at BAG News Notes calls Newsweek's choice "brilliant:"
They take an inelegantly, even laughably propped photo where Palin is an obvious participant as opposed to being a manipulated subject, and recontextualize it to show how far out she is willing to travel on the road of self promotion. They beat her at her own game and in the process shield themselves from what would have been the inevitable criticism if they had dolled her up themselves and posed her the same way.