Doug Henwood, contributing editor for the Nation, isn’t known for his nuanced political positions. From the far left of mainstream Democrats, he’s criticized Wall Street, the 1 percent, the “sharing” economy, The Washington Post, President Obama, and leading Democratic presidential contender Hillary Clinton.
So when Henwood released a new book last month about Clinton — “My Turn: Hillary Clinton Targets the Presidency” — arguing that “little trust can be placed in her campaign promises” and that she lacks “a meaningful program other than a broad fealty to the status quo,” it wasn’t surprising. What was: the striking image of Clinton holding a gun on the cover. While praised by some, others found it offensive.
“It’s disgusting,” the Nation’s Joan Walsh tweeted. Former Obama speechwriter Jon Lovett agreed. “This cover is gross,” he tweeted.
The painting, it turned out, was by Sarah Sole — unabashed Clinton fan.
“I’m hyper-feminist,” Sole told Slate. “I see an embrace of Hillary aesthetically as an incredible feminist statement.”
So what was the problem? Sexism — maybe.
“Some critics of the cover have pointed out that, even if Sole intended the image to be sexy and powerful, in the context of a book that lambastes Clinton’s hawkishness and ambition, it plays into the stereotype that any woman who wields force is cartoonishly unnatural, a villain,” Slate wrote.
But Sole has devoted quite a bit of time to making art about Hillary the conquering hero. A New York artist, she’s made a number of provocative pictures of Clinton since her loss to Obama in 2008. Inspired by pulp film images of the 1950s, her Instagram account features images of Clinton topless; of Clinton wielding weapons; of Clinton’s face superimposed on to male bodies; of Clinton riding a motorcycle over the declaration “YOLO.” (For those not up on youth lingo, that’s “you only live once.”)
“I think there’s a context to the painting that turns it into something pulpy and sexy to me,” she said of the painting on Henwood’s book. “I love it.”
But why did a woman so drawn to Clinton give an outspoken anti-Hillary scribe her work?
“He’s not some kind of rabid misogynistic guy,” she said of Henwood, who approached her a few months ago, as the International Business Times reported. “He does his research; he’s assured me he’s going to take a very measured approach.”
Henwood said he was “concerned” about criticism that the cover — or his Clinton critique — was sexist.
“I say in the introduction that I want to have nothing to do with the right-wing attack on her,” he said. “I want to be really careful and not cross a line, but I also want to be able to criticize her without being called a knuckle-dragging misogynist.”
The right wing, meanwhile, delighted in the image of a Democratic presidential candidate wielding a revolver on a left-winger’s book.
“This is just too rich not to write on,” Right Wing News wrote. “… Liberals are having a total meltdown over this. Liberals overwhelmingly think the art is disgusting. I think it perfectly captures the ‘bitchiness’ of Hillary Clinton.”