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Wednesday, September 27, 2006

The “L” Word: Verboten in Newsweek

Posted by on September 27 at 12:54 PM

Newsweek apparently decided its readers wouldn’t cotton to hearing a lesbian couple honestly described as a lesbian couple in this week’s (US) cover story about photographer Annie Leibowitz. The story lingers for several pages on the relationship between Leibowitz and her partner for 15 years, the late Susan Sontag. Newsweek, apparently not wanting to promote the icky lesbian lifestyle, skirts the issue, referring to Sontag as “the person [Leibowitz] was closest to for [a] decade and a half.” Newsweek does, however, take pains to note (in helpfully coded language) that the “most controversial aspect of Leibowitz’s book” may be “the intimate pictures from her relationship with Sontag.”

The story continues:

They never lived together, though they each had an apartment within view of the other’s. But their many trips—to Paris, Venice, Capri, the Nile, the ruins of Petra in Jordan—are recorded here. […]

Sitting in her Greenwich Village office, wearing jeans and sneakers, Leibovitz explains how Sontag’s death in December 2004—followed only weeks later by the death of Leibovitz’s father—propelled her to make this book. “It totally came out of a moment,” she says. “I had already done some looking at photographs of Susan—that was very hard—for a little memorial book. I had never taken the time to see what I had, really.” She would weep and pin the pictures up on the long walls of an old barn at her country place in upstate New York. “And then, I got very excited, trying to look from 1990 to 2005, as if Susan was standing behind me.” Leibovitz tears up and reaches for a box of tissues.

“The person she was closest to”? Here are some less awkward terms Newsweek could have used instead: Lesbian; partner; lover; couple. Instead, the magazine that has built its empire on stories about Jesus and the imperiled American middle-class boychose to pander to good old-fashioned American prejudice. Bravo.

Via Broadsheet.

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So not only do we get a puff piece about Liebowitz on the cover of this week's Newsweek, but we aren't even trusted enough to accept the truth of the life of the woman that puff piece is devoted to.

Way to pander to middle America!

All that redundant prose (Schmader could have covered the story in ten words or less), and you didn't manage to use the phrase "The love that dare not speak its name?"

Newsweek has gone down hill since its 1993 cover story on 'Lesbian Chic'. I miss the 90s!

Well, the Newsweek editors wizened with experience must feel that America does not need to know about the Taliban actually having a functioning governing body any more then America needs to know about those sorts of women.

Must have something to do with the war effort, sure, that's it. Keep American Morale High...

For whatever reason, this circumspect attitude isn't limited to Newsweek. I have read that when Sontag died, the "Daily News mentioned she lived with Liebowitz, but the NY Times (which ran a Liebowitz photo of Sontag) and the Post were silent on the issue." My thought is that if Annie Liebowitz wanted to specifically characterize her relationship with Sontag, Newsweek would have been happy to quote her on that.

I remember when LA Times or NYT ran a bio on Ismail Merchant and all they could was that he was unmarried. Pathetic.

The media is afraid to acknowledge gays as anything but a freak show, because then they would have to let America know that gays are everywhere and gays often live lives just like straight people live. What the lazy, corporate, biased, far right media does not realize is many Americans have already acknowledged this, and are fine with it.

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