TIME and Out: influence and intersectionality

TIME released its list of the 100 most influential people in the world today, with Egyptian activist Wael Ghonim, Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz and Netflix CEO Reed Hastings at the top. Just below them was comedian Amy Poehler, star of Parks and Rec, and a woman to whom we often point when we talk hopefully about the improving representation of women in comedy.

Poehler was one of 33 women honoured, bringing the proportion of women on the list to 32.5% (future princess Kate Middleton is responsible for that slightly awkward .5%, as she shared her spot with Prince William). Other women who made the list include media magnate Arianna Huffington, Planned Parenthood CEO Cecile Richards, political leaders Angela Merkel and Dilma Rousseff, and three Michelles: Obama, Rhee and Bachmann. Also, Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who is still recovering from the severe injuries she received when a gunman opened fire on a crowd earlier this year. President Obama penned the entry on Giffords:

Before that morning, Gabrielle Giffords may not have been a household name. But the reason she has long been admired by people of all political stripes is that she embodies the best of what public service should be: hard work and fair play, hope and resilience, a willingness to listen and a determination to do your best in a busy world… she’s got the prayers of a nation rooting for her, a model of civility and courage and unity — a needed voice that cannot return soon enough.

It’s a touching tribute, and it’s encouraging that the women on the list are pulled from a range of industries, from activism to entertainment. But the fact remains that of the people deemed the most influential in the world this year, barely a third are women.

Meanwhile, the Out Power 50 list was also just released. The list, which ranks the country’s most powerful openly gay and lesbian public figures, includes Rachel Maddow, Anderson Cooper, Barney Frank, Matt Drudge and Christine Quinn. It is also, to put it lightly, very white and cisgendered. Seriously, check out the graphic that accompanies the list. Nary a person of colour in sight and, as far as I can tell, not a single transperson. Oh, and only twelve women made the list.

TIME and Out aren’t the be all and end all of who’s influential and powerful in this world. These lists aren’t exhaustive, nor are they a reflection of anything other than the biases and decisions of the people who put them together. But a list of one hundred influential people that contains only thirty-two women, or a list of fifty powerful people that contains almost no people of colour and no transpeople, is a problem.

Intersectionality, as these lists make painfully clear, is still a challenge, even in marginalized communities. If you live at the intersection of white, cisgendered, gay and male, you’re likely to see someone like you on the Out list. If you live at any other intersection, say, the intersection of Black and transgendered, you don’t get that privilege. Not on the TIME list, and not on the Out list, either. Not this year, anyway.

New York, NY

Chloe Angyal is a journalist and scholar of popular culture from Sydney, Australia. She joined the Feministing team in 2009. Her writing about politics and popular culture has been published in The Atlantic, The Guardian, New York magazine, Reuters, The LA Times and many other outlets in the US, Australia, UK, and France. She makes regular appearances on radio and television in the US and Australia. She has an AB in Sociology from Princeton University and a PhD in Arts and Media from the University of New South Wales. Her academic work focuses on Hollywood romantic comedies; her doctoral thesis was about how the genre depicts gender, sex, and power, and grew out of a series she wrote for Feministing, the Feministing Rom Com Review. Chloe is a Senior Facilitator at The OpEd Project and a Senior Advisor to The Harry Potter Alliance. You can read more of her writing at chloesangyal.com

Chloe Angyal is a journalist and scholar of popular culture from Sydney, Australia.

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