Austin Chronicle Cover Courts Controversy

Austin Chronicle cover
If there’s anything that can anger puritanical conservative Christians, it’s taking its symbolic icon, a Holy Bible (possibly as big as Jesus to them?), and defiling it. And nothing could be worse to these people than taking this religious symbol and putting it near the sexual and procreative center of a woman–her hooha (well perhaps defecating on it would be worse, but let’s not go there). When the Austin Chronicle did such a thing for its January 27th cover story on anti-abortion politics, it stirred up a shitstorm. For the second week in a row, the letters section has been bombarded by letters about the cover (there’s probably some pastors or anti-abortion groups stirring the pot as well), and Altex Electronics has cancelled its advertising.

Here’s a typical letter to the editor:

Dear Editor,

I, my husband, my 3-year-old daughter, and my 6-year-old son just returned from Culver’s where our children enjoy burgers and ice cream. I was disgusted as I walked in the restaurant door to immediately see the image of a woman with her bare legs spread open on an examining table, feet in stirrups, and a Family Edition Holy Bible in front of her genital area [“The New Texas Family Planning,” News, Jan. 27]. I immediately turned it over in hopes that my children had not seen it. I then told the manager with that kind of welcome, I wouldn’t want to continue eating there and I wouldn’t be surprised if other families wouldn’t either. I will tell you, until tonight I consulted your paper for restaurants, movies, and ideas for outings. However, I just lost every ounce of interest or respect for your paper. I don’t care what your politics or beliefs are, your cover photo was downright offensive and disrespectful to women, to families, to Christians, to anyone with small children, to medical professionals, and more. Should businesses continue distributing your paper or advertise in it given its total disregard for their mainstream customers?

Michelle Earle

However, other letters have praised the cover:

Dear Editor,

That was the best cover page I have ever seen [“The New Texas Family Planning,” News, Jan. 27]. The picture conveyed the exact message. I was extremely impressed and I don’t know anyone who is not going to keep their copy. I hadn’t actually pictured a Bible between my legs but I realize now after having seen your cover picture, that I have actually felt it. Thank you.

Malissa Driggers

This is the weekly’s second cover controversy in a few months. Another uproar was raised about the Chronicle’s no-kill millennium cover last November, which featured euthanized cats.

6 Comments so far

  1. ttrentham (unregistered) on February 9th, 2006 @ 1:29 pm

    I love that cover, especially the small print “Family Edition”. Nice touch. Some friends and I were discussing framing a copy for posterity.

    Oh, and I eat at that Culver’s with my kids (I’m guessing they’re talking about the one at Brodie and William Cannon, but it could be the Braker and Kramer location, I suppose) and have no problem with them seeing the cover or having to explain it them.

  2. Tim Thomas (unregistered) on February 9th, 2006 @ 1:55 pm

    I love that cover. I had a baby shower this past weekend and a friend wrapped our present in it. It was the hit of the party, including among the parents.

  3. truecraig (unregistered) on February 9th, 2006 @ 2:56 pm

    What I find so fascinating is that someone would feel it was their place to tell a free publication what they should or should not put on their cover. Readers dictate distribution, but we do not dictate content. Try as we might. It’s strange. They feel so righteous in their position of moral superiority as to actually take the time out of their life to write a condescending, finger wagging letter to the editor, as if he didn’t already know what their vanilla-whatever stance would be. Silliness.

    On a broader scale, since when does a picture show “disregard” for a person (religious group, gang, theatre troupe) simply because they don’t agree with the concept, layout, or implied imagery? Are we in some loony extension of don’t-draw-Mohammed-or-people-will-die Lebanon? Or is there a general lack of humor pervading the entire world population’s interpretation of pictures?

    Or, is thinking just too damn hard these days. (no question mark)

  4. M1EK (unregistered) on February 9th, 2006 @ 3:12 pm

    And thanks to all this shit (or perhaps not), they didn’t run my crackpot letter this week (first time I’ve been denied). I obviously ain’t no Amy Babich.

  5. MLA (unregistered) on February 9th, 2006 @ 8:03 pm

    And we know it’s a woman, how?

  6. omit (unregistered) on February 10th, 2006 @ 1:41 am

    Good question.

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