I don't have anything against the president receiving the honor, but as I read the explanation for that choice, it occurred to me that if those on the panel choosing the honoree were really looking for a symbolic choice, the better one would have been a girl who was on their short list -- Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani schoolgirl who was shot and almost killed for defying the Taliban in her outspoken advocacy for girls' education.
I understand President Obama is a symbol of major demographic and cultural change in America, but I'm truly disappointed that those making the choice didn't select Malala Yousafzai as person of the year.
Not only did she show almost unheard of courage in the face of almost-certain physical violence against her by speaking out about educating girls in Pakistan, she has raised awareness about the issue of violence against girls and women all over the world -- an epidemic that few seem focused on. At a time when Republicans in Congress are fighting about which women should be protected by the Violence Against Women Act here in the U.S., and in a year where many people have had their awareness raised about what women and girls around the world face, through the book and movie Half the Sky, TIME Magazine could have sent a powerful message that it's time to stop turning away from all the other stories like Malala's that we never hear about. Additionally, by choosing Malala as Person of the Year, TIME could have brought more attention to the work that retiring Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has done to focus more attention on the violence girls and women around the world face every day.
My seventh-grade daughter told me just this week that her class had been discussing Malala's story and she was shocked that there are girls just like her around the world who fear brutal violence and even death as a result of wanting the education she takes for granted. She asked if we could talk about doing something to help other girls like Malala, including purchasing a bracelet she could wear to show her support in a visible way. Imagine if it had been Malala's image on TIME Magazine for all our daughters to see and the change they could help make simply because a magazine chose to put her on the cover?
A magazine cover isn't the be all or end all in anyone's noteworthy story. But given the fact that so many people -- including those in our own country -- prefer to ignore the fact that violence against women and girls is accepted on so many levels, putting the face of one brave girl who's managed to survive it makes it more personal, and could go a long way to force those who pretend it's not important to acknowledge the reality.
Joanne Bamberger is the author of the Amazon.com bestseller (and her own "binder full of women"), Mothers of Intention: How Women and Social Media are Revolutionizing Politics in America, the first book to examine the rise of the political motherhood movement. Joanne, a Washington, D.C.-based writer and political/media analyst, is the founder of the political blog, PunditMom, and the women's online commentary magazine, The Broad Side. You can also find her political commentary at Politico's Arena.