Step Inside Design thought it was being cute when it used kittens on its December/January cover to portray the "Women of Design."

Many of its readers, though, didn’t.

"Congratulations on degrading your well-written, well-researched articles with a cover that portrays these hard-working, intelligent, and creative women as a bunch of adorable, cuddly and nonthreatening housepets," one reader wrote in a letter to the editor. Wrote another: "I was shocked and greatly disappointed. In fact, my response was visceral to the point of nausea STEP has shown itself as a magazine short on integrity and depth. I have canceled my subscription."

And its not just women who found the cover offensive. "I’ll bet a bag of cat litter that if it had been about leading men of design, you would’ve shown their faces or samples of their work," reader Tom Keeley wrote in yet another letter.

The cover has sparked so much criticism and debate;in the form of message board posts, online discussions and old-fashioned letters;that the designers of the kitten cover were forced to defend themselves and their cover.

"It is indeed true that kittens play into a stereotype of women (and have been used to represent women for centuries)," Emily Oberman and Bonnie Siegler wrote in a statement published in its February/March letters page. "But we honestly believe you can change connotations by re-appropriating them (especially with humor). That’s why it’s OK for Spike Lee to make a movie about minstrel shows but it would not be OK if Woody Allen did. Mel Brooks can get away for Springtime for Hitler, but Prussian Blue can’t ナ context is everything."

Developing a Video Strategy That Works for Your Brand
Check out this related session at The Folio: Show, November 1-2 in NYC!

Video content represents huge opportunities for digital audience growth and new revenue, with some publishers going as far as to…