Fox News anchor and Kelly File host Megyn Kelly is featured on the cover of Vanity Fair’s February issue, revealing an array of interesting tidbits—she was violently ill during the August GOP debate, Donald Trump used to send her fan mail, her personal stance on abortion is still unknown—and a somewhat worshipful perspective.

Towards the beginning of the profile, writer Evgenia Peretz quotes Bill Maher’s skeptical take on Megyn Kelly’s popularity: “It’s just because she’s surrounded by Hannity and Bill O’Reilly. She’s like the blonde dragon girl on Game of Thrones. Everyone else is a zombie or a dwarf or fucking their sister, so she looks normal.”

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Throughout the article, however, Peretz touches on Kelly’s eye-popping inconsistencies without really bearing into them, weaving the less impressive day-to-day aspects of The Kelly File (“Some recurring themes are political correctness run amok, the left-wing slant of the mainstream media, and the question of Hillary Clinton’s trustworthiness”; “A go-to guest on the subject of race and law enforcement is Mark Fuhrman, the disgraced race-baiting policeman from the O. J. Simpson trial”) within a larger, more attention-grabbing narrative of her reputation as a “blowhard”-skewering “feminist icon of sorts.”

This is not unusual in coverage of Megyn Kelly (I myself once referred to her as a “hero”), because she is indeed a fascinating and exciting enigma, the lone member of Fox’s flock of beautiful blonde anchors who wrestled her way up to out-perform and outwit her male colleagues and subjects; according to the profile, she makes $6-$9 million per year. My colleague Kara Brown has referred to her appreciation of Kelly as “one of the most confusing relationships of my adult life”—because although Kelly is terrifyingly poised and often fearlessly critical of her own in a way that is deeply satisfying to the media, she is also someone who once did 45 separate segments on the New Black Panthers and lamented the concept of a black Santa.

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In the Vanity Fair article, Kelly reframes her professed role model Oprah Winfrey as a capitalist success story whose identity as a black woman was beside the point:

Consider, she says, her own role model, Oprah Winfrey. “In all her years coming up … she never wallowed in any sort of victimhood.... She didn’t play the gender card and she didn’t play the race card. She was just so good we couldn’t ignore her. That’s my example…. Just get to the table and then do better than everybody else.” She adds with a laugh, “But every so often, as all [women] know, you have to stop and slap somebody around a little bit who doesn’t understand that we are actually equals and not second-class citizens.”

And Kelly’s version of what it means to be a woman—the prominent role factors of identity play in one’s prospects and experiences—is hopelessly bungled, a “card” that only the weak and whiny opt to play:

What with all the male bullies she’s put in their place, Kelly would be perfectly positioned to become a leader in women’s issues such as equal pay and reproductive rights. But Kelly, whose position on abortion, she says, is known only to her husband and herself, claims these issues actually divide women. “Why can’t there be an acknowledgment that, in some instances, women remove themselves from the workforce for a long time and when they come back of course they’re not going to get exactly equal pay?” she asks. “It’s like some of these things are anathema—if you say them, you get booted out of the feminist club…. Gloria Steinem doesn’t get to kick those other women out of the feminist club, or the female-empowerment club, because she says so!”

Vanity Fair implies that this ideology might not extend to Kelly’s day-to-day circumstances, that behind the scenes, Megyn Kelly possibly runs a more feminist shop than, say, Arianna Huffington:

In the smaller political arena within Fox News itself, Kelly, it seems, has taken the same, rather delicate tack in pursuing women’s empowerment: to fiercely pursue one’s needs while rejecting anything that sounds like lefty dogma. Her team is made up mainly of women, many of whom are pregnant or have just had a baby. “I’ve said to all of them, ‘If you feel overwhelmed, please come and talk to me and let’s try to find a solution.’

This is what’s fascinating about Megyn Kelly—how her expressed ideologies compete with her actions; how feminism applied on an individual, one-on-one basis only becomes something entirely conservative. And as interesting as it is that she did the Cleveland debate with a barf bucket next to her, or that Donald Trump, before his run, “called from time to time to compliment a segment,” the subtle hypocrisies that have propelled her to fame are the real story.

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Read the full piece here.


Contact the author at ellie@jezebel.com.

Image via Vanity Fair.