Some time ago I wrote about how \”negotiable\” women\’s rights were in much of the modern (particularly American) democratic discourse. Recent events, and more importantly coverage of recent events, have only increased my level of concern.
A number of websites (and major newspapers) covered the fact that more than one Hassidic Newspaper edited Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Counterterrorism Director Audrey Tomason out of the photo the White House published of the officials in the situation room on May 1 2011 waiting for the outcome of the bin Laden raid.
Original White House Picture:
This is not just an example of people rewriting history in order to make it more palatable ideologically this is an example of a kyriarchy aggressively thrusting a specific subset of the human race out of the public sphere. And make no mistake about it, refusing to show pictures of women (on the grounds of sexual modesty) does more to sexualize and objectify those women than would showing pictures of them naked. It is pointless to argue that the opportunities of women are not limited by the fact that they cannot be pictured just because no law says that a woman cannot own a newspaper or a television station. To function effectively in the public sphere one must be visible in the public sphere.
|Prime Minster Julia Gillard (Australia), Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (United States) and Michelle Obama (First Lady, United States) at the International Women of Courage Awards|
If women cannot be seen then women are dependent on men deciding that women\’s issues are of importance. Imagine an award ceremony such as that pictured above if the public face of courageous women was a man (or a blank space.) No money could be raised, no discussions could be held if no man felt the issue to be important.
Imagine how difficult it would be for any woman to run for office if her male opponents could appear on television and be seen and heard debating and she was but a smudge mark on a photograph. Politicians must be seen to be doing their work.
|Prime Minister Julia Gillard at a community cabinet in Australia|
|Prime Minister Sheikh Hassina of Bangladesh presiding over a joint meeting of the NDC and DSCSC at Armed Forces Division in Dhaka Cantonment.|
Not showing pictures of woman allows members of the kyriarchy to live in a world in which, obviously, women aren\’t needed/useful in the public sphere since we have the photographic evidence that despite their absence the required functions of governments, institutions and organizations carry on. Yes, you might argue that a little girl need not actually see a picture of woman president/prime minister/doctor/lawyer/astronaut/writer/athlete in order to dream of being one herself but one wonders how hard to is to dream of working hard so that one can be obliterated from the pages of history.
If I could ask those men who wish to erase from the newspapers and history the images of all women one question it would be…..
What would Golda Meir think?
|Golder Meir, Prime Minister of Israel 1969-1974|
Note: All the above pictures are in the public domain. Each was available on the official website of the country in question.