Take a look at the photos above. Can you spot the difference?!
Hillary Clinton disappeared from one of the most historic scenes in recent American history and most people would not know it happened. (Perhaps more sadly, many might not care.) Please consider:
Editors of the Hasidic weekly Der Tzitung photoshopped the US Secretary of State and another woman out of the scene in which Mrs. Clinton, seated near President Obama, was watching the progress of the assassination of Osama Bin Laden.
This was quickly noticed and reported — the vanishment of the U.S. Secretary of State, even virtually, being something to note. Der Tzitung’s editors issued an apology and explanation. They meant no disrespect to Mrs. Clinton or the President, they said, but images of women in their publication are expressly forbidden — to “protect their modesty.”
Well now, White House policy expressly forbids the alteration of any official news photo, so the “modesty defense” would appear to fall short here. The editors did not need to run the photo at all — that would have defended Mrs. Clinton’s modesty, if indeed it was threatened.
But to alter the photo and thereby to change the face of history is not fairly an issue of modesty. It is a not-so-subtle repression of women, in another garb. It also has that Orwellian 1984 feel of Newspeak, in which the photos of the news really aren’t.
We can all look back to when women were not permitted to vote. Or to garner a fair share of property or wealth gained during marriage. Or to serve in combat military units. Laws have been passed, legal actions brought. Still women fight for equal rights and equal pay for equal work. Arguably they are further ahead in the United States than in much of the rest of the world.
One might argue that this is a tempest in a teapot and we have better things to do than to worry about the photographic exclusion of women — even as important as Hillary Clinton — in sectarian weeklies that few see and perhaps more could care less about.
I would contend, however, that this is gender discrimination dressed up as something else. Keeping images of women in the news out of the news implies that women don’t make or matter to the news. And that is simply wrong. And I would add that if you address the little things, the big things may begin to take care of themselves. (This was the apparent lesson of subway cleanup efforts in New York City, well described in Malcolm Gladwell’s “The Tipping Point,” wherein the battle against graffiti and turnstile-jumping began a trend toward a much cleaner and safer underground.)
Maybe the White House feels it has enough on its hands these days not to react to an item like this. Maybe Hillary doesn’t mind, and maybe the orthodox Jewish vote matters more. I would hope the White House enforcement arm for accuracy in media (do they have one?) would react to this in some official way, to say hey, you;re not allowed to do that, and we would like a retraction in the form of the accurate photograph published in the same place of prominence as the doctored one.
Oh, and by the way — there are better ways to respect and protect women’s modesty than by distorting their accurate role in history.
About the Contributor
Eric Best, author of Into My Father’s Wake, is a speaker and strategy consultant to individuals and corporations. Educated at Hamilton College, Harvard and Stanford Universities, his background as a journalist (Lowell Sun, USA Today, San Francisco Examiner), futurist (Global Business Network, Morgan Stanley), and solo ocean sailor (SF-Hawaii and back, ’89 and ’93) inform his insights. The father of three, he lives and maintains offices in Brooklyn, NY, where he currently consults for a global financial firm and is working on two new books. For more information please visit http://ericbestonline.com.