You know that instantly famous photo of President Obama and his advisers being briefed on bin Laden’s assassination in the Situation Room? Of course you do. Well, the Brooklyn-based Hasidic newspaper, Der Zeitung, decided to make some, um, alterations to it. Can you spot the difference? Remember the original? Here’s the altered one (via Failed Messiah):
Of course, the presence of the women in the original image has sparked some pretty ridiculous debate too. Specifically around Clinton’s expression. So “overcome by emotion” with her hand covering her mouth like that! Um, maybe? But would that gesture seem uniquely emotional if she weren’t one of the only women in the room? I don’t know. But I have a hunch that there wouldn’t be so many articles written analyzing that gesture if it were Biden who was making it. Meanwhile, Clinton herself says she might have just been preventing a cough and the image “may have no great meaning whatsoever.” Are the allergies really to blame or is she just trying to avoid being seen as the “emotional woman” in the room? Again, I do not know. But if it’s the latter, that seems to be a pretty well-grounded concern–and I’m not about to criticize her for it.
Because this is always what happens when you are (one of) the only women in the room (literally in this case!) Your every action, word, expression is subject to gendered scrutiny–and a worried gesture, or a simple cough, can be used to support whatever narrative about women in power others want to write. Clinton’s expression in a photo like this will nearly inevitably be seized upon by some as evidence of the Emotional Female (which, depending on your perspective, is either a flaw or a strength). Unless, of course, the expression were ever-so-slightly different and then it would be evidence of the Cold-Hearted Bitch.
There’s no way to avoid it because the whole stupid, tired discussion has less to do with the expression itself and more to do with the gender of the person wearing it–and it says nothing about anything except how uncomfortable we still are seeing women in positions of power.
Which is why you kinda have to love the blatantly sexist approach Der Zeitung took. While some folks struggled to wrap their heads around the reality that women were in that room, they made it simple and just pretended they weren’t. Problem solved.