The Photoshop Scandal That Really Matters

Posted by on May 13th, 2011 and filed under Politics. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry from your site

May is shaping up to be Photoshop month. Many Americans are scouring the internet for “real” pictures of a bullet ridden Osama, finding only Photoshopped, B-movie versions. Others examine the latest offering from the White House in the continuing saga of the “real” birth certificate that may or may not be. With YouTube videos popping up all over the place showing a step-by-step guide as to how Obama’s birth certificate “could” have been created with Photoshop, this has been a banner month for Adobe, the firm behind the photo manipulation software.

But the real scandal should be the latest Photoshopped picture. A photo snapped in the White House Situation Room, showing Obama and his advisors, including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Audrey Tomason, the Director of Counterterrorism, as they watched the unfolding Osama bin Ladin operation, has received the Photoshop treatment from both Der Tzitung and De Voch, Hasidic newspapers out of New York.

Der Tzeitung (The Newspaper) and De Voch (The Week) ran the photo, but omitted Hillary and Audrey Tomason, removing them completely. The result was a firestorm of controversy as women’s groups and the White House, which prohibits official photos being altered, cried foul! 

In response, Der Tzeitung issued the following statement:

Our photo editor realized the significance of this historic moment, and published the picture, but in his haste he did not read the “fine print” that accompanied the picture, forbidding any changes. We should not have published the altered picture, and we have conveyed our regrets and apologies to the White House and to the State Department.

The allegations that religious Jews denigrate women or do not respect women in public office, is a malicious slander and libel. The current Secretary of State, the Honorable Hillary R. Clinton, was a Senator representing New York State with great distinction 8 years. She won overwhelming majorities in the Orthodox Jewish communities in her initial campaign in ‘00, and when she was re-elected in ‘06, because the religious community appreciated her unique capabilities and compassion to all communities. The Jewish religion does not allow for discrimination based on gender, race, etc.

We respect all government officials. We even have special prayers for the welfare of our Government and the government leaders, and there is no mention of gender in such prayers.

All Government employees are sworn into office, promising adherence to the Constitution, and our Constitution attests to our greatness as a nation that is a light beacon to the entire world. The First Amendment to the Constitution guarantees freedom of religion. That has precedence even to our cherished freedom of the press! In accord with our religious beliefs, we do not publish photos of women, which in no way relegates them to a lower status. Publishing a newspaper is a big responsibility, and our policies are guided by a Rabbinical Board. Because of laws of modesty, we are not allowed to publish pictures of women, and we regret if this gives an impression of disparaging to women, which is certainly never our intention. We apologize if this was seen as offensive.

We are proud Americans of the Jewish faith, and there is no conflict in that, and we will with the help of the Almighty continue as law-abiding citizens, in this great country of our’s, until the ultimate redemption.

It is of course completely proper for the White House to have a position preventing the alteration of official photos. Clearly alterations have the ability to change not only the way that current events are reported to the world, but also to change the way that history is remembered in the future.

Of course that the current administration takes issue with the altering of this photo when they are in the midst of attempting to manipulate perception by refusing to release others is comical. However, it is the nature of politics (both sides of the isle) to spin things to best advantage.

What is confusing to me however is the concept that showing an unadulterated photo that includes these two women, one in particular seemingly praised by the Hasidic community, is a violation of modesty. If the women were naked, fair enough, that could be seen as immodest. But the Hasidic community clearly knows that Hillary is a politician or they couldn’t have voted for her, as the statements says, with an “overwhelming majority.”

To me, this little Photoshop scandal isn’t so much about removing Hillary and Audrey from a picture as it is about the general feeling that erasing the contributions of women is ok. And we cant really point fingers at the Orthodox Jewish community. In our own country the media still tut tuts at women who dare to toss their hats into the political ring, branding attractive women as dumb and less attractive women as lesbians. The people of Israel were at least able to see past that nonsense and elect Golda Meir, arguably one of the finest “statesmen” in history, as their Prime Minister, forty years ago.

While the editors of these Hasidic newspapers may claim that this is a modesty issue, that is disingenuous. It is a control issue, common in all cultures and major religions and implemented to great success by the media, by churches, and by educators. It’s the common, yet completely erroneous belief held by so many, that if you “give” women equality, it will mean the destruction of the family and the end of the human race. So in an effort to “save us from ourselves” the successes of women, throughout history have been altered, minimized, or simply Photoshopped away.

The real irony, is that in minimizing and marginalizing women, we have created the very thing we most feared. We have destroyed the family and the community. A young woman with few role models embraces those available. And since the majority of women in popular culture are popular because of hyper sexualization, can we be surprised when even young girls think that having sex on camera or having babies as teens is not only acceptable but somehow desirable? We can’t even look to history to find honest role models. Rulers, religious figures, warriors, explorers, and innovators, if they happen to be women, their contributions have been diminished and their successes have been attributed to either their use of feminine sexuality or a masquerade of masculinity.

Even in highly regimented, fundamental religious communities women are divided into “good girls,” which is code for compliant and “bad girls,” a group whose numbers grow annually, evidenced in the continual decline in worship numbers. And while we are rightly horrified at the idea of honor killings where young women have been killed for acting “Western” (bad girl), in our own country, the rate of runaways, abandoned pregnant teens, and the sexual abuse of children renders our claims of moral superiority dubious at best.

By trivializing or humbling women in positions of power, we have given our children the impression that, when it comes to females, public service is the road only of the “dumb girl” who doesn’t realize that she is supposed to stay home and make moose burgers for her family or the “ugly girl” who sees socialism as a way to make up for her perceived deficiencies in society. This accepted belief is evident in the way that the media treats female candidates. How rarely do we hear men in politics referred to as fat, or ugly, or dumb.

And it isn’t just women who are affected. After generations of altered history, many young men see limited value in women. Home making and child rearing, are seen as old fashioned and therefore undesirable or worse, lazy and unambitious. This results in a lack of connection between children and parents and a lack of connection between family and community. Women with the full range of choices and role models aren’t forced to choose between good and bad or modern and traditional. With an honest portrayal of women’s contributions to history and to society, there is no need for affirmative action or equalizing social programs.

Eventually Obama’s birth certificate scandal will likely result in clarification and tightening of the rules. The bin Ladin photos will make their way to the internet. And while people are rightly angered that these Hasidic newspapers erased Clinton and Tomason from a photo destined to become iconic, as far as I’m concerned, it simply spotlights a rampant, accepted, hypocrisy. A hypocrisy of which we are all guilty.

I don’t agree with Pelosi, Clinton, Napolitano and a whole host of other women in politics on just about every issue. But it isn’t because of their attractiveness or because they are “dumb.” It’s because we have opposing beliefs. By the same token, I don’t care for Bachman who is a rising star in conservative circles. But that isn’t because of looks or perceived brain power either. I think her position on the Patriot Act is unconstitutional and her backtracking on killing it, duplicitous.

The fact is, until we can simply disagree with women in politics and other positions of power, without making their gender or attractiveness the issue, we are all guilty of Photoshopping women out of history.

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