Can you lead if you are invisible? According to the Huffington Post, an orthodox Jewish newspaper edited Hilary Clinton and Audrey Tomason, members of President Obama’s national security team out of the now iconic photo in the situation room during last week’s raid on Osama Bin Laden’s compound.
A response from the newspaper suggested that rules of modesty prevented them from showing photos of any woman. They indicated that this “in no way relegated them to a lower status”.
Bullshit. The old saying, “out of sight out of mind” applies. Leaders must be embodied to their followers. We need to see people to assess their authenticity, their confidence and their presence. And you can’t do that if you can’t be seen. If a woman cannot be seen, she isn’t seen as doing her job and she can’t lead. She is invisible.
While you might argue that this is only one fringe group, I would suggest that extreme groups of all sorts take this viewpoint. And in fact many mainstream religions require that women cover their hair, eyes, face, skin. Erasing us, or erasing our individuality using modesty is an excuse. If modesty is so important, why aren’t men more modest? Is it not sexually suggestive to see a man’s face?
If I sound pissed off, it is because I am. The Skinny Professor told me the other day that I was too wishy-washy in my blog. That I should draw a thick black line. Well, here’s to thick black lines.
If we can’t change attitudes in a relatively free Western country, how on earth do we think we can make changes in other countries where sexism has a much deeper hold? As I keep telling my students, the need for feminism is more relevant today, precisely because it feels like we have made so much progress.
I am not invisible.