Women Leaders and Invisibility

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.


4 replies »

  1. I was with you! That is, until you hit the feminism call to arms. Your thick black line is really a thick black moebius loop. If you think about the context of the picture do you want your great female leaders to be remembered as belonging to “a pack of blood thirsty, war mongering, murderers for the sake of vengeance” group. Isn’t that something that has been relegated to the male population, you know that group that the feminists keep kicking in the ass.
    Those in the situation room watched as another unarmed human being was murdered. In fact, they ordered that murder.
    Will they be remembered as famous for getting Osama Bin Laden or infamous for murdering an unarmed human being, trampling on their own constitution and justifying it by claiming vengeance. I know where I place them.
    If you don’t like the religious policies of that newspaper then YOU stand up and draw the line and use YOUR opinion to back it up. You actually did that well in the most part. However, I believe you stopped thinking. I know, thinking is hard work. What I know of you, you have never shied away from hard work before.

  2. Maybe we should keep in mind that Osama’s victims did not have a trial either. Have a read of Gwyn Dyer’s column in the Free Press last weekend. He puts things in context fairly well. Rather interesting that there was a distinct lack of “reaction” in Muslim countries to the news of his death. Largest demonstration to date was a “March” in Pakistan by 100 people.

    OK, slightly off topic, so back to that, I agree that taking a women’s image out of a photo for “modesty” reasons is ridiculous.

    As to the feminist movement, great cause, however, I think that more can be accomplished by individual women “leading by example”…….and you have to be seen to do that.

  3. Back to the slightly off topic. It is impossible to deny that Osama deserved what he brought upon himself. He would be just as dead though had he been able to go through a trial and was found guilty of crimes. That’s what laws are for. To lower yourself to becoming the judge, jury and executioner leaves you in a place no different than the one you executed. Osama bin Laden was a self proclaimed terrorist and he was murdered by the same methods that he himself employed. Would that not make his murderers terrorists also? No, I won’t weep for his loss but I will for the loss of a trustworthy neighbour. Who is next?

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