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Jan 05, 2007

Opening Shots

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I believe much of the MSM, including the NYT, has a visual vendetta against Nancy Pelosi.

If others casually and regularly make such accusatory statements, I don't.  Having studied The Times' visual coverage carefully, every day, for years now, there's something about Pelosi and the Democratic ascension that engenders intense condescension.

If you've been looking at today's visual coverage of the Congressional change-over, the pictures have been joyful.  Ms. Pelosi, as you can see above, has been jubilant.  The New York Times has now had two chances to give the Majority Leader her due.  Their first opportunity came yesterday, in a "new Congress" preview I blogged about at Huffington.

(Because I don't want to ruin the visual twist, I simply offer you the link.)

If yesterday's pic was slap down number one, the shot this morning fronting The Times was simply back-stabbing.  Sure, sure, apologists can say its endearing, or even promotional, indicative of a new Congressional focus on Americans, their families and the future.  And to that, I say: you're rationalizing.

As the political creatures that we are, the first connection here involves Nancy Pelosi associated with little children and babies and the sense of a Congressional delegation made up of the same.  As to how the gavel and Pelosi's body language fits in, I don't have that clear an impression.  Is she being pigeon-holed into the gender-bent role of mommy or unbaked 1st grade teacher?  On the latter element, I defer to The BAG community to focus the resonance.

This shot might be fine for page 8, or the middle of the photo gallery, but this is the paper's defining image on the defining day of the new Congress.  These two shots are not just ludicrous, they are fighting pictures.

(Stephen Crowley/The New York Times. Washington. January 5, 2007.


Just another mom in tennis shoes. Patty Murray is serving her 3rd term in the Senate and is 4th ranked. You would think the MSM would figure it out that being a mom has a lot more real constructive power in it than being a fat old dude with big hair.

Presumably, this scene was choreographed with Pelosi's consent. What is the message she wants to relay here? What is at stake is the future these children face: will they have planet to live on? Will the planet be rocked by constant war? Will they experience the inevitable conclusion of nuclear proliferation? To quote Pelosi herself, she is ”nobody's fool.”

I agree that the MSM does a disservice to Pelosi. It is reprehensible. But I also find the idea that motherhood could be reduced to the infantile “mommy” and the admirable job of teaching to “unbaked first grade teacher” distressing. “Mommies” and ”unbaked first grade teachers” are among the most intelligent, thoughtful and competent people I know. There is now a level of professionalism attached to these roles that perhaps was not recognized 30 years ago, but has become commonplace today.

My eleven year old son gave me a lesson in this recently when he said, “I think it would be great to have a woman President.” I did a double take. “Well, yes, it would” was my automatic reply. As I thought about why I was initially surprised by his statement, I realized that I hadn't given myself much credit (or respect) for my current role as homemaker. After all, the most important female in his life to this point doesn't run countries, she runs errands and carpools. Obviously, he sees a level of competence that could translate itself to other leadership positions, as well. Pelosi is not only breaking new ground, she's shattering old stereotypes.

In studying the photo, I'm amused by the boy to the Majority Leader's right. He's got that impish smile that says, “Bang that gavel down HARD, lady!”

While I agree that the MSM has been dredging up sexist cultural artifacts, I actually like this picture. It made me smile. The grownups are in charge, it's nice to see kids in Congress in a context other than their being used as sex objects, and there are no rich old white guys in suits to be seen.

If anyone wants to dismiss Nany Pelosi based on her gender it will become their problem, not hers. She is neither weak nor foolish.

oops, that should have been 'Nancy'...

Of all the photos of the day, this one repulsed me. The gavel looks too much like a weapon. Holding it over her head implies she's gonna hit something really hard. All those children look vulnerable, distracting our view from the target.

Certainly the MSM has a vendetta against any successful woman. How dare she?

I think this picture

is the most fascinating of the entire NYT photo gallery shots from yesterday

It appears like Clinton is lecturing Cheney
Cheney's body language gives it away as well as Hilary's body language (she looks extemely coy)

I would have to go along the lines of Rick's ideas. The photo may be trying to imply that Nancy is presiding over a group of children. Now if that is the case does the childishness get applied like a blanket to Congress or is it meant as a sharp jab at all the new Democratic members of Congress. Given the visual hostility has gotten blatant at times towards the Democratic Party, I would guess the such things are meant to visually malign the Dems. As mentioned it would be difficult to imagine Nancy not going along with this photo op in some way.

Maybe she demonstrates some guile herself depending on how this image is used by her and the Democratic party as time goes on. Yes, there is the more immediate mommy vibe in the picture; but this photo does offer the Democratic party use of this image to mark the time at which Congress was led by an adult and the children of the United States and their future stability was assured.

With that in mind this work is a photo op for sure, the same as the commander in chimp's strut on the USS Abe Lincoln was in 2003. Back then the image was eaten up by the media one and all as one of leadership and triumph. Today those images are more often fodder for the likes of the Daily Show or shorthand for the careless ignorance and recklessness of his Iraqi endeavor. I really hope that Madame Speaker Pelosi can take today's images and bring about a 180 in tone and perception for the better in the years to come.

The pics coming out are part and parcel of the routine trivialization of Democrats that we've been subjected to for at least the last 14 years. The message is clear:

Democrats = not serious, not powerful. Therefore not worthy of respect.

So very tired of this. The *only* bright spot, after being treated to this visual garbage, recent "news articles" about what Hillary is eating, and Yahoo's "mistake" in captioning a picture of Obama as "Osama" is that it's obvious WE'RE NOT GOING TO TAKE IT ANYMORE.

There are lots of people making a lot of noise about this crap, and I for one am very glad.

i'm jus wondering which kid she gonna bop on the head.

When I look at the photo, my eyes see the children, then focus on Pelosi at the center, and then go up to the gavel she's holding up. I saw a video clip of her after she was handed the gavel, and she did seem pretty thrilled with it.

I don't know... I understand the point that the BAG makes, but "back-stabbing"? I think it's too bad that being surrounded by children is perceived as being so negative. From looking at the slide show, it seemed like a family affair, with spouses and children in attendance. Would the photo have been acceptable only if there were no children? Are children not taken as seriously as men? Hasn't she played up her role as a mother and grandmother? Maybe she wanted to share the moment with her grandchildren. (I guess I'm "rationalizing".)

Don't people want a Congress which will be concerned about children - whether in terms of education, health care, a possible draft, or whatever? Don't children represent a sort of sincerity and frankness and optimism that we could only hope for in the Congress?

If it were a man with children around him, would it be considered so negative and trivial? Don't male politicians always have wives and children tagging along?

I'm reminded that, sadly, American society is not very child-friendly...

The front page of my newspaper had a large color picture of Nancy Pelosi with other women members of Congress. (I think it was this one.) Is that also offensive, because it's "only" women?

She undoubtedly arranged the presence of the children at the podium for her own reasons -- which, I think, were to project family joyfulness and fresh air -- even if she risked being seen as a soccer grandmother. She also refers to her family in her speeches. In a certain way, however, I agree with the point that the MSM underrates her: without too much press coverage until very recently, she has slipped up on the outside to become the most high-ranking woman in power in U.S. history.

Rejoice! Unto us a new millenium is finally born! No one, NOT ONE, can take that away from US. House cleaning has begun.

I think it's a bit much that is was used as the main picture, but otherwise it's wonderful. It was a day of celebration and acknowlegement that families and the future matter. Maybe women who view it have less trouble with this image than men do. Just a sexist thought...

I agree that the MSM, with its conservative bias, has a grudge against Nancy Pelosi and often portray her (and other liberals) with condescension or as implicit threats.

But the theme of the photo gallery, it seemed to me was youth and change, even transformation. And what a fascinating narrative! It starts with the pomp & power of men in "Old Senate." Next, Nancy Pelosi receiving the gavel (the first female speaker!). Then a shot of the "new" Congress: the image centers on a African American and a line of female representatives. The fourth shot--which I found fascinating--is Jim Webb with his Asian wife. A mixed race marriage! Then, Ted Kennedy looking like the cryptkeeper, followed by the 3 stooges, a younger, taller, next generation representative, flanked by old men. Then Nancy Pelosi in the new Congress: count the demographic. I count 10 people (including the headlesss woman in the white jacket): two African Americans, two Asians, five women, three white haired men. Then the photo that lib4 commented on--Clinton lecturing Cheney while Hillary waits her turn. Then a child--a female child at that--plays on the stately chairs. Finally, Nancy Pelosi looking about 16 (though she is 67!)

So, in the context of this series, I have a different take on the Pelosi with children photo: Youth, generational change, transformation. Perhaps, the image is one of Lady Liberty with a new America: she lifts her lamp (er, gavel) and welcomes the tired, poor, huddled masses (er, healthy, well-fed, clean children) yearning to breathe free.

How one interprets this as condescension may depend on ones pov. People will see it both ways. Those who regard a woman surrounded by children, the image of motherhood, as implicitly weak, powerless, and/or inferior may view this as a demeaning representation. So, maybe I am rationalizing, but I regard that interpretation as dated. I see radical change: Maybe the paradigm is shifting at last. Perhaps female "liberation" no longer needs to be "child-free", framed in terms of male standards of power?

In this context it is interesting that this very morning my daughter showed me the latest fashions in young woman's magazine. She was complaining that the styles were all shapeless sacks like maternity clothes.

I don't care. Quit denigrating us for being mothers and grandmothers - it's who we are, part of our identity.

If people want to see that as weak or something, let them. Pelosi knows who she is and isn't afraid of it. That is a message all women in this country need. And then the patriarchy does lose some of its power.

The MSM response is a patriarchy that is afraid of this new feminine power. But it's been rising since I was a child, and now it's taking hold. If you guys don't like it, oh well.

...after being abused for so many years by the likes of the political "conservatives" and their "fright-wing" enablers in the media, I don't blame BagNewsNotes for being a little sensitive, overly sensitive.

My first thought was that the gavel was being wielded over the children like a club, as others have pointed out. In that sense I found the photo negative. But she looks too happy to be perceived as bullying. The children make it a bad photo because their proximity and association with her makes her natural sense of excitement seem childish...look at me! I've got the big boy's gavel! Wheeeee! The photo infantilizes her in this sense. BUT.....

Um...Bush is photographed with children a lot. Why isn't that condescending? When he was reading MY PET GOAT it was supposed to be all touching and such (it didn't turn out that way, it revealed him as the mental infant that he is), but if Pelosi does it, and the press comments on it, will it be therefore sexist?

Pelosi has five children, if I'm not mistaken. She IS a mother. She likes kids. That's great. Get over it. She admires Ann Richards, who was a great woman and politician but still had lots of makeup and big white hair in the Southern lady style.

My governor is Jennifer Granholm (MI), who wears pantsuits a lot and does not cultivate a soft appearance. Financially astute, she is being very hard nosed about balancing the budget and doesn't really care whose toes she steps on while she does so. She is outspoken and tough.

So guess what? The MSM portrays her as "butch" (you can also replace the "u" with an "i"). Let's face it, you cannot make the MSM happy when it comes to women in high places. So we might as well forget about it. When we realize that women politicians are like male ones, all different, then the stereotypes will matter less and what will matter is what they accomplish. Granholm was easily reelcted, by the way, so I'm not the only one who thinks she's great.

Should Pelosi have refused to be photographed with schoolchildren in order to stage manage an image that doesn't make her look too "motherly"? Do you think that would have helped? Ask Gov. Granholm. It does not, it just gets you labeled with another set of degrading names.

And I agree, the MSM has an axe to grind with her. She is an attractive person but you rarely see a picture of her that is flattering. She usually looks at least ten years older than she is.

Why do you suppose that Kay Bailey Hutchison, Olympia Snowe, Susan Collins, and Condi get a pass, but Hillary Rodham Clinton and Nancy Pelosi are pilloried in the press?

Actually, my wife and I like this photo of the Speaker becasue it reinforces that her priorities are related to family and children, the future. Think how different this photo is from some absurd photo of Bush surrounded by a bunch of men signing legislation that affects women or children.

I agree with many of these posts, and I'm glad that the Bag readers fought back on this one. I think the Bag's initial take on the picture as a negative attack is all about seeing something new and different from the perspective of the status quo.

In a world where old white dudes rise to power, then amass power and money for their own sake - a woman leader surrounded by children does look lame.


If we consider the purpose of the body she leads - to govern a nation, be the representative of the people to our government, to make the laws we have to live by - then this becomes a triumph!!

It's high time we had the female side of humanity empowered to this degree! We certainly need it. I'm a guy, but shit - the one sided power structure isn't working. It's like weight lifting 24/7 and never stretching - or eating raw meat all the time without your veggies. Anything that is out of balance will eventually produce out-of-whack results. Look at our world!! Bush is about to start a war with a huge Islamic nation - Iran - just to keep the War momentum going after choosing to start the first unnecessary and illegal war. War on top of war so he could be a war president?? That's out of whack.

We need the balance. And if the polar opposite of male-dominated war and corruption culture looks like a woman surrounded by kids, then BRING IT ON.

The "weakness" interpretation (and the congress OF kids interpretation) will have to be proven wrong by the people who are about to kick some ass in this new congress. If they hold Bush, et al accountable and bring our country back to strength and sanity we'll look back on this picture and smile - without the slightest thought of weakness or immaturity.

This particular photo-op was a silly mistake. I get that she's a mother and a grandmother, and the idea she's attempting to convey here is that she not only cares about her own, but cares about our children's futures as well. But.....

Perhaps if the American people were not so cynical, so divided, she might have been able to pull this off. Perhaps. However, the fact that she doesn't appear to understand the political climate of her own country shows a lack of insight, and is nearly unforgivable. She will now have to prove herself to me, as I have yet to see anything from her that I could get excited about.

I will say that it's about time that "marble ceiling" was broken. It should have happened long, long ago.

I'm not sure about this. One of the things I read yesterday pointed out that the kids in the shot are also from Republican families, which no doubt caused them to grind their teeth as the kids were kept up on the podium for much longer than just a photo shoot.

I think it speaks volumes about two things: the actual inclusion and/or caring about children, instead of the empty and meaningless no child left behind shtick and;

that so many people see it as negative says quite a bit about our mysogynistic, yes mysogynistic, society. Which is a shame.

You mean this pic' of the Clintons and ... Dick

I like the picture of Nancy Pelosi. But I keep hearing her words about history being made by her election to Speaker of the House and the "marble ceiling."

As for the other picture...the first commenter at Huffington:

"Classic MSM.

The 110th is just being sworn in, and already they're being attacked, second-guessed and criticized by the beltway insiders, the retard punditry, arrogant newspaper editors, and even the more wingnut leftists of the democratic party.

Illustrates again the adage that women have to work twice as hard to prove their mettle.

I think her body language is terrible here. Sure, it's a triumphant wave of the gavel, but it even looks contrived. Very much so. Her eye contact and the tilt of her head is all wrong. The kids are insignificant to the problems with Nancy's pose- something about her reminds me of "the Lynndie."

So count me as +1 for agreeing that there is a visual vendetta. What do we do about it?

An afterthought: even if there is a vendetta, this is still surely a much better photo than any we've seen of Fat Denny. So maybe it's just relative.

1. She staged the photo op. She should have known that it could be used against her.
2. The picture itself is not negative. She looks wonderful, and the kids are not being exploited. (Those who imagine the gavel as a weapon are reaching. Do you really think so? Are you sophomores in your first literary theory class or something?) What IS negative is the accompanying banner headline in The Times: JUBILANT DEMOCRATS ASSUME CONTROL ON CAPITOL HILL. And below that is a photo of: children. That is intellectual dishonesty. Even shameful.
3. I don't believe there is a conservative or liberal bias. There is a bias to money, though. There is also a bias to printing interesting pictures. The Republicans were better at managing their imagery. There was another party that was really good at that, too, whose name I'm forgetting. . . Germany, 1930's . . . National something....

The BAG says: "I believe much of the MSM, including the NYT, has a visual vendetta against Nancy Pelosi."

Whether or not this is true, the MSM did not *prevent* Nancy Pelosi from becoming the first female Speaker in the history of the U.S. House of Representatives. And no one in the media, not even the self-important NYT, can take that immutable fact away from Pelosi, even if the visuals present a bias against her. Her victory is, therefore, even sweeter, because it actually proves the *limits* of the media's influence.

Well, Nancy all power to you. Hope you will be working with all your might to get the occupation troops out of Iraq. Hope that you will be speaking for the universal medical coverage for all! Hope you will bring back the Constitutional rights to all citizens! Hope you will start repairing the damage done by the Patriot Act. Hope you will liquidate Guantanamo concentration camp. Hope you will put the period behind bush!
If not, there will be nothing then that will bring the faith back in the voting process that has only two political parties in elections. There has to be difference!

Bag, Pelosi is a beautiful, rich woman, smart, politically savvy, and knows what the heck she is doing......get over it: a woman is in charge and will be doing things differently, you can count on it. All your subliminal concerns about showing her for what she is (see above) doesn't wash.

Above and beyond all this is the bigger truth: Pelosio is a human being, as are all women. Men just can't seem to grasp that fact with any grace of acceptance.

Certainly the MSM has a vendetta against any successful woman. How dare she? I agree with Stella on this. But I also am aware that Pelosi staged it.

As one of her longtime constituents, I just want to say that Pelosi always photographs abominably, even in the adoring local media. She is tiny, but not in a way that makes her more attractive. Maybe she wanted the kid shot because she'd be look larger in contrast. I'm serious.

Her achievement in becoming Speaker is all the more amazing because she also is not a commanding speaker -- she does not electrify or even hold a room.

Obviously the qualifications for her post have become 1) ability to manipulate a fractious caucus and 2) ability to raise campaign funds. That is where she excels.

After considering this picture, it occured to me that justice would be served if Pelosi used this gavel to pound Bush about the head and body for as long as it would take to make him confess that he's a bungling idiot responsible for the failures over which he has presided, which, given her percieved physical strength (she ain't no Barry Bonds) and Bush's stubbornness and ego would probably take the last 2 years of Bush's presidency.

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