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Apr 07, 2007

Since November (#7): Mrs. Speaker



The first image is Vanity Fair's portrait of Nancy Pelosi in its February '07 "Power Facebook" article showcasing D.C.'s "new ruling class."  This photo, more than any other in the article, keys to the article title: Blue Is The New Red."   The second photo -- a picture Pelosi clearly intended to broadcast -- fronted the NYT after the ceremonial family-centered first day of the latest Congress.

With Pelosi's ascension to Speaker, followed by Hillary Clinton's entrance into the Presidential race, we have had a lot of discussion here at The BAG about gender politics.  One theme of the conversation is that the Democrats, and Democratic women, in particular, must necessarily project power and toughness on one hand, and compassion, even nurturance, on the other other.

In the first shot, which I've spent a lot of time looking at, I can't help seeing the red scarf -- dragging on the ground -- as a kind of trophy, as if the skin of the old right-wing conservative majority.  In the second photo, which I originally had all kinds of problems with, I appreciate how Pelosi framed a new tone and agenda in one scene.

I was interested in your take on Pelosi four months into the power shift; how you now read these key images; and how you assess Pelosi and the Democrats -- especially the leading Democratic women -- as they manage the balancing act.

This eight day series, titled "Since November," looks at images that have caught The BAG's attention over the past four months. Many are inspired by the change in political landscape following the Democratic Congressional victory in November. In this stretch, I am taking some time off, leaving the site -- and the conversation -- in your hands.

(image 1: Jonas Karlsson.  Washington.  Vanity Fair.  February 2007. image 2: Stephen Crowley/The New York Times. Washington. January 5, 2007.


She's standing tall, shoulders back and chest out, like a soldier. Wearing a power suit. Looking ahead, projecting confidence.

This is a portrait of power, unlike that one with James Baker and Lee Hamilton.

Every time I see this photo, the red reminds me of a Superman cape.

Too bad the Bag didn't have a chance to include any photos from her trip to the Middle East, though.

She looks like a toreador, standing erect with a red cape. The Capitol Dome behind her links her to the legislative branch, and that leaves the slavering, stupid force of nature we call our President to play the part of the bull.

I may be wrong, but I could be right. The last four months have been too much about her, and less about us, the people. Like noisy dogs barking in the yard. People notice them, but they don't really serve to change any behavoir, they are just avoided.

Democrats are cats.... And Republicans are cattle.

One group can be herded and counted on to arrive at the destination together. The other group goes their own attention-seeking way.

Yes, the leaders are trying to reign, particularly the Senate - Reid, Schumer. But the rank and file representatives are out there trying for their own individual glamor shots, as inspired by Pelosi. It would seem like there isn't that amount of time to waste.

Have you ever seen Reid or Schumer out waving a red flag under the nose of an opponent? The moral of bush jur saying "Bring 'em on". So you ask yourself, what catches flies..... Honey or vinegar.

I thought, like "Kid...," toreador, with the red cape dragging the ground after a successful pass of the bull. Of course, she is standing, waiting for the next charge of the bull, her hand is not triumphantly in the air, holding the bull's ear. In other words, the first pass, successful, more to come....
What I like about both images, as well as the ones from Syria with the beautiful head scarf, showing her respect for other people's religion and beliefs (I have done the same in Turkey at Mosques without hesitation), is that she is a combination of strength, tenderness, and femininity. (Not special qualities of Hillary, by the way). Her diplomacy in Syria reflects all of the above. She exhibits what men like about women. Not threatening in her manner, but someone whom one can feel respect and affection for. I wish she were running for President.

Love what no contest said. There's way too much posing and glamor shots by her. The Wapo, Wsj and others took her to the woodshed for misrepresenting Olmert and overreaching, doing the kind of diplomacy that belongs to other branches of the govt. I'm not a Hillary fan, but this is making me appreciate her better judgment and feet on the ground quality.

'Image is everything,' Agassi once offended in an ad. I think it's too early to understand what Pelosi is all about and what all this imagery means. But one thing does seem clear from her leadership: she is different and that, given the times, is a very optimistic, positive sign.

Nancy Pelosi: The AIPAC Girl : “In mid-March, [Pelosi] attended an event of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the dreaded Israeli lobby, to pay political homage. In her speech to AIPAC, Pelosi criticised the war effort in Iraq, inviting boos from some of the pro-Israel audience...

...Feeling politically scathed, Pelosi ran back to the Congress and stripped a provision from the $100 billion Iraq funding bill that would have forced President Bush to come to the legislature before launching an all-out war against Iran.

Senator Feinstein's War Profiteering : “Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein of California silently resigned from her post on the Military Construction Appropriations subcommittee (MILCON) late last week as her ethical limbo with war contracts began to surface in the media...

...Feinstein, who served as chairperson and ranking member for the committee from 2001-2005, came under fire early last year... for profiting by way of her husband Richard Blum who, until 2005, held large stakes in two defense contracting companies. Both businesses, URS and Perini, have scored lucrative contracts in Iraq and Afghanistan in the last four years, and Blum has personally pocketed tens of millions of dollars off the deals [that] his wife, along with her colleagues, so graciously approved.

YouTube => U2 : Nothing Changes New Year's Day

Under a blood red sky
A crowd has gathered in black and white
Arms entwined, the chosen few ~

The newspapers says, says
Say it's true it's true...
And we can break through!
Though torn in two
We can be one

I...I will begin again
I...I will begin again

Maybe the time is right
Oh...maybe tonight...

I will be with you again
I will be with you again

And so we're told this is the golden age
And gold is the reason for the wars we wage
Though I want to be with you
Be with you
night and day :

Nothing changes

On New Year's Day

On New Year's Day.

I cannot be objective: Speaker Pelosi's power has made her both sexy and formidable. She dominates the Party, and her personal integrity and sense of duty is evident. Whenever I see a picture of her, I feel proud to be a Democrat. Pelosi stopped the right wing revolution dead in its disgusting tracks -- history will show her to be a giant.

So, if Bush gets impeached and Cheney has a heart attack, Pelosi gets to clean up the mess.
I can deal with that.

Perhaps you can comment on the recent images of Pelosi in Syria wearing a Hajib. I wonder what and who she was signalling.

She's always gendered in her photographs in ways men distinctly arn't. It's as if we still believe men are supposed to be in power. The exact nature of her gender-ing by the media matters less than the fact that men in power are never made to meet any standards of manly-ness in ways that women must meet standards of womanly-ness.

Since she is the first Speaker of the House, third in line to the Presidency, I cannot get enough pictures of her looking powerful.

For me, it is a hopeful reminder of what we can do as a people. We -- the voters -- made it possible for her to be in this position and while she may take a step or two to the side or even step back from a progressive agenda once in a while, she is still there and as long as Bush and Cheney are two positions abover her and looking weaker all the time, I, like lima, am okay with that.

PS. I also thought she looked like a bull fighter and I love the idea of that cape being the red skin off the Republican hide! HEE!

Sorry, that should say "female" Speaker of the House. I sorta forgot that part. Or not, hard to say.

"Perhaps you can comment on the recent images of Pelosi in Syria wearing a Hajib [sic]. I wonder what and who she was signalling."

When a woman enters a mosque, she covers her hair. Some Islamic scholars say that men should also wear headcoverings.

When a woman meets the Pope, she covers her hair. Here are Laura Bush, Hillary Clinton, and Nancy Pelosi herself (with Dianne Feinstein). When I was a girl, any woman attending a Catholic Mass covered her hair, but I guess in the U.S., at least, many people ignore that tradition now. According to the Bible, women should cover their heads when they pray.

(Sorry - I have to post bit by bit; apparently the combination of being outside the U.S. and having too many links is causing me to be flagged as a spammer.)

I don't know the exact conditions for when a man wears a yarmulke, but it's not unusual to see an American politician wearing one.

When tourists visit Hindu temples on Bali, men and women are required to cover their legs like this, and wraparound fabrics are available outside for both men and women.

So I guess what she's signalling is respect for a place of worship.

(OK, I'm finished...)

I agree with Dunc - that her photos are too often gendered. In this case, I dont see a toreador (tradionally male) or "superman", but a certain vampiness crossed with power. Dragging a scarf across the floor is too reminicent of a stripper pose, or some kind of female diva-like performer. As a woman, I dont like or appreciate it that women with power in this society need to sport a special prop to make themselves more "femine", or "attractive" for PR purposes. Also - the scarf is red, which to me is less about power and more about sex. And again, why does it have to be on the floor?? This photo would have been fine without the scarf prop. I just wish Pelosi herself would have had better instincts at the time she posed for the photo. She didnt fall victim to this photographer - she took part in it. I like her, dont get me wrong. I respect the woman alot, love the fact that she went to Syria, and as an American woman, proud that she is where she is. But jeez, leave out the props Nancy! Youre better than that!

The most interesting photo I've seen of the Speaker was taken a few weeks ago-- she was walking upstairs in the Capitol, hand on rail, amidst a crowd going in the same direction, with the camera a few steps above her looking down; the photographer was able to get her to look at the lens, smile, and in a neat trick, she was the only one in focus. I wish I had flagged it and copied it for you for analysis.

My first impression of the top photo was Pelosi (and the democratic leaders) are finally out from the shadows and the sun is warm and shining brightly. So warm that she can now shed her pashmina stole in one carefree motion. But I like The Bag's take on shedding the red skin of the right wing. Very graphic!

My feeling about these democratic women leaders is that they are strong, they know their jobs and they are just doin' it. Their success can be measured in part by the fear engendered in right-wing maledom, as seen in the gross and vile language they use to condemn these women. It just drives them nuts! that a woman can be successful without kowtowing to them.

Something KidKorovyov said about the toreador cape.......It's like she's tweaking the W. Put together with the shot surrounded by kids ('look, George, I really DO love kids') and the reverse Merkel shot a few days ago ('gotcha, again, George') she seems to be giving the finger to the W. A bit passive-aggressive, that, but interesting to watch.

Aside to ummabdulla: I have trouble posting also and do so now with Firefox, browser by Mozilla. If you can get it where you are, you might try it. free download.
Or contact the folks at typepad who were extremely helpful, more-so than aol. is their email

I agree with Marcie's comments, and Pelosi photo stunts are distracting.

Senator Feinstein's War Profiteering link referenced by Gonzo, informs that certain basic truths or realities demand exclusion or be craftily obscured.

"In the penultimate draft of the address, Eisenhower initially used the term military-industrial-*congressional* complex, and thus indicated the essential role that the US Congress plays in the propagation of the military industry. But, it is said, that the president chose to strike the word congressional in order to *placate members of the legislative branch of the federal government*

She likes that red shawl, doesn't she? And it does suit her.

And it does bring to mind the recent artificial kerfluffle over her donning a head scarf in Syria. I really wouldn't call it a hijab, and I think the right wingers called it that to stoke the flames. "Hijab" has automatic negative connotations to them, and is associated with the big bad "Islamofascists". How joyful then to be able to say "Nancy Pelosi" and "hijab" in the same sentence! It's almost as wonderful as being able to point out that Barack Obama's middle name is "Hussein". Not quite as wonderful, but almost. Yes, it's as moronic and childish as it sounds. Grasp at any straw to link the Democrats to the much trumped up Muslim Terror.

However as many have pointed out Rice and Laura Bush have done exactly the same thing, and it is normal in this context.

For the rest of it, see ummabdulla's comments; you all know I don't agree with her on much but she is spot on here, so no need for me to repeat her very excellent points.

I also have a sneaking suspicion that the MSM bandied about the photo because it looked a little babushka-ish, one of the few photos we've seen of Ms. Pelosi looking less than stunning. And they just had to have that.

Pictures like the fisrt are odd. There's a lot of natural light – from our left, looks like about early to mid morning ... but the light from our right side is just as bright. Either there is an artificial light on her or someone is holding a huge reflection device next to her. The lighting doesn't look real.

In the second photo there's a little girl (6,7?) holding an infant. That's a bit much for me, that infant didn't need to be in the photo. Hopefully the infant's parent helped pose that shot, was close by, and the little girl wasn't walking around up and down stairs and around the room with a baby. The other thing that cracks me up is the boy to Pelosi's right ... he wants that hammer!

Pelosi is the first Dem in a while who makes me think the Dems have cojones.
Funny how it takes a woman to do that.
I like her style, both material and political.

You go lady.

Now I wonder why there is a car in the background, and why she is holding her sunglasses. I'm assuming the photographer holds sway over details like that, in an obviously set up shot like this is.

While sometimes I am impatient with how much attention the media pays to how women are dressed, I have to say I enjoy seeing pictures of a woman (Pelosi) whose taste is impeccable. Republican women—Laura Bush in painful particular—have a jaw-droppingly bad taste in clothes. Most importantly, I can feel relaxed about the sartorial over-attention to Pelosi because she is doing her job so well so far—she's not defensive, she's not reactive, she does what she does and is unruffled.

The overt attempts by the media et al to trivialize her as a clotheshorse or to infantalize her with accusations of "bad behavior" do not resonate. She's strong and she looks good and she's her own woman. She's an adult. I'm loving that the best.

Immediate reaction here: bull fighter. Given the huff and puff about her trip to the Middle East, I'm trying to decide if it's bull fighter or bullshit fighter.

That pool of red? Pelosi has spilled some blood. Since she doesn't look wounded, it must not have been hers.

Having seen her in person pretty often, I think we have to realize that in reality, Pelosi is very short and small.

The photo of her as Grandma with the kids worked well for her partly because it made her large in a way she would not have been surrounded by her colleagues.

The towering Pelosi against the Capitol is really a triumph of placement for her -- nicely showing her as she needs to be shown to pull off the leadership role she is currently playing. I've never exactly liked her, but she is doing one hell of a job playing a necessary part for a nation eager for change at the moment.

I agree with both the toreador and the "women need a sexy prop" interpretations. I suspect that one could find a parallel pose from the 1930s of a pinup girl with a feather boa.

Anyway, the framing is quite dramatic. Also, I was happy to see her in a "business-like" suit, rather than the cotton candy two-pieces (with skirts, of course) that often seem de regour for high-ranking political women and Presidential wives. no pearls, all business! yay!!

Heehee Love that first photo. It shouts bull ring to me. Pelosi on the piazza, with cape. That's the posture and attitude of a master performer recieving their due after much skillful work, which rings true for both Pelosi and a matador.

Pelosi is the triumphant matador, having waved the red cape in front of the near-sighted bull, and shown that he doesn't/can't see past his own nose. Or shown him to be willing to run bellowing towards nothing, a shadow, a flapping tempation. She herself is willing to put on the glasses, see things more clearly.

And in addition, she's head up and confident, uncowed by what may come next.

Trailed on the ground as it is, the shawl/cape says "bullfighting cape." It also (with fringe) says savoir faire to me, a personal strength and style that is very comfortable to her. The little black pointy shoes also say style to me, and adds to the matador-like echos. But her posture nails it.

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