In the week or so since then, that picture has taken on a life of its own, depending on who’s playing around with it. The silliest (though not funniest – see below!), and most controversial, is the version published in Der Tzitung, a newspaper for orthodox Hasidic Jews published in Brooklyn, in which they eliminated Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and another woman from the photo. Why? To keep good with God, of course:
In accord with our religious beliefs, we do not publish photos of women, which in no way relegates them to a lower status. . . . 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.
They are, of course, free to publish whatever they want (or not) in their paper, whether it’s motivated by religion or any other reason. But “God tells us to do it” doesn’t work as a defense to such an obviously sexist practice. Cutting women out of a photograph in the name of “modesty” sounds an awful lot like the school of misogyny based on making women so special and precious that they have to be protected from everything around them. It’s an old saw.
Consider Bradwell v. The State, an 1872 Supreme Court decision dealing with an Illinois woman who had the temerity to want to practice law. She was denied the license by the state and appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which affirmed. In doing so, Justice Bradley explained (in a concurring opinion):
the civil law, as well as nature herself, has always recognized a wide difference in the respective spheres and destinies of man and woman. Man is, or should be, woman's protector and defender. The natural and proper timidity and delicacy which belongs to the female sex evidently unfits it for many of the occupations of civil life. The constitution of the family organization, which is founded in the divine ordinance, as well as in the nature of things, indicates the domestic sphere as that which properly belongs to the domain and functions of womanhood. The harmony, not to say identity, of interest and views which belong, or should belong, to the family institution is repugnant to the idea of a woman adopting a distinct and independent career from that of her husband.
In other words, women are too delicate to mix it up with the men in the big bad wider world and, oh by the way, get back in the kitchen, squirt out a baby, and make me a pie! For more on women breaking into the legal field see here.
But, as I said, the publishers of Der Tzitung have the perfect right to be sexist douchebags and print their newspaper accordingly. If they want to be so unethical as to distort the historical record in their paper, that’s their business. And, likely, they did nothing illegal in ‘shopping the women out of the room, as a photograph created for the U.S. government has no copyright control on it, so it’s not subject to the restrictions found on most works.
And that’s a good thing, because while it makes the publishers of Der Tzitung easily identifiable unethical dipshits, it also provides fodder for some really funny stuff. Wired collected a bunch of modified versions of the photograph from around the web, some of which are pretty good. My two favorites:
I particularly like the Blue Screen of Death reverse image. More fun here.