January 17, 2006

Women In The Starring Role


Big job for anyone?  Big job for a woman?  Big job for this woman?

The NYT ran an only slightly more cropped version of this Reuters shot this morning on page A3.  It shows Chilean president-elect Michelle Bachelet at her first major news conference following her victory.

As a long time activist, mother and self-avowed spirit of the ’60’s, is Mrs. Bachelet being diminished here for her lack of political stature or resume?   Or, are we seeing some visual "blowback" given that South America and Africa (link) both elected their first female heads-of-state within days of each other?

(… Or, is this simply an innocent attempt to portray drama, or the momentousness of the moment?)

In the NYT version, at least, Mrs. Bachelet’s face is more
discernible, and her expression is quite confident and engaging.  (This
is in marked contrast to this AFP version of the shot on YahooNews which makes the new leader look lost and clueless.  In the AFP
image, notice how Bachelet’s expression seems to somehow also draw
attention to the fact the flag is sagging at the corners, whereas this
doesn’t register as much in the shot above.)

A number of you wrote me thinking that new German Chancellor
Angela Merkel was being diminished through patronization during her
press conference with Bush in Washington last week (example 1, 2).


(Actually, in surveying images of Merkel, it seems that she tends to be
diminished more through enlargement and physical distortion than
through "shrinkage.")  Still, in comparing all three images of Merkel
with the Chilean photo above, are we looking at a similar tendency to
somehow minimize these new female leaders?

(Apologize in advance if any of the YahooNews photo links change or expire.)

(image 1: Ivan Alvarado/Reuters.  January 16, 2006. Santiago, Chile.  today.reuters.co.uk.  image 2: promikatur.de)

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Michael Shaw
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