Reading The Pictures is dedicated to the analysis of news photos and media images.
September 26, 2016

Girl Power, Sexism and that Viral Hillary Millennial Selfie Swarm

photo: Barbara Kinney/Clinton for America. caption: Young women take selfies with the candidate as Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton speaks to a crowd in an overflow room after a rally at Frontline Outreach and Youth Center September 21, 2016 in Orlando, Florida.

When it’s all said and done, the main subtext of Election 2016 might be the denial of sexism, and gender politics, as a factor in the process. The Clinton campaign’s original intention was to highlight Hillary’s role as a mother, grandmother and a wife, in balance with her profile as a profoundly seasoned, extraordinarily experience and, yes, strong politician. Instead, up against the hyper-aggressive, misogynistic and bully boy Trump, and anger as the dominant feeling tone of this election title, Hillary’s slogan “Stronger Together” involved a semantic balancing act between hard and soft, between masculine and feminine (in the old line sense), between muscle flexing and kumbaya.

That’s what makes this viral image all the more interesting. It was taken last Wednesday while Clinton was speaking to supporters in an overflow room at an Orlando youth center. Media-wise, Getty’s angle on the situation was altogether standard.

The viral version, on the other hand, as shot and tweeted out by the campaign, shows us something altogether different. It’s a scene that depicts Clinton’s candidacy — especially entering the campaign’s waning days — as a source of excitement and inspiration, not just to women overall, but especially to younger women.

Call it a selfie swarm.

That doesn’t stop the critics, however, in this case C-NET, from using the photo to attack society and the selfie as an act of disconnection.

Increasingly we prefer to be seen with each other, instead of looking at each other.  We live not to be there, but to be seen to be there.

Besides the one-sidedness of that, it disavows Hillary as the subject matter, and of course, every drop of passion in the scene.

Much worse, though, is the instinct we’ve seen the entire campaign (and many would add would add about the negation of women throughout history)  “diss-avow” Clinton, and the registering of any public bond. As an example of the internet noise and the push back to the photo is The Telegraph’s tweet-aggregating hit piece amplifying suggestions that Hillary might have staged it, but more particularly, that these excited partisans (and, notably, millennials) are (judgmentally) turning their backs on her.

Of course, the selfie has become the new citizen’s trophy, a digital autograph. Still, as I’ve observed it, there’s no higher form of passion and allegiance this year than to visually align oneself either alongside or in front of the candidate, hoist ones device and enshrine that figure with your own. But an enervated example such as this still doesn’t stop most from questioning the existence of practically any passion for Hillary out there, especially among the young. Where is it, you say? It’s there in the photo, plain as day. Just beyond the sexism.

(photo 1: Barbara Kinney/Clinton for America via campaign aid, Victor Ng ‏@victomato/Twitter. caption: 2016, ya’ll. Linked photo: Brendan Smialowski/ AFP / Getty caption: Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton speaks to a crowd in an overflow room after a rally at Frontline Outreach and Youth Center September 21, 2016 in Orlando, Florida. )

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