Related: Civil & Human Rights, In the Media, Living, Politics, Religion, Social Issues, Social Justice Issues, Women, Women's Leadership

Erasing Women from the Picture


Don’t you just love Photoshop?  In a few quick keystrokes, you can go from the first draft of history….

… to your very own version of what you wanted to happen, or hoped had happened, or how it would have been had you been in charge of things….

The first photo above, in color, is the official White House photo from the Situation Room showing President Obama, Vice President Biden and others watching a live video feed of the Navy Seals invading Osama bin Laden’s hideout.  Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is quite prominent in the first photo, hand to mouth, and another woman, National Security staff member Audrey Tomasen, appears in back.

The second photo above, a snapshot of a newspaper, shows what happens when anybody can rewrite history.  The newspaper Der Tzitung, a publication of the ultra-orthodox Hasidic Jewish Community, ran the White House photo AFTER erasing the images of the women — Secretary Clinton and NSA Staffer Tomason.   Another Hasidic publication, De Voch, apparently did the same thing.  In both cases, the explanation given is religion — Hasidic beliefs prohibit the publications of women’s images on the grounds that they may be sexually suggestive.

Der Tzitung subsequently apologized for violating White House policy that prohibits altering official photos.

But no apologies for erasing women from history.

Freedom of religion is one of our most precious liberties.  This nation’s bedrock freedoms protect the right of Hasidic Jews to practice their religion in the same way that the Constitution protects the Amish, Muslims, Catholics, Seventh Day Adventists, fundamentalist Christians, Buddhists and believers across the entire spectrum.

But freedom of religion is not a license to change facts or revise history to fit beliefs.  If a factual account offends a religious belief, better to refrain from publishing the account or photo at all, rather than altering the material to fit the belief.  Seems to me that truth is also a bedrock moral value of most religions.

Beyond that obvious point, however, is the lesson necessarily drawn from this latest illustration of the still-egregious insults to women throughout modern society, many wrongly committed in the name of religion.  It’s much too easy to say that religious beliefs require the men who are in charge to protect the women whom they seek to obscure, hide and repress — whether erased from photos or forced to remain hidden behind burqas or denied equal access to opportunities for personal and professional advancement on the grounds of biology.

In too many places, keeping women out of the picture is more about power than belief.  We can certainly respect, honor and protect all religious rules, dogma, customs and rituals while also honoring and respecting each human being without denying the fullness of his or her existence.  Exalting men while degrading women is offensive to the idea of upholding the dignity of human life, which is a fundamental principle of social justice.

We are all created in God’s image — and HE did not use Photoshop.

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Patricia A. McGuire, President, Trinity, 125 Michigan Ave. NE, Washington, DC 20017
Phone: 202.884.9050   Email: