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March 11, 2008

“Newsweek Doesn’t Hate Clinton” – Part 2: Pissed Off At The Press

This is the second post focusing on images from the Mar 17, 2008 issue of Newsweek featuring essays by 13 different women about the Clinton campaign.

Austin-Hillary

(click for full size)

The press will always feel Hillary’s fierce, historic mistrust—and who can blame her? ABC’s Kate Snow tells me that members of the public often bear down on her when they see her TV mike, cursing her out as a stand-in for Tim Russert, even though he is at NBC. “They feel we’re the people taking her down,” she said.

Perhaps this explains the Clinton advance team’s puzzling decision, discovered when we arrived in Austin, Texas, on Monday afternoon, to have the press file from a men’s locker room.  — Tina Brown, Newsweek, 3/ 17/08

In traveling with the Clinton campaign in Ohio last week, former Vanity Fair and New Yorker editor (and self-described “campaign virgin”) Tina Brown made passing note of the unique press accommodations in Austin.  Besides the image itself, I’m interested in how it functions in illustrating an essay largely sympathetic to Hillary.

In describing her experience of joining Clinton’s traveling press corp, Brown stated that: ” It allows you, finally, to see the candidate through the voters’ eyes.”  As she elaborates, what Brown witnessed, specifically, was how women from the boomer generation were flocking to the campaign as they perceived the attacks on Hillary to be misogynist in nature.

In the context of the sympathetic Newsweek issue and article, the image — making a visual analogy between Hillary’s relations with the press and the fixture by which a male relieves himself — seems to imply, in a relatively unvarnished way, that the candidate is being pissed on by a woman-hating media.

If one considers the image as much from a political as a gender context, however, is the reference that clear cut?

In other words, doesn’t the photo speak as much or more to the leverage exercised in both directions?  One could say that the decision to locate the press contingent in such a setting is a rather dramatic and sexually loaded expression of  Hillary’s power to work the press.  On the other hand, the campaign might feel that — after all the abuse it was feeling — this was a necessary, if blunt, form of pushing back.)

Finally, given the way that the article and the magazine issue deals so exclusively with sexual politics (providing the cover and context by which such a photo might actually be published), it obscures what the image has to say on its own.  Along those lines, I can’t help but empathize with these individual reporters, the shot also suggesting a good deal of the political coverage deserves not just one urinal, but two.

Hillary and the Invisible Women (Tina Brown/Newsweek)

(image: Justin Sullivan / Getty Images. Austin, Texas.  newsweek.com)

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