Archives About Staff BagNews is dedicated to visual politics, media literacy and the analysis of news images.
January 4, 2013

The New Congress, Women and a Cultural Change That Profound


If you’ve spent any time here at all, you know I work hard to avoid the typical shot. Yesterday, however, the group portrait of incoming Democratic women House members, contributing to a record number of women in Congress, is too important to pass up.


Along with the numbers, it’s also important to highlight how much politics, and the Hill, hinge on personality. That’s why I like this shot even better. What I love are those bookend hands-on-hips between the new member in pink and Tammy Duckworth. Enough of the boys club. Specifically though, I think Duckworth, the outspoken vet standing strong on familiar prosthetic legs, represents a strong new face and voice. …I’m imagining one way the shift will be characterized going forward (if just strictly from a women/House personality profile) is: more Duckworth, less Bachmann.


Dharapak Sacred Texts.png

My friend Charles Dharapak captured the other dimension of cultural shift in these Instagram shots. Much is being made of the first Buddhist and first Hindu members of Congress, women both, the Hill acquiring a diversity that the conservative white males and the media are certainly going to struggle with. (Expect a post on that coming shortly.) And along those lines, it’s no surprise that the first lesbian and bisexual Senator and Representative (again, both women) have earnaed mention consistent with the religious firsts. Because this wider representation ushered in by the 2012 election has effected that powerful a shift not just on the Hill, but in our political religion.

(photo 1 & 2: Mark Wilson/Getty Images caption: Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) (C), stands with the Democratic women of the House to highlight the historic diversity of the House Democratic Caucus, on January 3, 2013 in Washington, DC. The new 113th Congress will be sworn in today. caption 2: Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) (6th L), stands with the Democratic women of the House Democratic Caucus during a photo op on January 3, 2013 in Washington, DC. The new 113th Congress will be sworn in today. photo 3 & 4: Charles Dharapak/Instagram – #APontheHill. caption 3: Bibles from various faiths arrive (on loan) from the Library of Congress to be used in mock swearing in photos with Speaker Boehner for the 113th Congress on Capitol Hill #aponthehill caption 4: “Please confirm use of sacred text for photo.” Notice seen in Rayburn Room for mock swearing in photo with Speaker Boehner for members of 113th Congress, The Capitol #aponthehill.)

  • Marie

    I love these images! I like how the variations in clothing color mimics the diversities present (although I wish there were more women of color). I’m also pleased to see the diversity in the list of sacred texts for swearing in – no one approved text for everyone to conform to. I’d probably pick the constitution, myself. Also, I can just imagine the long road that each woman took to get to this place, and I find myself proud of them, and inspired, too.

    • RealTruth

      Do you also enjoy the fact the picture was photoshopped?
      Four of the women were not in the real picture. Pelosi OK’d.

  • bks3bks

    Confirm use of a sacred text? Blimey!


  • gasho

    Great post.

    I think the new diversity is great and the list of swearing-in texts is my favorite pic of all. I wonder if talk of the first Buddhist Senator will also get people to talk about Tim Ryan’s practice of meditation. I thought he would have considered himself buddhist, but when I looked it up quickly, it seems that they refer to him as a “meditative congressman” .. to avoid the distinct label I guess. That’s fine with me — maybe even better!

    I hope the old, white stodgy dudes who have been so condescending to women, gays, and just about every other minority and non-white-dude classification out there start to have a hard time spewing that BS on the floor, now that they’re looking at the very faces of the people they are deriding.

  • boomerangst

    Please, please, please, can we have “more Duckworth, less Bachmann”?? This is my prayer, my mantra, my hope, dream, wish.

  • KVAnderson

    We’re moving in the right direction re: Congressional diversity, however, the stories about the increased # of women in Congress mask the fact that most Americans continue to be represented by men. Compare your photos to this one, of the incoming legislative class: Even with women placed front and center, men dominate the visual (as they do all 3 branches of government).

  • jonst

    So they doctored the photo, post shoot, to reflect the women in Congress, who could make the shoot? Interesting…if true.

  • Cactus

    First thing I noticed, especially in the second (or pre-) photo, is the
    abundance of red. I don’t think they can all be republican. I’m wondering if
    they are recalling the photo of Pelosi when she became Speaker and was
    photographed on the steps with her very red cape. I also like the animation in
    the second photo. Not likely to find same in a similar group of male
    representatives. — Just sayin’.

  • WordSmith

    Which four?

  • RealTruth

    Top left, for one. Check the rest here:
    I wonder if Getty Images approved Pelosi’s approved edit?
    Guess they better, or otherwise that would imply they are still
    stuck in the RealTruth times. Would that make Getty “old and white”?it feels SOuch better now that gender has changedit all!!

  • WordSmith

    Just caught the story as well as on MSNBC

Refresh Archives

Random Notes