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The Spin Cycle

The Spin Cycle

May 11, 2011 by

The Spin Cycle: Another Look at Hillary Clinton and the Photoshop Fiasco

In the immediate aftermath of Bin Laden’s death, the meme-conducive photo of Obama, et. al., in the Situation Room quickly made the rounds. Some of the digital manipulations were quite satisfying— President Obama holding a video game controller, or Keanu Reeves sitting at the table, calmly participant-observing.

Then, whoops! Just as fast as a squirrel can photobomb your vacation shot, it turns out women can be taken out of the picture.

NPR and the Washington Post reported that Di Tzaytung (a Brooklyn-based Orthodox weekly) had deleted Hillary Clinton and Audrey Tomason from the now-famous photo. This got picked up in the Jewish blogosphere and in the feminist blogosphere and pretty much everywhere else—it’s such a clunky and unsophisticated example of tsnius that it’s hard to pass up the opportunity to mock. I mean, talk about low-hanging fruit! There’s nothing as funny as an obviously botched and misguided photoshop job.

Di Tzaytung responded to the uproar, writing: “Our editorial policies are guided by a Rabbinical Board and because of laws of modesty, does not allow for the publishing of photos of women.” Which, hmmm.

But ok, big surprise, some Orthodox men are trying to efface women from the big picture. What else is new?

I think this event reflects more our ever-changing ideas of evidence and proof—the role of imagery in today’s information-rich architecture of communication. Incidentally, the larger coincident debates—whether or not to release photos of Osama Bin Laden’s corpse, or President Obama’s decision to release his long-form birth certificate—are another side of the same coin. By now, the photoshopped slimming down of models and actresses is taken for granted. But the realization that “facts” can be manipulated as easily as women’s bodies? That’s just starting to sink in.

Why is this a feminist issue? For me, it brings to mind some of Judith Butler’s writings on censorship. “Censorship is a productive form of power: it is not merely privative, but formative as well. I propose that censorship seeks to produce subjects according to explicit and implicit norms…” That’s the formation of discourse that she’s talking about—and we’re talking about a stark reminder of how powerful the patriarchal system is in Orthodoxy.

This censorial act was a reminder that politicized censorship has a role, and that it has broad implications for the dispersal of power within and across communities, both Jewish and non. This case just happens to have been ridiculously obvious.

Photography is far more manipulable than we tend to remember, especially in this day and age, when everyone has a point and shoot and their very own mouse to then point and click with. Roland Barthes wrote in Camera Lucida, “The Photograph is violent: not because it shows violent things, but because on each occasion it fills the sight by force, and because in it nothing can be refused or transformed…”  Oh dear…   Those were the days…

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The Spin Cycle

November 11, 2010 by

Have you seen this one yet? “It Gets Better – Gay Orthodox Jews”

The It Gets Better project certainly is making the rounds–but this clip is particularly striking. Link to your personal favorites below!

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The Spin Cycle

October 11, 2010 by

The Spin Cycle:Happy National Coming Out Day…?

Welcome back to The Spin Cycle, Lilith’s online forum for media analysis.

KraussI think it started with an article in The Nation. Or maybe it was over at good ol’ HuffPo. Or maybe it was Ellen DeGeneres? I’m not sure. All I know is that one particular topic sure is getting a lot of coverage these days. Seriously. It’s all over my newsfeed.

The amazing thing is the tech piece. Good things: Dan Savage initiating the creation of an archive of personal stories on YouTube. The extraordinary Make It Better project. Sarah Silverman’s badass indictment of anti-gay policy, also a YouTube victory. Bad things: The (gay) president of the University of Michigan student assembly getting harassed by the state’s assistant attorney general, via a blog dedicated solely to that appalling purpose. The secretly recorded video of the student at Rutgers, which, blame-games aside, seems to have provided the impetus for a young man to take his own life.  (more…)

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The Spin Cycle

July 23, 2010 by

The Spin Cycle: Shirley Sherrod Shifts the Paradigm

Welcome back to The Spin Cycle, Lilith’s online forum for media analysis.

Shirley Sherrod

Racism, sexism, and the real-life political power of modern media played out with a vengeance this week in the total horror-show of Shirley Sherrod’s firing from her position at the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Over twenty years ago, this woman of color publicly struggled to come to terms with the personal implications of the systemic racism that defined her childhood and later civil rights work.

Then, this week, Fox News repeatedly aired a decontextualized and heavily edited clip, purporting to prove Sherrod’s anti-white racism, based on a lecture she had given at the NAACP.  Sherrod was then summarily hung out to dry by the conservative media machine, the federal government, and the NAACP.

Later retractions aside, these initial reactions mark a gut-wrenching willingness to willfully ignore the past and present role of race and racism, and gender and sexism, in American society.

(more…)

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The Spin Cycle

July 13, 2010 by

The Spin Cycle: Man Walks into a Blurb

Hi again, and welcome back to The Spin Cycle, Lilith’s online forum for media analysis. Looking forward to hearing your thoughts!

Krauss Say you’re a man. Say you’re an Israeli man. Say you’re an Israeli man writing a novel in Hebrew. Say the novel’s about a woman. Say you’d like some people to buy your book. Who writes your blurb?

I was taken aback over the weekend when I read on the Guardian’s book blog about some recent writing from Nicole Krauss. Not about her new novel, or a rehash of her “Twenty Under Forty” short for the New Yorker, but about a blurb she wrote for David Grossman’s new novel. A blurb?

The Guardian, a massive British news outlet, found Krauss’s blurb “strikingly effusive,” and, apparently, pretty hilarious. “Our challenge for you today is to outdo Krauss,” the moderator urges, inspiring tons of comments parodying Krauss.

I’d expect this kind of gleeful snark from the gossip blogs, where mockery is the money-maker. But here we have the intersection of the old media Guardian meeting its new media offspring, meeting serious literature, meeting a publishing industry that is literally dying to sell its books in print.  (more…)

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The Spin Cycle

July 8, 2010 by

The Spin Cycle: Feminist blogs: Feminist? blogs?

Hello, friends of the Lilith blog, and welcome to The Spin Cycle! This is Sonia, your friendly neighborhood moderator. I’ll be posting regularly about my thoughts on the media and (post-?)modernity from a Jewish feminist perspective. Can’t wait to hear your feedback!

Gould

The blogosphere lit up this week in a small flurry of virtual feminist theorizing, when blogger and Brooklynite Emily Gould denounced (though not for the first time) a subsidiary of Gawker Media, the (debatably) feminist website, Jezebel.

In a vaguely Ouroborosian twist (I thought my Google-Reader might implode from an overload of self-referentiality), Gould writes provocatively about “How feminist blogs like Jezebel gin up page views by exploiting women’s worst tendencies:”   (more…)

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