Cultural Jam: Clinton and Gender Equality in Politics

The picture below was taken from a Huffington Post article in 2014 by Marianne Schnall which discussed this controversial advertisement from TIME magazine.

Almost three years before the 2016 presidential election between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, this advertisement first opened up the age-long conversation about gender expectations in politics. TIME magazine faced a strong, negative response from this advertisement because of the caption “ Can Anyone Stop Hillary?”, while depicting a man hanging off a woman’s black high heel. At first glance, this front cover does not seem to have any controversial message, but the overall image leaves a sour taste after a longer look. Many started to wonder: why did Hillary need to be stopped? She had done nothing wrong, in a legal, political, and moral sense, so why was TIME depicting Hillary as a woman who needed to be controlled? 

The root of the problem with this image from TIME lies in the political barriers deeply etched in history against women from participating in the political scene. When a woman becomes ‘too strong’ or has ‘too much power’, for some reason, society becomes afraid. As people are afraid of what they do not know and understand, seeing a woman in power or thriving in the political world can bring on fear because it has yet to be common. This TIME magazine cover perfectly shows the sentiments of someone who feels ‘threatened’ by a woman like Hillary Clinton (and this was years before the presidential election). 

With a closer focus on the image, another stereotype is glaringly present: the man holding onto the woman’s high heel. Not only is this a blatant exclamation of a man clearly trying to hold a woman back, this overall image touches upon feminine stereotypes of outer appearances, but even deeper historical nudges towards an international culture of women and their mobility (ex. women binding their feet in China in the 18th/19th/20th centuries).

The jammed image below:

 

My jammed photo took my own interpretation of the original photo (fear of the unknown) and spun it into the complete opposite idea – encouraging the exploration of the unknown. As the 21st century begins to elevate visible minorities in society, those with privilege should hold some moral responsibility for accepting diversity. In 2016, Justin Trudeau’s cabinet boasted equal representation (as reported by The Star), making Canadians proud to have elected a Prime Minister who cared about embracing diversity. This was a prime example in the 21st century of a North American country taking a stand with promoting gender equality.

Continuing with my idea of embracing the unknown, I changed the caption completely into something with a more open-ended and optimistic tone. Rather than the aggressive “how to” start to a question, which is creating almost an instructor-to-student like relationship between the editor and audience, I start my thought process with a “how do” question. This leaves the thought open to interpretation for the audience in brainstorming their own methods for encouraging women in politics, rather than telling the audience what to think.

Furthermore, the reason why I chose to photoshop the male out of the photo was because I believe that there is no need to denounce those with more opportunities to elevate those with fewer opportunities. By keeping the male in the picture, and replacing the caption with the current one, it would seem almost as if men are the sole cause of gender inequality in politics. However, that is not the case – there are many societal factors, including traditional customs, outdated institutions, and other causes that are cannot be traced to just being the opposite sex.

Ultimately, if we are productive with our time, the 21st century can set a great example in fostering a world where gender equality in politics and power is not even an issue anymore because it is so widely accepted. Even though Hillary Clinton was unsuccessful in the 2016 presidential election, she contributed to step forward in political history in becoming the first female nominee of a major US political party – and nobody had stopped her.