Spot the difference

// 30 January 2009

Comparison of Bush's advisors for partial abortion ban and Obama's advisors for equal pay act

From Alas, a Blog

Comments From You

Saranga // Posted 30 January 2009 at 8:27 pm


lavalamp // Posted 30 January 2009 at 8:56 pm

Women have been appointed to just 5 out of 21 cabinet positions, making women 24% of the cabinet. This is actually down on G. Bush’s 26.1 percent, (according to analysis of data from the Brookings Institution’s Presidential Appointee Initiative)

This is a good example of the process of meaning-making as one where ‘producers’ encode desired information into pictures and consumers decode meanings from them.

Of course, you can always make pictures that say a thousand words.


Louise Livesey // Posted 30 January 2009 at 9:50 pm

I think the point being made is both pieces of legislation affected women only directly yet Bush’s picture shows a bunch of grey suited men whilst Obama’s shows a diversity. I have amended my caption because it’s not cabinet but people influential in the policy being depicted.

lavalamp // Posted 31 January 2009 at 12:07 am

I have amended my caption because it’s not cabinet but people influential in the policy being depicted.

Thank you, indeed, my intent was to draw attention to the “cabinet” misinterpretation.

Sunny // Posted 31 January 2009 at 3:14 am

I think its easy to get bogged down in the symbolism stakes, as I’ve said before. In addition to cabinet positions, there’s also other advisory roles, where women are well represented. Obama’s closest confidant is also a woman – Valerie Jarrett, in contrast to Bush.

M sakel // Posted 31 January 2009 at 4:58 am

This is a great contrast! Obama’s surrounded by women passing a fair pay equity Act and Bush and the boys busy robbing women of their rights! Great pic!

Hillary Clinton worked very hard with Lily Ledbetter to make everyone aware of the injustices she suffered as a woman who asked for her rights. Incidentally, it’s interesting that the first time Hillary tried to pass this Bill in the House it was rejected!

Congrats to Lily and Hillary and the Obama administration for awakening to the facts of women’s rights–which as Hillary said in Bejing in l995, are “Human Rights”!

polly styrene // Posted 31 January 2009 at 9:21 am

Obama’s big grandstanding speech did make me feel slightly nauseous (and it’s not just down to the fact I’m getting over food poisoning). All that guff about how he is ‘doing this for his daughters’ etc. If he had two sons instead would he not have signed it?

A good piece of legislation yes, but one that surely any administration supposedly committed to equality should have passed as a matter of course. And as lavalamp points out, this is the ‘Blair babes’ trick. Strategically position some women (dressed in bright colours, because all women wear bright colours, apparently) round the lawmaker/on the front bench of the commons at convenient times to draw attention to – look how many women we include!

Anne Onne // Posted 31 January 2009 at 1:12 pm

OMG? You mean there are POC and women in the US? Here was I thinking that it was just a bunch of white men who reproduce by splitting in two!

Lavalamp: Except you can’t change the fact that George W. Bush screwed women over royally, and that women in cabinet aren’t necessarily a good thing (must I invoke Palin?) if all they do is enforce policies that punish other women.

Nor does that mention which positions they were actually in, and what those women actually might do with those positions. Having Clinton be Secretary of State, someone who you know, actually acknowledges rape as a widespread war crime, is worth several republican women who were chosen to fill a quota and live up to a conservative, misogynist agenda.

Feminists want more women in positions of power, sure. The more the merrier. But we also want whoever is in power to work for the benefit of everyone, not just white heterosexual men. Do I mind that the percentage has gone down b 2.1%, when in all likelihood the benefits to all women will be greather? no.

I believe the picture was meant to contrast that of two acts of legistlation affecting women, one actually has, you know, women there, and the other has a bunch of men present. Of course, the fact that Bush was also cutting women’s rights down at the time was significant.

One can take a picture that says a thousand words, and that may not be representative, but I think it would take a whole lot of wishful thinking to pretend that the Bush administration was somehow less harmful to women than Obama’s one is likely to be. Or that having 2.1% more women in his cabinet than Obama made him a more feminist president.

Sometimes, just sometimes, the context of a picture actually supports what’s being shown. We can argue about what Obama may yet achieve, but unless he works overtime to screw women over and introruces more apalling laws against women than Bush did, he’s not going to be worse. As it is, he’s probably already done more for women than Bush ever did.

And it’s also somewhat rude to assume that people aren’t keeping up with the actual reality of what Bush has done, or what Obama is doing, and that we all need some pretty pictures to brainwash us into believing that Obama is some kind of saviour.

Gareth // Posted 5 February 2009 at 10:01 am

To all who are saying that there were more women in W’s cabinet, I’d say that Obama has (aside from the hiccup with those tax avoiders – which was quickly fixed) chosen the cabinet he believes is best equipped to do the job. The issue of gender isn’t a factor. What matters is Obama’s policies regarding the equality of women in the workplace, and in the home. Obama has a very progressive view of equal rights between men and women that has never been seen in a previous president. There should be no grey area on this. Women should be valued by all as equals to men. On all bases.

JOHN // Posted 5 February 2009 at 11:59 am

You say you want equality, and that critique are welcome if constuctive and anylitical, but, you won’t take any critisism about the feminist movement or feminism. I am all in favour of equality but please don’t make any anti-man comments. I’m not a bush fan but the fact that he and those around him were in GREY SUITS does not mean they are against women. Who is falling for the sterotype now?

Louise Livesey // Posted 5 February 2009 at 12:57 pm

Hi John, am somewhat confused by your post.

Some of the staunchest critics of the way feminism is or has operated have been other feminists (see regular discussions on this site including the one over on Zohra’s yes means yes thread at the moment). So do we welcome critique of feminism, absolutely unless what you mean by critique is an entrenched position of anti-woman pro-patriarchy polemic then I’m afraid there are more appropriate spaces for it where it won’t serve as a male-based decentering of the discussion.

You’re right that wearing a grey suit doesn’t mean you’re anti-women, but signing away women’s rights to choose does.

I’m not anti-man, no-one on this site that I’ve come across yet is, but I am anti-patriarchy and the two are very different. I think the feminism101 site may be quite useful for you at least to understand a little more about feminism before trotting out well-worn and inaccurate stereotypes of feminism. However well done for getting three of them into three and a half lines!

SO SEXY // Posted 8 February 2009 at 2:38 pm

Of course there’s so much differences between this 2 pictures!!!

It’s because you put 2 totally different situation here! Why didn’t you put the picture of Bush surrounded by women and Obama with men. I bet the comments will be more like this: Bush is pervert and Obama is doing his job professionally!

Junior // Posted 8 February 2009 at 4:43 pm

Who said this legislation affects “only women” up there in the other comments?

Equal pay affects both sides of the gender line. And if you care to be enlightened as to the statistical errors in typical “men vs women” arguments, check out Thomas Sowell’s “Economic Facts and Fallacies” – there is not as much disproportion as we are lead to believe.

And the reality is that you cannot possibly compare Bush and Obama – nor can you expect Obama to save us.

What good does signing the equal pay act do us if we continue to lose jobs by the thousands? Equal pay? Great, except 10% of the country is out of a job.

We have a long way to go, America. And I appreciate what you guys at this blog are trying to do – hopefully something changes in the next 4 years instead of a continued race to the bottom…

Louise Livesey // Posted 9 February 2009 at 5:00 pm

Hi Junior, Sowell’s argument is, of course, contentious and, indeed, plain selective. His position is based on excluding issues which are actually an important part of the discrimination women face. He says (briefly) that the only comparable measurement is an absolute like for like which ignores that child birth and rearing is not socially equitably distributed – his (Sowell’s) argument that the burden of informal (i.e. unpaid care) could be equitably distributed but isn’t but that this is irrelevant. It plainly isn’t irrelevant and it isn’t always about choice which is Sowell’s key basis. Women don’t have the free access to these choices he represents – men can’t bear children, for example, and men aren’t socialised to and don’t take on the unpaid care that is largely left to women. So Sowell’s point doesn’t, in fact, undermine feminisms point but rather proves it – women are paid less because they are unfavourably socially positioned.

As for your question “what good does the equal pay act do if there are job losses?” – well it means those women supporting families (married and lone women do this) will be being paid equitably and those families may find themselves in a less bad position. Your question is asking about two disparate things – equal pay is desirable on it’s own merits.

As for not comparing President’s – why can’t we do this? True Obama isn’t a superhero and we cannot expect superhuman achievements and much of his time over the next year will be spent sorting out the economic crisis created by Bush. And “guys” is a gender-specific term in the UK by the way – awareness of that is always useful as I, for one, object to that as I would to “man” or any other gendered term.

Louise Livesey // Posted 9 February 2009 at 5:05 pm

The pictures were the official policy press call for the policies noted – they are the same situation for two different presidents (i.e. policies with direct impact on women’s lives, official press shoot etc). Had Bush enacted his legislation surrounded by women there’d have been no comparison to make. But he didn’t – the policy advisors he chose to be in that photo were all male.

If nothing else this says something important about how well the two presidents construct their images.

Anna // Posted 9 February 2009 at 5:58 pm

I wasn’t so into the contrasting thing, Junior/”SO SEXY”, but I think it’s significant Bush signed off something affecting only women in entirely male company, don’t you?

By the way, you might want to look up the definition of “straw man”. Both of you.

Anne Onne // Posted 9 February 2009 at 7:14 pm

Junior, Ctrl + F reveals that nobody stated that these issues affect “only women”. Women, however would be the ones primarily affected by a drive for equal pay, and anybody pointing out that both these issues affect women would be correct. The fact that either may also affect men to different degrees doesn’t change the fact that they were designed to primarily affect women, and as such were not decisions to be made without any input from those they affect.

I doubt anybody here thinks Obama’s a saviour, in fact feminists are pretty worried about the stimulus package and what could be cut from it.

But equal pay isn’t something we only deserve when the going is good: it’s not a bonus for a job well done, it’s something women (many of whom have families to support) deserve and need even more when the economy is bad. Yes, it won’t solve all the world’s economic woes, but that’s not to say it’s not a step in the right direction.

So Sexy: find a picture of George W. Bush signing in legistlation that doesn’t discriminate against women, where women were involved in the process, and congratulations will be in order. The entire point is that Bush didn’t consult women even in issues that concern them, such as reproductive choice. And then proceeded to sign their rights away, with a bunch of likewise privileged men looking on.

And yes, we probably wouldn’t be particularly impressed if he had a few women behind him if the policy was misogynistic as hell, because the Right wing has often used women to spread their most sexist messages (apparently it’s not considered sexist if a woman is the one telling women to get back to the kitchen!). But We would be disappointed with Obama if he surrounded himself with onyl white men, even if his policy was good, because representation for minorities is important. However, as it is, Obama gave us a double helping of actually consulting women and POC, as well as policies that may help women, and Bush gave us policies such as the Global Gag rule or abortion bans, and mostly just decided this with other men.

The reality that Obama has put in at least some policies that help women and minorities, and employs/consults women and POC, and the reality that Bush put in many policies that harm women, and mostly consults white men can’t be changed, whether someone shows it on a picture or not.

These pictures do not show exceptional situations, they’re not freak occurrences. These show something rather central to how these presidents respectively govern.

Obama will have many opportunities to disappoint us, but that does not mean he’s already done more for women than Bush. Low bar it may be, but that’s what this picture’s there to show.

reverie // Posted 15 February 2009 at 12:21 am

In addition to the obvious point about women and POC being involved in the passage of a feminist piece of legislation, doesn’t the Obama crowd look so much happier than the Bush crowd? These pictures seem to suggest that the same people who care about equality are also the most fun and forward-thinking. The Bush picture looks like it’s trapped in the past. It’s so nice to see positive representations of diversity. :-)

Emily // Posted 9 January 2011 at 7:21 am

I adore how pleased Obama looks. Lovely comparison.

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