Yesterday, leaders from across the world rallied in a march across Paris to express solidarity for the people of France after last week’s attack on satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. But if you read about the march in the ultra-Orthodox Israeli newspaper HaMevaser, you wouldn’t know that any of them were women.
The paper edited out the female leaders featured in the march, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo, EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, and Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt. It was, as many have noted, a questionable way to cover a march against religious extremism.
The discrepancy between photos was first spotted by Israeli newspaper Walla, and has now made international headlines. The evidence of Photoshopping, as detailed by Mediaite’s Tina Nguyen, is extensive: weirdly blurred faces, discoloration, a tiny bit of Thorning-Schmidt’s hand.
HaMevaser not only refuses to print photographs of women, it also has a policy against printing women’s names. It’s not the only ultra-Orthodox newspaper with such a policy. In 2011, the Brooklyn-based Yiddish paper, Di Tzeitung, was forced to apologize for retouching Hillary Clinton right out of a photo of the situation room during the Osama Bin Laden raid. The paper claimed the omission policy, based on a belief in modesty, was born out of respect for women, rather than a dismissal of them.
But this latest enactment of such a policy raises plenty of questions.
“Why should a newspaper publish a photo at all if it doctors it to the point of stripping away its meaning?” asks Quartz’s Adam Epstein.
Over on Facebook, Haaretz blogger Rabbi Eliyahu Fink also takes aim at HaMevaser’s intention. “If they don’t want to see women, just blur or cover her face. Why make it seem like a woman was not even there?” Fink writes on Facebook. “They are telling their community that women have no place in society outside the home.” The newspaper, as of now, hasn’t responded to the criticism.
All of this comes at a time when the line between religious intolerance and freedom of expression is under the microscope, and still, hard to pinpoint. One thing is certain: Female leaders are powerful, present and growing in numbers, and no amount of Photoshop can erase that fact.