Former White House photographer Pete Souza has earned a reputation for capturing some of the most iconic moments of the Obama administration. Now that that era is over, Souza has decided to use his talent for taking artful pictures to criticize the current administration. His latest photo series has attracted attention for highlighting some very obvious differences between President Obama and President Trump.
In response to Trump’s aggressive verbal attacks on MSNBC’s Morning Joe host Mika Brzezinski, Souza decided to remind us what it looks like when a president treats women as equals.
Trump’s recent comments were widely criticized as unprofessional and simply disgusting. The attacks on the morning host included calling Brzezinski “dumb as a rock,” saying she has a “low I.Q.”, and that she was “bleeding badly from a face lift” (though photos prove that this was not the case). Trump tweeted these horrifying statements to the public.
Souza then uploaded a series of photos on his Instagram page, captioned “respect for women,” that serve as a reminder that sexism shouldn’t be tolerated anywhere, especially coming from the highest office in the land.
The pictures Souza has posted depict a wide range of pictures of former president Barack Obama with a diverse group of American women. One shows Obama hugging a U.S. army woman after a secret all-night flight to Afghanistan in 2010. Another shows a snapshot of the former president strategizing with some of his staff, including White House Counsel Kathy Ruemmler, Communications Director Jennifer Palmieri, Katie Beirne Fallon, Deputy Communications Director, and Cecelia Munoz, Director of the Domestic Policy Council, in 2013.
The last photo clearly illuminates another discrepancy between the past and current administrations. Trump’s cabinet is severely lacking in female representation, making record lows that haven’t been seen since Jimmy Carter’s presidency. The New York Times also reports that it is more white and male than any first cabinet since Reagan, with women and non-whites holding only six of the 24 positions.
This is not the first time the president has insulted women solely based on their physical appearances, and it probably won’t be the last. As a less than experienced politician, he often uses these superficial jabs to strike back at his critics and opponents. In 2015, for example, when Trump campaigned against Carly Fiorina, he said, “Look at that face! Would anyone vote for that? Can you imagine that, the face of our next president?!” He continued, “I mean, she’s a woman, and I’m not s’posed to say bad things, but really, folks, come on. Are we serious?”
In 2016, Trump stated at a rally about Elizabeth Warren, “You find anything nice about her cheekbones? I dunno. So, look at her cheekbones.” What exactly Warren’s cheekbones have to do with her policy remains unanswered.
Offensive, unapologetically sexist rhetoric directed at women by the president drags us back in time, and should be deemed undeniably unacceptable by both political parties. Now more than ever, work like Souza’s is crucial in fighting back against hate speech. Souza’s photography does exactly what it should: remind us that this is not normal.
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