The two photos of Donald Trump that tell a very worrying story


by Joe Vesey-Byrne

Two images side by side tell a story about gender inequality in the Trump Administration.

Donald Trump has used his first days in office to sign a series of executive orders and presidential memorandum.

In the United States the president is not the official lawmaker, but over time presidents have accrued tools to tinker with their existing authority.

Executive orders and memorandums are such tools because they can make big changes using the president’s existing authority, without the need to get a vote through Congress.

Trump and his predecessor Barack Obama both used their early days in office to sign a series of executive orders.

 Spin doctors often make hay out of executive orders. This flexing of presidential muscle showcases their man ‘taking action’ and is an easy narrative to tell with a single image.

At two of Mr Trump’s document signing photo opportunities, the photos told this story, but side by side they tell another.

Crude oil

The first image is a classic example of the authoritative, legal document signing, action shot.

It shows an executive action taken on Wednesday, when President Trump issued a presidential memorandum which would make it possible for the Dakota Access pipeline and Keystone XL pipeline to be constructed.

The oil pipeline has been opposed by environmental campaigners because of the potential damage caused by the increased amount of crude oil coming into America from Canada.

Present at the order’s signing were members of his top team.

The memorandum was one of five executive actions taken that day.

All the President’s men

The second image was taken the day before.

It shows President Trump using his authority to revoke what has been called the “Mexico City” executive order.

The “Mexico City” policy which President Trump revoked was actually one of President Obama’s first executive actions when he took office in 2009.

The effect of President Trump’s action on Monday was to ban US tax dollars from being spent on foreign NGOs which promote or perform abortions.

The restrictions of women’s rights this entailed was opposed by Democrats and many citizens. The fact the main image associated with the restriction included all men was a boon to opponents, who had a clear message and an unfavourable optic.

Speaking on the floor of the House of Representatives on Tuesday, Representative Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) held aloft another all-male photo of the memorandum’s signing.

According to the Hill Maloney made similar protests in 2012 when the first five expert witnesses giving advice on a contraception bill were all men.

On Tuesday morning Maloney held aloft the photo, and asked one question:

Where are the women?

According to the Hill Maloney made similar protests in 2012 when the first five expert witnesses giving advice on a contraception bill were all men.

Comparing the two photos, the fact that two female members of his top team were not included in a photo opportunity about an executive action on the rights of women, is unfavourable.

Of course, the two photos cannot tell the whole story.

For instance they do not depict the horror facing women in countries where access to safe abortions and obstetrics is not guaranteed.

What these photos do show is that these optics are not deemed damning by the president’s communication staff, or worse, not worth considering.



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