Friday, October 3, 2008

Legs don't run for office.

The last time I checked, Sarah Palin was a full, complete person. Agreeing with her ideas and trusting her preparation for the vice presidency is another matter altogether. Following the vice presidential debate last night, here are two of the most popular pictures on Yahoo news.

Courtesy of Don Emmert of the Associated Press. And just in case you thought the AP was alone in the objectification game, here comes Reuters from across the way, not to be outdone!

This is disgusting on a number of levels. First of all, who were the pervy photographers who took these pictures? What the hell must've been the inner monologue? "All this talk of a nuclear Iran is so boring. Nothing like a good gams zoom-in to liven things up!" "Americans think they want to know what Palin thinks about same sex marriage, but really they want to look at her red high heels." It's not like the picture contained anything informative, like the Ten Commandments pasted on her shoe or a tattoo of the Alaska state constitution. Where are the accompany shots of Biden's bald spot? Obama's buttocks? McCain's chest hair? C'mon, you know you want to see it!

Second, the media company (in this case, AP and Reuters) signed off at an editorial level on this. I can just imagine the old-boys'-network editor shaking the photographer's hand and clapping him on the back, preferably while chomping a cigar. "Great journalism there, pal! You really nailed the essence of this debate with this shot. You're goin' places. We're sending it out to all the presses!" Then some secretaries threw confetti and popped the cork on the champagne.

And finally, there are the people consuming these pictures en masse. Is it a bunch of teenage boys, staring cross-eyed and drooling out of a corner of their mouths and beating their chests? "Legs!!! Me likey!!" they roar, emailing it to all their friends. "Dude, check out the legs on Sarah Palin. Woowee is she a milf! Bristol's mom has got it going on." Or maybe a bunch of image conscious women, the kinds who get excited about tabloid cover stories like "Best Beach Bodies" and "Whose Cellulite Covered Ass is This?" eagerly clicked on the link, looking to snark on the shape of her legs and the color of heel as it matched her dress. Who knows?

Breaking women down into their respective body parts is demeaning and disrespectful. During the Olympics, one of the most popular photos on Yahoo was a volleyball player's butt with her crossed fingers behind her back. People are greater than the sum of their parts. While I trust the mainstream media not to publish upskirt camera phone pics or gratitutious cleavage shots of Governor Sarah Palin, I wonder how far they're willing to go. Surely they have a greater responsibility than pandering to the lowest common denominator. The cat's out of the bag and there's no way to get AP and Reuters to hit a giant 'undo' button and take these pictures back. So what can we do?