Right now, the White House press corps has been wondering — as it should! — whether, since President Obama nominated three white guys to his cabinet, women are being shut out of the Oval Office. The New York Times' Annie Lowrey wrote about the "all-male look" of Obama top staff Tuesday. But, if we're going to look at photos, we can't help but notice that another Oval Office crew has a nearly all-male look: the White House press corps.
Above Lowrey's story was a December 29 photo, at right, of 11 aides meeting with Obama in the Oval Office to discuss the fiscal cliff negotiations. The ten you can see are men. The eleventh, Valerie Jarrett, is hidden behind White House communications director Dan Pfeiffer. Only her leg is visible -- "Jarrett's leg as metaphor," the Times's Jodi Kantor tweeted. Times staffers might be particularly sensitive to the issue, what with their newspaper's past trouble with sex discrimination. But others are outraged, particularly MSNBC's Joe Scarborough, who shouted down his co-host Mika Brzezinski Thursday morning during a discussion of the White House's latent sexism on display in the lack of diversity in his cabinet. Obama needs Mitt Romney's binders full of women, The Washington Post's Ruth Marcus said, as did a whole bunch of other people on Twitter. The White House responded by sending out a photo of a January 8, 2013 meeting with three female advisers in the frame. We might note that, as the first former enlisted soldier to serve as defense secretary, Chuck Hagel represents a different kind of diversity -- one of social class -- but you know, we don't like to talk about class in America.
While the Jarrett leg picture is telling, if you search through the photo archives of Oval Office meetings, the wide-angle shots offer another assessment: Obama's men are mostly covered by men, too.
Just check out the visual metaphor in this photo of Obama meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on March 5. There are two women in the photo -- one craning her neck from the back of the room, another hunched against the sofa as all those male reporters try to squeeze them out to get the story.
Or this photo, of Obama meeting British Prime Minister David Cameron on March 14. It's a sea of boys dotted by a few girls.
In another stunning visual metaphor, zoom close up on this lady's face, as she's stretching to see from behind her male peers. The glass ceiling? More like the Brooks Brothers wall.
There were a lot more women covering Obama's April 9 meeting with Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff. Typical, right? When the subject is a woman, news organizations pull out their ligantes cheios de mulheres.
But it's back to nothing but dudes when Obama met with Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping on February 14.
Just the boys as Obama meets with King Abdullah II of Jordan January 17, 2012.
The pattern continues deep into the archives. Here's a bunch of dudes reporting on Obama meeting with Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner on January 29, 2009.
Here we have another heartbreaking visual metaphor, as a lone lady keeps her head down in the back while reporters cover Obama's meeting with Geithner, Vice President Joe Biden, and White House press secretary Robert Gibbs on January 29, 2009.
My favorite visual metaphor is this one, taken when Obama swore in Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius on April 28, 2009. All those men craning to cover the lady in the pantsuit. What is this curious creature? A woman, in the oval office? With some sort of cabinet position? How strange!
(Photos via Associated Press.)