a bird and a bottle

PTSD Pin-Ups?
March 20, 2007, 6:39 am
Filed under: feminism/s & gender, media, news, war

I mentioned in passing yesterday in my post about the NY Times’s article on Women in Iraq and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) that I was a little put off by the article’s central photo — the one of Suzanne Swift lying on a beach, hand suggestively placed between her thighs.

This one:


My thought when I saw the photo was that the Times couldn’t resist being just the teensiest bit sexist, even with an article like this one.

Lindsay of Majikthise, who is a professional photographer in addition to being a powerhouse blogger, knows better than I (being a professional and all) and shares her thoughts on the photo spread.

Here’s what she has to say about this image:

If there’s a message here, I don’t get it. What is Grannan trying to say? Why would you get a woman in jeans and a t-shirt to pose like a swimsuit model on a beach in order to illustrate a story about how she got PTSD in Iraq and went AWOL? I’m not saying it’s a bad photograph. Actually, I think it’s very good technically and aesthetically. It just doesn’t make any sense.

Go ahead and read the rest.

Zuzu is also on the case.


7 Comments so far
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Lindsay’s post caught my attention for two reasons: (1) my daughter serves as an officer in the military and deploys to Iraq within the month, her third rotation; (2) I am a photojournalist. When I see stories about women in the military, my first impulse is to e-mail links to my daughter. But then I hesitate: “She has enough on her plate. Don’t.” Sometimes she reads the “Riverend” blog, also known as Baghdad Burning, but little else. “No time,” she says.

Less than 30 days left and counting, our telephone conversations are awkward and measured. I learned years ago that there are subjects she cannot talk about, and there are questions I dare not ask. We conclude our phone calls with mutual exchanges of “I love you,” but how can this possibly close the abyss that separates us? I will spend another year riveted to the nightly news, wringing hands. Perhaps some day she will share her experiences with me. But not yet. Not until the war is over.

Comment by Swampcracker

Swampcracker – first off, we’ll be thinking of your daughter and sending her our best wishes. I hope that she is safe on this third tour. She’s no doubt a brave woman.

A question about the photographs — as a photojournalist and the father of a woman soldier, what do you think of them? Do they strike you as somehow incongruous with the text of the article? Do you think they objectify?

Comment by bean

Grannan has an astringent style that alienates us from our emotions. Her studio style is appropriate for the rave or techno crowd, for whom the emphasis is on “coolness” as opposed to “hot.” Alienation is a form of catharsis, the dramatic purging of pity and terror. As an anxiety disorder, PTSD is about feelings of depersonalization and derealization, in other words, alienation. Viewed from this perspective, Gannan’s work succeeds. But is this the kind of photojournalism to which we have become accustomed? We expect photojournalism to engage our emotions, not purge them. Artistically the work succeeds; emotionally we fail to connect. That is why viewers find Gannan’s work to be incongruous and jarring.

Comment by Swampcracker

Perhaps this image helps to explain the uncanny coincidence you pointed out in your last post (in the NYTimes and Salon articles, women invoked the “bitch, whore, dyke” stereotyping in the military): there remains a fundamental divide between society’s image of women and its image of warriors.

Comment by professorplum

That’s true — there is a fundamental divide. But how does that create the language stereotyping? I think there’s something to the connection but I am not sure I see it clearly yet….

Comment by bean

Sorry for the unclear comment. The idea what that the warrior image is still not an option for women. What we’re left with, instead, is “bitch, whore, dyke” and swimsuit-like poses on the beach – both of which offset (or negate) the image of women warriors.

Comment by professorplum

No apology necessary, ProfP! Now I see what you mean – and it makes a lot of sense. It’s sad, though, that the remaining options for women (when warrior is not one – but even when it is) are bitch, whore, and dyke.

Comment by bean

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