The Women’s March on Washington is the main protest going down on Inauguration Day. 414,000 people have RSVP’d as either “attending” or “interested” on Facebook, and tens of thousands of people in cities around the nation have similarly vowed to show up at satellite events in their own state. The story of how it got there is an interesting one that the Washington Post tells in compelling fashion in its Washington Post Express edition. But if you look at the cover to the tabloid-format paper, you might catch that there’s one problem with the image they used to illustrate this display of woman-led power.
If you looked at the powerful pink image of a bunch of (presumed-to-be) women gathered together, marching forward in the shape of circle and arrow to symbolize both the momentum of the movement and “woman,” well–you probably missed what the folks who designed and approved the cover did, which is that the ostensible women marching together on the cover are assembled in the “Mars” image, which means “male.” The “Venus” image, which symbolizes “female,” forms a cross at the end.
For a brief period, this led to a great deal of confusion: Was the Washington Post trying to make some sort of abstract point about women gathering together to claim the sort of social and political power that’s typically been held by men? Were they attempting to counterbalance all the girly pink and the word “women’s” on the cover by suggesting that the march was nonetheless gender-inclusive? Are marching women the new men? Or did they just get the two symbols confused?
The answer, it turns out, is that they got confused. To the paper’s credit(?), after Twitter took them to task for the error, the Express tweeted that “We made a mistake on our cover this morning and we’re very embarrassed,” and released a mock-up of the cover that used the correct symbol.
All in all, it’s embarrassing–and it probably reveals that the art and copy edit team at the Washington Post Express needs a few more women on it–but not a disaster. The copies handed out at train stations throughout the DC metro area will be lining birdcages and starting fires soon enough, and the corrected image looks every bit as powerful. Maybe next time, they can just go ahead and use the Prince symbol, and enjoy the power of intentional ambiguity.