When shaming backfires: The doublespeak of digitally-manipulated misogynistic photographs

Document Type



This study examines the case of an iconic digitally-manipulated news photograph, a controversial product of political propaganda featuring Majid Tavakoli, a student leader of the Iranian opposition in 2009, human rights activist, and political prisoner. The photograph depicts Mr. Tavakoli wearing a chador, traditional women's clothing in Iran, and appears to be digitally manipulated with the help of image-editing software. Published during the "Green Movement" protests of 2009, it triggered controversy and the production of a series of political memes mocking the Iranian authorities. This study analyzes how misogynistic shaming tactics utilized to discredit Mr. Tavakoli failed, transforming his digitally-manipulated image into the symbol of resistance. Accounting for the role of social media in raising awareness about the public's discontent regarding gender inequality, human rights violations, and media censorship in Iran, the study extends the typology of standard photojournalistic icons (Perlmutter, 1998) by adding the dimension of credibility to categorize ambiguous digitally-manipulated photojournalistic content in contentious times.