Women's Issues

‘Lean In’ Stock Photos A Step In The Right Direction, But Majority Still White, Thin And Gorgeous

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461555439Most people probably spend roughly zero percent of their days thinking about stock photography. I don’t mean seeing it – it’s everywhere – I mean thinking about it. Do you absorb the subliminal messages sent by the deeply ingrained gender roles in the images chosen for the news you peruse? I do. I spend a lot of time thinking about it, because my job requires that I insert a well-chosen photo next to the stories I write. This is often more difficult than it sounds:

These stock images are familiar to anyone who has seen an advertisement or flipped through a magazine or brochure illustrating working women and families. And their ubiquity is hurting girls and women by feeding into old-fashioned stereotypes, says Sheryl Sandberg, the Facebook executive who has become an advocate for women achieving leadership roles.

Sandberg’s Lean In organization has partnered with Getty to combat the stereotypes that are so pervasive in stock photography. Women are often pictured in certain roles, people of color are not well-represented and the gender stereotypes ascribed to children can be really staggering.

Here’s one example: If I search the term “mother” from Getty’s regular stock image database, of the 100 images of mothers on the first page of results – 96 of them are white. If I do the same in the “lean in collection” of the 100 images – 74 are white. This is an improvement, but…

There’s a bigger representation of fathers with their children, some seriously kick-ass looking women and gorgeous older ladies. There’s a more modern take on the way we really look, with more tattooed, strong bodies. There are little girls skateboarding and little boys crying on their father’s shoulder. It’s refreshing – but it really feels like baby steps. Everyone is still predominantly white, thin and gorgeous. But if you take the time to search, you can find images you don’t normally see used much in the stock photo world.

When it comes to the pervasive images that are constantly being shoved down our throats, I guess beggars can’t be choosers. I’ll take the time to find the amazing images that are there. I’m sure the database will only get larger, and it’s definitely worth the effort. Here’s a few, complete with the captions provided by Getty.


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