If you’ve ever used a stock image website, you’re probably aware of the volume of ridiculously sexist stock photos that pop up when searching for phrases like “business women.” If you haven't, picture flaw-free women wearing sexy item(s) of clothing while holding random props that denote “empowerment”. Yeah...I've never worn a crop top while holding a hammer either.
Enter the chief operating officer of Facebook and woman’s empowerment activist, Sheryl Sandberg — our hero of the day. Her non-profit organization Lean In partnered with Getty Images to create a collection of stock photos that portray women in a more positive way.
The ridiculous nature of female stock photos has been pretty well documented. The Hairpin created this hilarious compilation of "Women Laughing Alone With Salad", and The Cut's "Feminism, According to Stock Photography" slideshow notes "If this is how feminism looks to the world, maybe what a woman really needs is a stock agency of one's own." Sandberg is here to provide just that.
Sandberg’s intention behind the venture is simple: empowering photos of women will have a positive impact on those who see them. The gallery features photos of strong yet familiar women, ones with wrinkles and flaws who paint and attend family get-togethers and don't just stand around in bikinis. Sandberg spoke to the New York Times about the current state of stock photography and why the change is necessary:
“When we see images of women and girls and men, they often fall into the stereotypes that we’re trying to overcome, and you can’t be what you can’t see,” Ms. Sandberg said in an interview.
Here are some examples:
These images are lightyears away from those we’re used to seeing on stock image sites. As Lean In’s contributing editor Jessica Bennet points out to Ad Age, search results for terms relating to strong women yield “completely sexualized or just really cheesy” images, and The Cut was so right in saying that stock image sites are “designed to trade in clichés."
Considering these stock images are used by advertising agencies and most media outlets, it’s hard to not appreciate what Lean In and Getty are doing. The use of more representative photos in advertisements and magazine pages around the world could have far-reaching impacts as far as how women are portrayed — these pictures will be in front of a lot of eyeballs. Perhaps this step in the right direction could prove that the phrase “sex sells” is, in fact, a little dated. After all, I'd buy feminism over sexism any day.
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Images: Getty Images