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Sheryl Sandberg’s “empowering” stock photos of women: tats, bed hair, and yoga pants

February 12, 2014

Adweek reports:

I just did a search for “working woman” on a popular stock photography site, and got photos of women in pantsuits wielding brick-sized cellphones, photos of women pouting sexily while adjusting their glasses, and not much else. Stock photography is easily accessible and way cheaper than hiring a photographer to produce images for a brochure or an ad or a website, but it is rife with stereotypes.

Getty Images and Sheryl Sandberg’s LeanIn.org have partnered to produce a collection of images that represent women and families in more empowering ways. Sure, you’ve got the woman in the pantsuit, but there’s also a tattooed mom holding her baby and typing on her laptop. There’s a woman mountain climber, a dad holding his daughter in a baby carrier, and—get ready to clutch your pearls, stock photography users—a woman wearing jeans in the office.

The jointly curated Lean In Collection has more than 2,500 visuals “celebrating powerful images of women, girls and the communities who support them,” Getty says in a statement. “The collection will serve as a resource for marketers, advertisers and media for use in their campaigns and communications. It arrives in time for Women’s History Month and the one-year anniversary of the publication of Sandberg’s best-selling book Lean In.”

While stock photography may seem like a nonissue, Sandberg notes, “You can’t be what you can’t see. In an age where media are all around us, it is critical that images provide examples that both women and men can emulate.”

Because nothing says “empowering” like a shoulder-to-elbow tattoo. And nothing says “I can get this report finished by the noon deadline my company gave me” more effectively than typing with one hand while holding your gurgling infant on your lap with the other. And unless that screen in the photo is displaying YouTubes of My Little Pony episodes, good luck on keeping that kid gurgling for more than three minutes tops.

Wasn’t the whole idea of Sandberg’s book, Lean In, that women should push ahead at work, accepting challenging responsibilities? Yet almost none of the sample photos on the collection website (you can see them here), shows a woman actually working. They’re climbing mountains, they’re kayaking, they’re skateboarding, they’re hugging each other (or hugging their children), they’re lounging on the couch with their significant others. Tats, bed hair, yoga pants, and bare feet abound. All quite a contrast to Sandberg herself, who is never seen in public unless meticulously groomed and coiffed and professionally attired. The the Lean In Collection gives the impression that women would rather do anything than pay serious attention to their jobs.

Hey, but Amanda Marcotte just loves the Lean In Collection! So un-“sexist”!

Posted by Charlotte Allen

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