Worth scrolling down for the owl
April 6, 2013 6:46 AM   Subscribe

Racial Misprofiling When "Arab" stock photos go terribly wrong (SLTumblr)
posted by fearfulsymmetry (71 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite

 
This is pretty amusing. Though to be fair, you could do this for pretty much any kind of stock photo for any particular culture or specific demographic. All of those photos are reductive and focused on a single "idea" or "representation".
posted by Fizz at 6:54 AM on April 6, 2013 [4 favorites]


Oh wow. "Those red head thingys are middle-east-y, right? Cool, buy one from the costume shop and let's get to shooting!"

Also... holy shit. Take a white guy, wrap his head up, put him in a lady's shirt and give him some dynamite... stock photo GOLD!
posted by showbiz_liz at 6:59 AM on April 6, 2013 [4 favorites]


Needs more owls.
posted by Joe in Australia at 6:59 AM on April 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


Needs more oppressed owls (WTF??)
posted by infini at 7:06 AM on April 6, 2013


I really enjoyed these, thanks!
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 7:09 AM on April 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


What....no inclusion of "Arab woman and daughter eating apple"? Or did I miss it?

(in the best tradition of Women Laughing Alone With Salad)
posted by lampshade at 7:17 AM on April 6, 2013 [6 favorites]


Also... holy shit. Take a white guy, wrap his head up, put him in a lady's shirt and give him some dynamite... stock photo GOLD!

The power of microstock!

Though if you want to make really money in the microstock business here's the secret formula: take a group of attractive "business people", preferably with a good range of gender and ethnicity, and photograph them in a businessy setting doing businessy things WITH THIS YEARS GADGETS. Then do the same thing year after year with updated gadgets. It's not art, it's not weird messing around with fancy dress, but it's always what is wanted and a constant stream of money.
posted by Artw at 7:22 AM on April 6, 2013 [10 favorites]


It's not the juiciest looking burger I've ever seen, but I would probably eat it.
posted by ryanrs at 7:22 AM on April 6, 2013


Muslims have stock photos, and that's funny. Some of the people in these stock photos look white, and that's hilarious. That's not an Arab, he looks white! Ha ha. Am I doing this right?
posted by iotic at 7:29 AM on April 6, 2013 [4 favorites]


These are definitely hilariously terrible, but pretty much every Shutterstock photo looks like aliens cosplaying human beings and never quite getting it right.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 7:29 AM on April 6, 2013 [49 favorites]


And he heard a voice from over his left shoulder intone, "well, first of all, the Ka'ba is this way."
posted by louche mustachio at 7:31 AM on April 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


you could do this for pretty much any kind of stock photo for any particular culture or specific demographic

Are there Chinese stock photo sits showing hilariously inept images of stereotypical Americans? Maybe dad at the family dinner table, roast turkey beautifully browned, wearing a baseball mitt on his left hand while holding a flag in his right?
posted by Nelson at 7:32 AM on April 6, 2013 [20 favorites]


These seem to be from (at least) three sets - one that is all terrorist pirates with the same cheap kitchen knife in their teeth, one that is confused stereotypes implemented by white actors, and one that is pretty normal workplace stock photos but with women in hijab. The last one doesn't really seem to fit all that well.
posted by LobsterMitten at 7:32 AM on April 6, 2013 [6 favorites]


Between messed up photos and equally messed up comments on them I'm not cracking the intended smile. Does this dude not know Arab isn't an ethnicity? I loved the harassed office-mom pic, screw this dude.
posted by Iteki at 7:33 AM on April 6, 2013


Arab isn't an ethnicity

Sure it is. Did you mean Muslim?
posted by nicolas léonard sadi carnot at 7:34 AM on April 6, 2013 [9 favorites]


But it always sort of funny/disturbing to look through a set of stock photos shot in the same room, with the same props, and imagine the brainstorming process as they were like, okay, how about we also do "shirtless with turban".
posted by LobsterMitten at 7:35 AM on April 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


Correction: not a turban.
posted by LobsterMitten at 7:36 AM on April 6, 2013


and one that is pretty normal workplace stock photos but with women in hijab.

Those do stick out as the most normal, with some-but-not-all of the businessman-with-Saudi-headgear ones following after. They're a bit off in the usual Shutterstock way but basically seem like filler.

And then you get... OWL!!!!!!
posted by Artw at 7:36 AM on April 6, 2013


“Did you get a cup of tea when you saw ME drinking a cup of tea?”

*giggle* “Maybe..”

“You know you complete me, don’t you?


This is the caption that worked best for me because it didn't need some crappy stock photo stereotype.
posted by arcticseal at 7:39 AM on April 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


Muslims have stock photos, and that's funny. Some of the people in these stock photos look white, and that's hilarious. That's not an Arab, he looks white! Ha ha. Am I doing this right?

Nope.
posted by Sys Rq at 7:40 AM on April 6, 2013 [11 favorites]


nicolas léonard sadi carnot: I missed my own edit window :/ I expressed that really badly. I just mean there's a lot of variation, I know a couple of arab guys who could absolutely be the pink dude in the photo's there. Fwiw, wiki says it's a "panethnicity" and contrasts it to, for example, Han Chinese, which is where I was coming at it from.
posted by Iteki at 7:41 AM on April 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


What....no inclusion of "Arab woman and daughter eating apple"? Or did I miss it?

What's wrong with that one? Do Muslims not like apples?
posted by Sys Rq at 7:42 AM on April 6, 2013


Are there Chinese stock photo sits showing hilariously inept images of stereotypical Americans?

I literally typed "stock photos stereotypical american" into google image search.
posted by Fizz at 7:45 AM on April 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


Oh wow, Wadi Rum is a real thing. Also, it's not what you think, or hoped.
posted by tommasz at 7:51 AM on April 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


Fair enough, I take your meaning, that there's lots of phenotypic variation in the Arab panethnicity.
posted by nicolas léonard sadi carnot at 7:51 AM on April 6, 2013


Also, it's not what you think, or hoped.

I dunno, that's pretty cool.
posted by Artw at 7:53 AM on April 6, 2013 [4 favorites]


Muslims have stock photos, and that's funny. Some of the people in these stock photos look white, and that's hilarious. That's not an Arab, he looks white! Ha ha. Am I doing this right?

If you think those stock photos were genuinely produced by Muslims and accurately depict Muslim and Arab experience, then I think I also need to break it to you that Irish people also do not look like the Lucky Charms leprechaun.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:53 AM on April 6, 2013 [20 favorites]


I literally typed "stock photos stereotypical american" into google image search.

"The image cannot be displayed because it contains errors." Wow, those must have been some really egregious stereotypes!
posted by Horace Rumpole at 7:55 AM on April 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Horace, maybe the linking isn't allowed. But just type in that phrase into google image search and you'll see.
posted by Fizz at 7:57 AM on April 6, 2013


This explains why I have trouble crossing the US-Canada border.
posted by srboisvert at 8:00 AM on April 6, 2013


Maybe lose the knife between your teeth, srboisvert.
posted by ODiV at 8:01 AM on April 6, 2013 [10 favorites]


Perhaps stick with only offering them the taffy next time.
posted by Jilder at 8:15 AM on April 6, 2013 [4 favorites]


...Irish people also do not look like the Lucky Charms leprechaun...

...outside of Boston.
posted by DU at 8:41 AM on April 6, 2013 [11 favorites]




“Hamid! We went shopping…Again! HAHAHAHAHAHA”


The great thing is, I have heard pretty much exactly that line on a number of radio ads in the UAE for completely unrelated products.
posted by bardophile at 8:54 AM on April 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


Or an Austin Powers movie.
posted by arcticseal at 8:55 AM on April 6, 2013


Khaleejis? Driving a Smart Car? Maybe from the front door to the real car.


Hmmm. I know I've seen a number of smart cars and tiny Fiats here. I can't say I've looked closely enough to gauge the ethnicity of the drivers.
posted by bardophile at 9:00 AM on April 6, 2013


If you think those stock photos were genuinely produced by Muslims and accurately depict Muslim and Arab experience, then I think I also need to break it to you that Irish people also do not look like the Lucky Charms leprechaun.

And I don't think the generic business stock photos you see everywhere of a multiethnic and gender-balanced group of business people all having a ball at a business meeting accurately depicts the American experience either...
posted by gyc at 9:09 AM on April 6, 2013


They reflect my American experience near enough most times. Except we're not all sososo happy.
posted by sweetkid at 9:20 AM on April 6, 2013 [4 favorites]


(This is secondhand; apologies if I'm getting details wrong)

So outside the Guangzhou Adoption Center, where foreign parents adopting Chinese children come to meet their children for the first time, there's a bunch of statues representing the different nationalities who come to China to adopt. They're all very, very stereotypical; French parents with berets and baguettes, Dutch parents wearing wooden shoes, and so forth.

America is represented by two statues of extraordinarily obese people.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 9:21 AM on April 6, 2013 [27 favorites]


Except Arabs never point in public.

Is this true? I genuinely don't know.
posted by Sticherbeast at 9:27 AM on April 6, 2013


Am I reading this wrong or are there two things clashing here?

1. Poorly contrived pictures of Arabs that are poorly contrived in the way all stock photos are poorly contrived.

2. Ethnocentric and bigoted captions deriding the way in which Muslims and Arabs conduct their practical and religous lives.

I am dubious of some of the to-me-baffling responses claiming to enjoy the tumblog and would appreciate some (gentle) guidance on what I'm missing other than out-and-out racism.
posted by mistersquid at 9:30 AM on April 6, 2013 [4 favorites]


I thought the captions were making fun of the stereotyped assumptions embodied in the photos?
posted by LobsterMitten at 9:33 AM on April 6, 2013 [10 favorites]


If you think those stock photos were genuinely produced by Muslims and accurately depict Muslim and Arab experience, then I think I also need to break it to you that Irish people also do not look like the Lucky Charms leprechaun.

No stock photos accurately depict anyone's experience. Some of these photos do contain people who look like they might well be Arabic. And I wouldn't be at all surprised if Muslims were involved in the production of some of them. For instance the picture of the mother at a desk - I don't get what the overall joke/theme is except "a collection of fake Arabic stock photos, together with some real ones because heh, the combination of stock photography and Arabs is hilarious".
posted by iotic at 9:43 AM on April 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Funnily enough, this

2. Ethnocentric and bigoted captions deriding the way in which Muslims and Arabs conduct their practical and religous lives.

and this

the captions were making fun of the stereotyped assumptions embodied in the photos?

are both true.

To take two examples: The mom at the computer could be pretty realistic, save for the typical stock photo-iness of it. But the captioner(?) doesn't think so.

The little girls wearing full niqab (the veil covering the full face)? I've never seen that, in my whole life, and I've lived in the Muslim world for over half of my whole life, several years in the UAE, very much a Khaleeji country.

On a separate note, in Urdu (and presumable Hindi), calling someone an Ulloo (owl) is roughly the equivalent of calling someone a jackass. Which makes the veiled owl very funny to me, although I don't think that's what they were thinking of.
posted by bardophile at 9:44 AM on April 6, 2013 [10 favorites]


Yeah, I guess I need the racism explained to me, too. The creator's twitter seems to indicate that she is Muslim or at least was raised as such and she says "I am East and West, citizen and refugee."

She seems to be doing a lot of education around terminology. Speaking of, there has been some weird mingling of Arab=Muslim here in this thread, and that's not accurate.
posted by sweetkid at 10:23 AM on April 6, 2013 [4 favorites]


On a separate note, in Urdu (and presumable Hindi), calling someone an Ulloo (owl) is roughly the equivalent of calling someone a jackass. Which makes the veiled owl very funny to me, although I don't think that's what they were thinking of.

Heh. They've correctly identified owls as the dumbest of the raptors.
posted by Artw at 10:28 AM on April 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


She may very well be from the Gulf (the repeated use of Khaleeji suggests that to me), or have roots in the Gulf. That doesn't mean she can't be guilty of stereotyping herself.

Upon further reflection, her captions DO accurately reflect a lot of local stereotypes, whereas the majority of the original photographic concepts and captions really mangle them. And I guess stock photography is supposed to be stereotypical, because hey, stock photos should be generic. In that context, her satire is entirely apt for many of the photos.
posted by bardophile at 10:37 AM on April 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


On the other hand, the repeated reference to Khaleejis may be in the pejorative sense. Much of the Levantine Arab world, for sure, holds the Khaleejis in contempt. Don't know if that spills over into Libya or not.
posted by bardophile at 10:39 AM on April 6, 2013


She may very well be from the Gulf (the repeated use of Khaleeji suggests that to me), or have roots in the Gulf. That doesn't mean she can't be guilty of stereotyping herself.

Oh, no, I totally agree. I guess I just don't see the racism really, just satire. I'm sure I'm just missing something though, I am definitely not insisting on having the right reading.
posted by sweetkid at 10:39 AM on April 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


So outside the Guangzhou Adoption Center, where foreign parents adopting Chinese children come to meet their children for the first time, there's a bunch of statues representing the different nationalities who come to China to adopt.

Photos, please. Are these new? The only ethnic statue I saw in Guangzhou when I was there was a weird Marlboro Man next to the White Swan hotel.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 10:53 AM on April 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


On a separate note, in Urdu (and presumable Hindi), calling someone an Ulloo (owl) is roughly the equivalent of calling someone a jackass. Which makes the veiled owl very funny to me, although I don't think that's what they were thinking of.

Heh. They've correctly identified owls as the dumbest of the raptors.
posted by Artw at 1:28 PM on April 6 [1 favorite −] Favorite added! [!]


Both of my parents were born and raised in India. I was raised in N. America and we speak Hindi & English in our house. I can easily recall the first time that I heard my dad yell "Ulloo" at an idiot driver on the highway and the conversation surrounding my asking: "What exactly does that mean?"

Also, for some reason my mother thinks owls are bad-luck or evil or something. Not sure if this is a more common cultural commentary on the status of owls in India or just my mom hating on owls.
posted by Fizz at 11:17 AM on April 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


sweetkid: "That doesn't mean she can't be guilty of stereotyping herself."

Maybe some of her best friends are Arab?
posted by chavenet at 11:22 AM on April 6, 2013


huh? I didn't say that, I was quoting bardophile.
posted by sweetkid at 11:29 AM on April 6, 2013


That doesn't mean she can't be guilty of stereotyping herself.

What does that even mean? Many a time has it been remarked to me that I am stereotypical of my culture (or rather "guilty" of that now I suppose). What is the sentence for this crime, and who are the victims?
posted by amorphatist at 11:48 AM on April 6, 2013


Heh. They've correctly identified owls as the dumbest of the raptors.

It's true. I've not once seen an owl use a doorknob.
posted by maryr at 12:22 PM on April 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


What does that even mean?

It may have been meant to read more like "That doesn't mean she can't herself be guilty of stereotyping" or without the double negative "She could herself be guilty of stereotyping."
posted by XMLicious at 12:33 PM on April 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Indeed, XMLicious has correctly rephrased my Pullet Surprise-worthy sentence.
posted by bardophile at 12:36 PM on April 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


This reminds me of my recent foray into a Dutch greengrocers who also stocked interesting tidbits that looked vaguely Middle Eastern. "Mooo" he said, with a beaming smile and a thumbs up only to look aghast at my attempts to communicate I'm Hindu, thus nooo mooo ;p
posted by infini at 12:40 PM on April 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


These are stock photos, folks. The stereotyping's baked right in!
posted by ShutterBun at 1:15 PM on April 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


These are stock photos, folks. The stereotyping's baked right in!

Bingo.

They also stereotype by occupation: Scientist Pictures!
I had considered posting this, but the 'Arab' pics make the point even better... STOCK IS SCHLOCK.
posted by oneswellfoop at 1:26 PM on April 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


You just beat me to it, oneswellfoop. Stock is schlock indeed!
posted by homunculus at 1:30 PM on April 6, 2013


Mooo" he said, with a beaming smile and a thumbs up only to look aghast at my attempts to communicate I'm Hindu, thus nooo mooo ;p

What? I don't understand this at all. Why was he mooing at you in the first place?
posted by sweetkid at 2:42 PM on April 6, 2013


I was trying to figure that out, and my guess is that he was pointing at things containing beef and indicating this by saying "Moo".
posted by XMLicious at 2:47 PM on April 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Sorry, I must have forgotten to add what XMLIcious said into a sentence in the comment.
posted by infini at 3:02 PM on April 6, 2013


sweetkid: "huh? I didn't say that, I was quoting bardophile."

Indeed, my apologies. You quoted bardophile, I quoted you. I blame society. And the inscrutable magic of the Mefiquote script.
posted by chavenet at 3:06 PM on April 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Thanks for LobsterMitten, bardophile, and sweetkid for the explanations. It hadn't even occurred to me the critique could be redeploying anti-Arab sentiment as satire, though there may be some complicity in this area.

It reminds of the first time I saw Dead Again and was really peeved until 40 minutes in I realized the film was laughing at itself.

Satire and irony can be tricky to discern (for foos like me).
posted by mistersquid at 3:32 PM on April 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


So outside the Guangzhou Adoption Center

OK, had to look this up. Many adopting families stay in the old colonial district of Guangzhou called Shamian Island^, which has many tree-lined pedestrian boulevards. There is a tradition here of bronze sculpture, mostly of life-sized people, of different ethnicities and ranging from naturalistic to whimsical. I found two of obese women, who as far as I can tell, are Chinese. One in particular does seem to have a political point of view (advancement of women in Chinese society), but I don't see any that are deliberately insulting to Westerners (which would be odd considering how many of them come there). None of which is to say that there can't be a highly distorted view of America and Americans from the Chinese perspective, but they in general seem a lot less susceptible than Russians under the pretty FOX-fair-and-balanced-approach RT news aka Putin TV, which pretty regularly shows the underbelly of the USA without any nuance or balance.
posted by dhartung at 1:34 AM on April 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


Interesting, dhartung. We stayed at the White Swan (in 2003), and didn't wander around much except at night, and for official adoption-related activities. The baby kept us occupied most of the time. Maybe the cowboy statue was some kind of outlier.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 5:11 AM on April 7, 2013


These are imperfect, as stock photos often are, and some of them are offensive, as has been said above.

That said, I regularly search through pages and pages of clip art searching for a little drawing of a student doing X (writing at a desk, making a presentation, etc.) who looks even a little like my Somali Muslim students. I get excited if I can find an appropriate black kid, to say nothing of a girl in a hijab.

The existence of these crappy stock photos (at least the non-terrorist ones, siiigh), makes me hopeful that my kids will be able to find themselves represented more often.
posted by MsDaniB at 8:08 PM on April 7, 2013


The adoption centre is nowhere near the Island, though, is it? Not that I'm any expert on the geography of Guangzhou, and was even more confused than usual when I was there, given that I had my hands full of baby.
posted by Wolof at 9:52 PM on April 7, 2013


Pretty much all stock photos look like stills from a bad porno, before anyone takes their clothes off. I genuinely don't feel comfortable using stock photos with people in them when I make presentations for work because they all look too porny.
posted by threeants at 9:45 PM on April 8, 2013


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