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Boxing gloves and folders
December 2, 2013 3:24 AM   Subscribe

How to be a feminist according to stock photography
posted by fearfulsymmetry (90 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite

 
You want a toe? I can get you a toe, believe me.
posted by mannequito at 3:33 AM on December 2, 2013 [6 favorites]


with nail polish.
posted by wabbittwax at 3:56 AM on December 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Google images tells me that a "feminist" looks like a bunch of symbols/signs, "angry," stereotypes, and Ryan Gosling.

Glad that's cleared up.
posted by Muddler at 4:15 AM on December 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


No Rosie the Riveter poses?
posted by Brocktoon at 4:16 AM on December 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm glad that Google Images at least gives the impression that feminism isn't about the casual subjugation of men, unlike the weird Getty Images results.
posted by fight or flight at 4:26 AM on December 2, 2013 [4 favorites]


Feminists don't get to laugh alone with salad, I guess?
posted by jetlagaddict at 4:34 AM on December 2, 2013 [29 favorites]


When I think of feminism, I think about someone who desires a world where men and women work in equality in whatever spheres they desire--and helping each other along the way. But these images are invariable of women either making it all by themselves or stepping on men as they climb to the top. It seems like the anti-feminists, who want portray feminism as choosing women over men rather than choosing equality for all, are winning to stock image war. Women, you're either going to be all by yourself in this or you'll be accompanied by the death rattles of the men you've crushed along the way.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 4:37 AM on December 2, 2013 [22 favorites]


Looking at the original article that this was copied from, these are some image search results from shutterstock.com, using the terms "empowered female, girl power" (they don't distinguish which images came from which term), not 'feminist'.
posted by Flashman at 4:52 AM on December 2, 2013 [16 favorites]


Finding imagery that allows you to effectively communicate in less than 10 ms with your super specific 14-79 male/female demo is kinda hard, folks. Gotto keep those strokes broad and poping like an uppercut right to the heart.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 4:54 AM on December 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


Looking at the original article that this was copied from, these are some image search results from shutterstock.com, using the terms "empowered female, girl power" (they don't distinguish which images came from which term), not 'feminist'.

Here's the result of searching for "feminist" on istock.com, Getty Images and Shutter Stock. Unsurprisingly, the images vary widely in tone and quality, which is true for any term or concept used in stock art search.

Basically, it's a sub par article designed to look smart, while not saying much through its carefully chosen idea, wording and images.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:10 AM on December 2, 2013 [20 favorites]


The original NY Mag slideshow has more material (and is slightly better organized, I think). (It's still the exact same point, though.)
posted by oddman at 5:10 AM on December 2, 2013 [4 favorites]


Meh. Once upon a time I purloined a library of stock photography books, and bored people to death with my 'insights' into society, based on the contents of the images therein.

They would yawn & tell me "Dude, don't get so worked up - they're just lazy throwaway snaps taken by some guy who really doesn't care about complex social issues, in between his weekend wedding photo business & his dreams of being the next Anselm Adams; he's getting paid probably a cent for every 20,000 uses of his photo; his model is trying to fund her acting dreams with this cash-in-hand $20 job; and the photos - if used - are just going to be a thumbnail on p.54 of some internal HR policy that nobody reads anyway..."

TL;DR: Dude, don't get so worked up {see above for the continuation}
posted by UbuRoivas at 5:11 AM on December 2, 2013 [4 favorites]


Did the "feminist meme" image search and this wasn't near the top ... but it came in handy over the weekend in a post-Frozen discussion with my tweenager.

(on re reading maybe I should have just paraphrased it instead of handing over the link ... oh well ...)
posted by tilde at 5:13 AM on December 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


There's plenty of unfounded anxiety directed towards feminism, but I'm going to blame this more on the crumminess of stock photography in general.

Related: STOCK PHOTO LIFESTYLE TALES
posted by Sticherbeast at 5:21 AM on December 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


This reminds me of Women Laughing Alone With Salad
posted by sherief at 5:21 AM on December 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


Looking at the original article that this was copied from, these are some image search results from shutterstock.com, using the terms "empowered female, girl power" (they don't distinguish which images came from which term), not 'feminist'.

They used various search terms, including "feminist" - they're listed at the side of each page of images in the NYMag gallery, along with the image sources (which were more than just shutterstock.com).

Which one is the feminist?
posted by rory at 5:23 AM on December 2, 2013


They would yawn & tell me "Dude, don't get so worked up - they're just lazy throwaway snaps taken by some guy who really doesn't care about complex social issues, in between his weekend wedding photo business & his dreams of being the next Anselm Adams; he's getting paid probably a cent for every 20,000 uses of his photo; his model is trying to fund her acting dreams with this cash-in-hand $20 job; and the photos - if used - are just going to be a thumbnail on p.54 of some internal HR policy that nobody reads anyway..."
Seems like that's why you can draw conclusions from stock photos. Someone who sets out to do an expensive, staged photoshoot is going to have their own message to convey with it. A collection of photos taken without any thought-out personal bias shows the average, unconscious bias of the people arranging them. (At least in theory; not sure if I'd trust people in practice to gain insight based on supposed patterns they see. Even if someone's insight sounds plausible, that's just grounds to look for stronger evidence for and against it.)
posted by Rangi at 5:30 AM on December 2, 2013 [13 favorites]


I have to admit that the woman holding the pliers has a smile that suggests she has plans for the Patriarchy. Other than that, whatever.
posted by GenjiandProust at 5:33 AM on December 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


PROTIP: The salad is the feminist.
posted by blue_beetle at 5:35 AM on December 2, 2013 [4 favorites]


I worked in stock photography for six years. A lot of those poses are pretty standard. There are usually made and female versions of the same pose on a lot of shoots. There are plenty of handsome doctors staring at X-rays and businessmen standing on cliffs too, or looking confident. And businessmen wearing boxing gloves too. A few of those are unique, like the sander, but then you won't see male equivalents of the weirder photos like lips covered in sprinkles or weird things coming out of a female mouth (like flowers, marbles, tentacles, etc).

The way I see it is that the keyworders applied as many conceptual keywords to the images as possible, and feminism just happened to be one. Businesswomen would return thousands of images, but a concept keyword would narrow the search down (trust me, the keyword conceptual is way overused too). Captions are generally not searchable on stock photo sites (nor are always required) so keywords and brand/grid ranking (along with keyword weighting) is the bit of hope that finds an image.

I will have to look at the slideshow later (as I am on my phone) but when you've seen hundreds of thousands of stock photos, allI can do is shrug sometimes :)
posted by Calzephyr at 5:49 AM on December 2, 2013 [7 favorites]


They would yawn & tell me "Dude, don't get so worked up - they're just lazy throwaway snaps taken by some guy who really doesn't care about complex social issues, in between his weekend wedding photo business & his dreams of being the next Anselm Adams; he's getting paid probably a cent for every 20,000 uses of his photo; his model is trying to fund her acting dreams with this cash-in-hand $20 job; and the photos - if used - are just going to be a thumbnail on p.54 of some internal HR policy that nobody reads anyway..."

Alternatively, one could argue that that's precisely why these things are significant; because of the casual, unpremeditated ways that images are associated with social concepts, they act as a word-association test, revealing what our society really thinks (or what is commonly believed to be what our society really thinks). If enough stock photography vendors believe that an association between feminism and boxing gloves makes sense to the public, surely that says something.
posted by acb at 5:50 AM on December 2, 2013 [10 favorites]


you'll be accompanied by the death rattles of the men you've crushed along the way

WE ARE DISCOVERED

INITIATE PLAN B
posted by elizardbits at 5:51 AM on December 2, 2013 [7 favorites]


INITIATE PLAN B

Please tell me this has nothing to do with the pliers lady.
posted by Gelatin at 5:54 AM on December 2, 2013 [4 favorites]


TL;DR: Dude, don't get so worked up {see above for the continuation}

This is at least the second time in 24 hours that feminists here have been told to unbunch their panties, both figuratively and literally. That suggests the problem isn't actually on their side of the table.
posted by zombieflanders at 5:59 AM on December 2, 2013 [18 favorites]


How to be a feminist according to stock photography

they collected a variety of images that come up when you search terms such as “feminist,” “girl power,” or “career woman” on stock photography sites.

I'm sorry, but that's just a really bad keyword search methodology.
posted by tybeet at 6:03 AM on December 2, 2013 [5 favorites]


If enough stock photography vendors believe that an association between feminism and boxing gloves makes sense to the public, surely that says something.

Maybe? But it's important to note that you're looking at a very filtered list from a specific search term.

Those images of women in boxing gloves came from Shutter Stock.com, using the following search terms: empowered female, girl power

If you go to Shutter Stock.com and do a search for empowered female, you do not get just images of women in boxing gloves, nor if you search for "girl power"

So it's a watercooler article, probably meant to get people riled up so they send it to their friends or post on community weblogs for those sweet, sweet clicks of rage or disbelief.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:05 AM on December 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


If you go to Shutter Stock.com and do a search for empowered female, you do not get just images of women in boxing gloves, nor if you search for "girl power"

You really should click on the photos for their details, where "empowerment" means "beautiful," "friendly," or "well-dressed." Most of them just say "businesswoman," as if feminism just means putting on makeup and a pencil skirt and being happy at work.
posted by zombieflanders at 6:15 AM on December 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


So they send it to their friends or post on community weblogs for those sweet, sweet clicks of rage or disbelief.

Crap, when did I friend you on FB?
posted by like_neon at 6:21 AM on December 2, 2013


You really should click on the photos for their details, where "empowerment" means "beautiful," "friendly," or "well-dressed." Most of them just say "businesswoman," as if feminism just means putting on makeup and a pencil skirt and being happy at work.

That's a pretty vague statement. Did you really go through all the photos on say, just the first page, and that was the result you found? Because there aren't just photos of businesswomen on those pages.

I'm not even sure what you mean by "click on the photos for their details". Doing that just shows a generic description of the image, similar images and a list of keywords.

Crap, when did I friend you on FB?

Don't worry about it, just take me out of your main news feed, so I can pretend we're still friends.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:25 AM on December 2, 2013


That's a pretty vague statement. Did you really go through all the photos on say, just the first page, and that was the result you found? Because there aren't just photos of businesswomen on those pages.

Thus the use of the word "most." And just from the first couple rows, we can already see a pattern emerging: I'm not even sure what you mean by "click on the photos for their details". Doing that just shows a generic description of the image, similar images and a list of keywords.

That's exactly what I mean. In almost all of them, it seems that there is nothing in either the photo or the keywords to suggest "empowerment" or "feminism."
posted by zombieflanders at 6:46 AM on December 2, 2013


I'd sure like this to stop being a discussion about who is More The Most Rightest about this article being poorly sourced/edited and maybe become a discussion about our problematic ideas of what feminism "should" look like and why it's acceptable to create an image of a wealthy masculine-presenting white woman with her high heel planted in the lip of some poor bloke and call it "empowerment".
posted by fight or flight at 6:49 AM on December 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


but then you won't see male equivalents of the weirder photos like lips covered in sprinkles or weird things coming out of a female mouth (like flowers, marbles, tentacles, etc).

Those (especially a woman's lips covered in sprinkles, glitter, sugar crystals, a fun pattern, etc., or just plain lipstick) seem to be pretty popular on pinterest, as far as I can tell. People try do-it-yourself versions.
posted by zarq at 6:51 AM on December 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


And just from the first couple rows, we can already see a pattern emerging:

Yes, one of beautiful, smiling and young people. Same goes for male stock photography and general society.

That's exactly what I mean. In almost all of them, it seems that there is nothing in either the photo or the keywords to suggest "empowerment" or "feminism."

Eh, most stock photography is fairly bland, so it be married to a particular headline or article.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:53 AM on December 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


Yes, one of beautiful, smiling and young people. Same goes for male stock photography and general society.

So we agree that to a large extent these photos have nothing to do with fighting for equality? Great!

Eh, most stock photography is fairly bland, so it be married to a particular headline or article.

Then removing the unrelated attributions shouldn't be a problem.
posted by zombieflanders at 6:56 AM on December 2, 2013


Additionally, a lot of keywording is done by photographers these days. The photo houses used to employ teams of people in library related fields/training to vet the keywords. Stock photography is not a growth industry and these teams became a thing of the past as keywording was offshored. So, you have photographers that want to be found, and will stuff the keywords as well. There is a very small group of people that are determining the keywords and there isn't enough people power out there to make sure everything is properly keyworded.
posted by Calzephyr at 7:00 AM on December 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


These must be the women full of binders we heard so much about back in election season.
posted by Western Infidels at 7:04 AM on December 2, 2013


So it's a watercooler article, probably meant to get people riled up so they send it to their friends or post on community weblogs for those sweet, sweet clicks of rage or disbelief.

Omaigerd imagine that! A silly article with a not entirely silly point - how very dare we want to laugh and joke about it, or say "I know!! I, like, NEVER stand on cliffs in my business attire, I must be a shit feminist amirite!" Much, much better to listen to men bore on about how wrong we are because if you search *this* instead I think you'll find a whole host of other images which only have *some* boxing glove pictures right alongside the empowering "jumping in the sunset" ones, and also normally stock photographers are only blah blah blah. And the feminists are supposed to be the humourless ones! Christ.
posted by billiebee at 7:10 AM on December 2, 2013 [12 favorites]


I have to wonder how many places actually need "feminism" photos as opposed to "sexual harassment" "moms trying to have it all" (that would be the lots of arms ones), etc. Your average business publication is not going to touch the word "feminist" with a ten-foot pole. "Diversity" maybe. "Equal opportunity" yes.

Raw Story often uses hilariously over the top stock photos, but then, that's their thing.
posted by emjaybee at 7:13 AM on December 2, 2013


So we agree that to a large extent these photos have nothing to do with fighting for equality? Great!

Nope, it depends on how they're used, thus their appearance on a stock photo site.

Then removing the unrelated attributions shouldn't be a problem.

That seems like an odd desire, as it a stock photo site, so those attributions, which are one of many assigned to every photo, makes sense in the "Here's some generic images, buy one (or more) so we can make money".
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:14 AM on December 2, 2013


I'm talking about ones related to female empowerment or feminism, not the generic ones.
posted by zombieflanders at 7:16 AM on December 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


The first image of the "Wear Boxing Gloves with Business Attire" page is one of many from Mefi's favourite Overexposed model. And she occasionally stands on cliffs and holds folders too. However, she doesn't do the looking-at-xray and crushing-men thing and she's clearly unhappy about this.
posted by elgilito at 7:47 AM on December 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm talking about ones related to female empowerment or feminism, not the generic ones.

These are stock photo sites, so by definition they can either, both or none, depending on how they're used.

The article which started all this is disappointing because its going for cheap shots, as opposed to anything particularly meaningful and interesting. There's little mention of the numerous shots of women or girls as superheroes or anything remotely positive. It's just pointing and laughing, which isn't particularly odd, but the twists it has to do to set up the joke is uninspired. .
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:52 AM on December 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Also, is there a particular image or images you think would work well as a visual indicator of "feminist" or "feminism"?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:56 AM on December 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


his dreams of being the next Anselm Adams

The photographer Archbishop of Canterbury?
posted by XMLicious at 8:21 AM on December 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


I had a look at the keywords listed on the first five or six images in the search for "feminism" on istock.com that Brandon Blatcher posted above.

None of them have "feminist" in the keywords, and there was also no keyword common to all of them, so clearly no-one actually chose these images to correlate to what was searched for, and it's a result of some flavour of arcane number crunching, which could also bring out other dissonant results. Ageism, for instance.

A search for racism scores a keyword match on the first listed keyword in each instance, and therefore corresponds much more closely to the aesthetic of whoever listed the keywords.

On shutterstock, all the first ten linked images did have "feminist" as a keyword, but there seems to be no correlation with the position of the keyword in the list and search ranking, so again the search algorithm is not reflecting the choice of keywords in a straightforward way.

I got bored here.
posted by walrus at 8:22 AM on December 2, 2013


Calzephr: There is a very small group of people that are determining the keywords and there isn't enough people power out there to make sure everything is properly keyworded.

This is an interesting issue that affects more than just stock photos. Perhaps we'll pay for our retirement by sitting in a boilerroom keywording. One. word. at. a. time.

And thirding the Scalzi article - very much worth revisiting.
posted by sneebler at 8:33 AM on December 2, 2013


emjaybee: "I have to wonder how many places actually need "feminism" photos as opposed to "sexual harassment" "moms trying to have it all" (that would be the lots of arms ones), etc. Your average business publication is not going to touch the word "feminist" with a ten-foot pole. "Diversity" maybe. "Equal opportunity" yes. "

Was curious. These are Shutterstock and iStock Photo searches:

Working Mothers: Both IStockPhoto and Shutterstock feature many shots of impressively well-groomed, well-dressed women holding babies or toddlers. Oddly enough, 'related searches' at the latter link offers Asian Working Mother, and the picture set is quite different.

Harassment: Shutterstock. The 'harassment' set at iStockPhoto is closer to a search for 'sexual harassment' at Shutterstock in that they feature multiple shots of male hands on a business woman's shoulder, or other body parts. A few also of women being overly familiar with men. Also, there's this... which... ugh.
posted by zarq at 8:37 AM on December 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Also, is there a particular image or images you think would work well as a visual indicator of "feminist" or "feminism"?

No, and that's exactly why it's disturbing that the visual indicator for stock photography apparently boils down to "pretty," "businesswoman," "wanting to be a man," and "strawman misandrist."
posted by zombieflanders at 8:38 AM on December 2, 2013 [7 favorites]


No, and that's exactly why it's disturbing that it the visual indicator for stock photography apparently boils down to "pretty," "businesswoman," "wanting to be a man" and "strawman misandrist."

No, nevermind the stock image searches, is there a particular image or images you think accurately conveys the concept of "feminism" or "feminist"? I'm just curious at this point, as we clearly disagree on some other issues and that's fine.

What sort of images would you like to see when searching for "feminist" or "feminism"?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:42 AM on December 2, 2013


Feminist: 1 2 3 4

Feminism: 1 2

Off the top of my head.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 8:52 AM on December 2, 2013 [8 favorites]


No, nevermind the stock image searches, is there a particular image or images you think accurately conveys the concept of "feminism" or "feminist"? I'm just curious at this point, as we clearly disagree on some other issues and that's fine.

What sort of images would you like to see when searching for "feminist" or "feminism"?


I was just going to say "people and actions identifying themselves as feminist" but EP did it quicker and more succinct.
posted by zombieflanders at 8:55 AM on December 2, 2013


Honestly, just a GIS for "feminism" or "feminist" is pretty good, though I note that when I search for "feminist" on GIS, it suggests the subcategory of "angry feminist".
posted by Elementary Penguin at 8:56 AM on December 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


zombieflanders: "No, and that's exactly why it's disturbing that the visual indicator for stock photography apparently boils down to "pretty," "businesswoman," "wanting to be a man," and "strawman misandrist.""

"Pretty" is pretty much par for the course with all stock photography. Look at these sets for homeless, or indigent or ugly.

As for the other three: disturbing, yes. But not at all surprising. Many people apparently still equate feminism with misandry, or 'rising above one's station.' I would like to think it's becoming more of an extremist view than in years past, but hey, Rush Limbaugh is still inexplicably popular and he's been railing against women for 20+ years.
posted by zarq at 8:58 AM on December 2, 2013


You know, it's worth a try. Annual performance reviews and raises are coming up. I feel like I should don a power suit, and climb a ladder that is poised on a cliff, being held in place by miniature little men that I crush with my high heels (because I have a hard time holding on since my hands are in fire-engine red boxing gloves and I'm holding folders with one of those hands.
posted by Kokopuff at 8:58 AM on December 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


I was just going to say "people and actions identifying themselves as feminist" but EP did it quicker and more succinct.

Those images were oddly depressing for me personally, as they were all old, which communicates a lack of relevance of feminism the 21st century. If anything, I'd prefer a general photo of a man or woman to convey the idea that feminism is nothing more special that basic equality.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:18 AM on December 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


The goal is equality, but feminism isn't just about the goal.
posted by zombieflanders at 9:22 AM on December 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


For me, feminism looks like this and this.
posted by fight or flight at 9:29 AM on December 2, 2013 [4 favorites]


Off the top of my head.

I was following along until you said that you wanted a search of stock photography for "feminist" should bring up a handful of specific people, the only one still alive being much older than me. And rallies from 50-100 years ago.

That is depressing.

Besides the fact that some of those images can’t be used in that way, I don’t see how they convey the idea of feminism, just historical facts having to do with political struggles of the last century. It’s like wanting to convey the idea of class inequality and showing a picture of Trotsky.
posted by bongo_x at 9:41 AM on December 2, 2013


Stock Photography is a product. A product dependent on the mindset of the customers (or the customer's 'decision maker'). So why would this be any surprise? I can think of dozens of other terms that would generate equally cringeworthy search results (but I choose not to do the searching; my cringing muscles are already rather sore today).
posted by oneswellfoop at 9:46 AM on December 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


I am honestly really baffled at how far people are willing to go to discredit anything that isn't a watered down reddit-friendly idea of feminism. So the founding members of the movement don't count as feminism because they're "too old"? The marches and rallies that created the movement don't count as feminism? Without that history, we would not be having this conversation.
posted by fight or flight at 9:46 AM on December 2, 2013 [4 favorites]


I am honestly really baffled at how far people are willing to go to discredit anything that isn't a watered down reddit-friendly idea of feminism. So the founding members of the movement don't count as feminism because they're "too old"? The marches and rallies that created the movement don't count as feminism?

If you wanted to get across the idea if feminism in a single picture you would want people to see people and rallies from 100 years ago? You want to convey that it’s an struggle from the past, a history book section for people to "look at the funny clothes they wore"? I don’t really want people to think of feminism, civil rights in general, labor rights, etc. as "things that that people talked about a long time ago but never really happened".

These are pictures for ads and newsletters. Stock photography is not an educational tool. I think some are forgetting the subject matter.
posted by bongo_x at 10:18 AM on December 2, 2013


They wanted to find stuff about "feminist" and searched for "career woman". Fuck, if you will permit me to say, your conception of society.
posted by benito.strauss at 10:23 AM on December 2, 2013


This is kind of semiotics 101. these stock photos are a visual metaphor meant to make associations that the audience is already familiar with in order to begin the framing of a message. It's the message that follows that speaks to whether this is truly representative of the modern feminist movement or not (or even whether these photos are used for that purpose at all, not just pasted on flyers for a career fair).
In other words, this article pretty much misses the point.
posted by OHenryPacey at 10:25 AM on December 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


This is slightly less worthwhile than the political commentary on Fox News.
posted by Ardiril at 10:35 AM on December 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


Then removing the unrelated attributions shouldn't be a problem

Oh, but ye Gods, it is. You have to employ someone to sit there for eight hours a day visually confirming through a thumbnail if the keyword applies or not. Bulk addition and removal of keywords is time consuming and error prone. Most stock houses use in house ssystems that were not designed for this. Try getting time from a DBA to help. Editing keywords is an expensive thing to have, kind of like how libraries have self checkout instead of a person manning the desk.

The reality of keywording is that it's a very manual process. Fixing the keywords for one word just opens a can of worms for three more. Every word is going to be problematic.
posted by Calzephyr at 10:54 AM on December 2, 2013


"things that that people talked about a long time ago but never really happened"

Is that really what you see when you look at those pictures? When I see those pictures I see a proud history of struggling people. I see those people making sacrifices and taking risks that I'm still grateful for. I think anyone who is looking for information about feminism on the internet would be better served learning about the Suffragettes and the conditions that women were facing barely 100 years ago (and still face around the world) than a basic picture of Bob and Brenda from Accounting.
posted by fight or flight at 11:32 AM on December 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


Alternatively, one could argue that that's precisely why these things are significant; because of the casual, unpremeditated ways that images are associated with social concepts, they act as a word-association test, revealing what our society really thinks (or what is commonly believed to be what our society really thinks). If enough stock photography vendors believe that an association between feminism and boxing gloves makes sense to the public, surely that says something.

It does say something, and I think these collections are utterly fascinating, but I don't think they lead to the kinds of conclusions that one can be tempted to make.

At most, you could say that stock photos represent the most uncontroversial possible, most watered down, lowest common denominator, eye-friendly version of a concept. So, you can flick through pages & pages of photos of "science & technology" or "medicine" and find that it's mostly attractive young people in lab coats peering at coloured liquid in test tubes, or standing around discussing the contents of clipboards. If there's a group of "scientists" or "doctors" you can bet they're mixed race & mixed gender, by the way, but mostly young & good looking.

The photographer's bias isn't so much what they unconsciously think, but what they think will be the most appealing & uncontroversial image for a potential customer. People putting together internal publications, cheap online ads, annual reports & so on don't want a supporting image to distract from the message of the publication, so the images gravitate heavily towards the vanilla.

I must admit, it's like a fitness centre bingo game for me, to spot the sweaty attractive woman in a singlet top with boxing gloves, punching or kicking the crap out of something, with a determined look on her face. It seems to be de rigeur for every gym on earth to use this kind of image.
posted by UbuRoivas at 12:38 PM on December 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Muddler: "Google images tells me that a "feminist" looks like a bunch of symbols/signs, "angry," stereotypes, and Ryan Gosling.

Glad that's cleared up.
"

Muddler, when I click your link, I find pretty acceptable images: classic empowerment posters like Rosie the Riveter (redone in several ways), not-angry-but-loud Ashley Judd, some guy proclaiming himself a feminist, and Ryan Gosling... I don't know if Google is filtering you differently, or if not, what is so wrong with that list, exactly.
posted by IAmBroom at 12:55 PM on December 2, 2013


what is so wrong with that list, exactly.

Well, in the short list you quoted two of the images are men, which to me is a little depressing. (I'm so sorry Ryan, I still love you. Call me.)

The Google image search for women's rights is more pleasing to me.

Although the ubiquitousness of Rosie the Riveter is a little tiresome. "Come and join the war effort sister, you can do it!...Oh hai there little woman, war's over, fuck off back to the kitchen."
posted by billiebee at 2:35 PM on December 2, 2013


billiebee: " Although the ubiquitousness of Rosie the Riveter is a little tiresome. "Come and join the war effort sister, you can do it!...Oh hai there little woman, war's over, fuck off back to the kitchen.""

Yes, but still, the image remains an important one in the history of feminism.

The initial change in the 40's workforce had of course set a precedent, which would be picked up again in the 60's and 70's as part of the Women's Lib movement. Second wave feminists used the Rosie iconography in campaign literature to keep that specific moment in history in people's minds when 20 million women entered the workforce during wartime and were key to America's military success.
posted by zarq at 3:07 PM on December 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


That's a fair point. There are equivalent images in British WWII iconography, but here - as far as I know - they were used more as a reminder of a time when women were given a glimpse of what they were considered capable of while it was convenient, just before the door was slammed in their face again. So an image of betrayal, rather than empowerment. I don't think they were used by next generation feminists in the same way that "Rosie" might have been in the US. That's interesting to learn.
posted by billiebee at 3:30 PM on December 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Honestly the grim trenches of stock photography are not a place for drawing broad conclusions about anything - and I say that as someone who regularly descends into their Sytgian depths in hope of finding something that will make that telecommuting article "pop".

Emjaybee is on the money regarding who uses these pictures, and why. Naturally they're going to be the most anodyne, one-dimensional representations possible. (I'm happy to say, my current workplace would shy away from them, but the audience for stock photography is moving ever downwards just like the price). I would be reluctant to draw conclusions from them, any more than I would parse a broad statement about the environmental movement by the number of green dollar signs with trees growing out them etc. It's a very particular audience.
posted by smoke at 3:39 PM on December 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


Sorry, I should have said "US feminism." To be honest, I don't know much about the British feminist movement, so I'm learning something, too. Thanks!

I also don't want to inadvertently argue against what you said earlier: American women went through a definite employment door slamming phase post-WWII, even though our economy wasn't as badly off as Britain's. Men returned from the war and women were expected to leave the workforce, yield their jobs to men and return to the home to raise families. Popular media, which had been flooded with government-fueled propaganda of stories and images of patriotic women working at home while "our boys" were fighting "over there" very quickly reversed itself. TV shows now all depicted idealized women who were homemakers. Women's and news magazines focused specifically on women's role in the home. The unspoken subtext being that's where they belonged.

Part of that was probably also anti-communism rhetoric. There was an emphasis on American families and the role of American stay-at-home-mothers was favorably compared to that of Soviet women, who left their children in daycare (implying they were neglecting them.)

It took nearly two decades for a backlash to hit. Just as in Britain. But here, Rosie was used in some quarters as a call to arms.
posted by zarq at 4:04 PM on December 2, 2013


Off the top of my head.

Betty Friedan kinda looks like Golda Meir?
posted by save alive nothing that breatheth at 8:45 PM on December 2, 2013


"... feminists here have been told to unbunch their panties, both figuratively and literally"

No one in this thread mentioned panties or unbunching until you did.

Literally.

Panties?
posted by vapidave at 10:42 PM on December 2, 2013


I just ignored it. It was a cheap ad hominem swipe, factually incorrect, and begged the question (assuming that which is yet to be proven, i.e. that stock photography cliches are a serious matter that people need to be concerned about).
posted by UbuRoivas at 2:18 AM on December 3, 2013


No one in this thread mentioned panties or unbunching until you did.

Literally.

Panties?


Yes, "unbunch your panties" is another way of saying "don't get so worked up." It was actually used as such in the thread about oral sex on film in that manner.

I just ignored it. It was a cheap ad hominem swipe, factually incorrect, and begged the question (assuming that which is yet to be proven, i.e. that stock photography cliches are a serious matter that people need to be concerned about).

It's not about stock photography cliches, it's about their interpretations. And as noted by several others, the concern is that they represented a larger problem relating to how feminism is being portrayed, at least in the U.S., as both anti-equality and limited to certain stereotypes. it's in media depictions of all kinds, and each little one adds up. You may not be concerned about widespread depictions of women and feminism, that doesn't mean others should be.
posted by zombieflanders at 4:37 AM on December 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


zombieflanders: " Yes, "unbunch your panties" is another way of saying "don't get so worked up." It was actually used as such in the thread about oral sex on film in that manner."

The phrase "don't get worked up" isn't the same thing as "unbunch your panties." One is a gender-inflected condescending insult. The other's just condescending.
posted by zarq at 5:58 AM on December 3, 2013


The other's just condescending.

The original use here of the phrase "don't get worked up" (meaning meh) didn't even read as condescending to me.
posted by 0 at 6:19 AM on December 3, 2013


The reason I read it as condescending is because UboRovias was essentially discounting concerns because of the feelings of the photographers. That isn't what anybody was talking about, and it ignored the portrayal of feminism being sold by people who are not feminists and in many cases oppose it. The blithe "it's not a problem so chill" condescension in the context of feminism is what made it similar to the "unbunch your panties" remark.

Think of it kind of like Reagan and "Born In The USA," where the images aren't intended to portray feminism, but the guy at ShutterStock or whatever thinks "this is what a feminist/feminism looks like" and portrays them as such. That feeds into the existing (incorrect) narrative, and makes feminism out to be something it's not. It's already a huge problem just dealing with fighting back against this narrative, so dismissing it so breezily because context seems unimportant is disheartening.
posted by zombieflanders at 6:30 AM on December 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


It did to me.

It read as "Why do you even care about this? It doesn't matter." Which obviously is different than asking "Why does this matter?"

zombieflanders answer to the latter question is a good one. The photos that turn up in searches like these can enforce built-in biases and stereotypes -- and stock photo sites are used by editors/journalists and art directors who create media for mass consumption. So they're passing on that bias to their readers.

Let's take a hypothetical, unsubtle example: say we search Google images for "Muslim" and a bunch of images that turned up were of terrorists like Osama bin Laden. That would provide a particularly skewed gestalt of what being "Muslim" means, yes? Now let's say a site like the New York Times uses a picture of bin Laden, an extremist, to illustrate a story about something mainstream Muslims do, like fasting during the month of Ramadan. The impression being given by the paper is that bin Laden is a mainstream Muslim.

Obviously, this wouldn't happen. (Well, perhaps at FoxNews.) But yeah, biased results at stock photo sites can make a larger impact than we might expect.
posted by zarq at 6:40 AM on December 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


The reason I read it as condescending is because UboRovias was essentially discounting concerns because of the feelings of the photographers. That isn't what anybody was talking about, and it ignored the portrayal of feminism being sold by people who are not feminists and in many cases oppose it. The blithe "it's not a problem so chill" condescension in the context of feminism is what made it similar to the "unbunch your panties" remark.

It's not just the feelings (or intentions, analysis, motivations or nuanced artistic consideration) of the photographers I was talking about. It's the entire ecosystem of the production & use of stock photography. You'll noticed I also mentioned other people involved in the shoot (the models) the end users (the people who choose stock images for their publications) and the kinds of publication the images are used for.

Along Marxist lines, the economics of the stock photography industry are what drive the content, which is why they're not a medium for nuanced or radical social commentary or education, but cheap (literally), broad brush, throwaway, uncontroversial, cliched pap. Plenty of people in this thread have made a similar point.

One of the things that fascinates me about them, is that if you browse enough images, it's like being transported to a hyperreal Disney Channel version of life. Everybody is young, good looking and healthy (unless required to be old or sick for the purposes of the shot, eg aged care). Families are always nuclear. Kids are always split on gender lines. Parents are heterosexual. Disabilities don't exist (unless required for the subject matter). Homes & work environments are 'nice'. People are cheerful, or professional, or vigorous (unless required to be depressed as part of a series on counselling, therapy or healthcare). 'Alternative' styles like tatts, piercings or weird haircuts don't exist, except in tokenistic & stereotyped shots. On the upside, group shots tend to be very inclusive of gender & race, provided everybody is good looking of course.

With all that, it's so tempting to think "This is what The Man thinks society should be like!" and one could make all kinds of arguments about the underrepresentation of GLBTI lifestyles, or of people with disabilities, or alternative subcultures, or in this case about representations of 'feminism'. However, IMHO that's tilting at windmills because one should be able to take a step back & realise that the images are necessarily cliched & lacking nuance because of the means of their production & use. And tilting at windmills isn't made any more wise or intellectually rigorous just because one does so flying a feminist flag, or any other flag for that matter.

Finally, the "unbunching the panties" comment absolutely was shooting the messenger & begging the question, as in this silly analogy:

A: Popcorn is an important animal rights issue & must be addressed!
B: Popcorn? Are you serious? It's innocuous.
A: How can you say that? Why do you hate animals? <-- (instead of arguing the point & establishing an case that popcorn actually is important for animal rights)
posted by UbuRoivas at 12:24 PM on December 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


billiebee: "Well, in the short list you quoted two of the images are men, which to me is a little depressing."

I'm sorry you're depressed that images of men can be tagged "feminist". Truly, your attitude is depressing.
posted by IAmBroom at 12:26 PM on December 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Maybe I didn't phrase it well. I guess I meant that if you list four images which represent feminism, and two of them are of men, then it feels somewhat unfair. Men can of course be feminists, but making up half the images thereof? No. Of course I know you were only listing a tiny sample. Hey, it's just my opinion.
posted by billiebee at 1:55 PM on December 3, 2013


and begged the question (assuming that which is yet to be proven, i.e. that stock photography cliches are a serious matter that people need to be concerned about)

Where did it say that it was a serious issue that people need to be concerned about? I think maybe people might have jumped into that defensive posture once everyone came in to discuss how there was literally nothing interesting or of note about these photos (though I'm sure some people also think that it is serious/concerning, as well), but the article is pretty slim. It just posted some laughable and annoying stock photos that tend to come up whenever you click on a mainstream article about feminism on the internet. There might be tens of thousands of stock photos of men wearing business suits and boxing gloves, but I can't remember ever having seen one-- women wearing boxing gloves and getting ready to "kick ass" based on the poorly-reported results of one sociological study or another, yeah, that is permanently seared into my brain.

I can see how maybe if you don't spend a great deal of time thinking or reading about feminism this may have no relevance to you, and perhaps you even wish to explain it away as something women are once again misunderstanding in their desire to eat the throats of men in a fevered rage, but it is rather funny and depressing at the same time.

I'm sorry you're depressed that images of men can be tagged "feminist". Truly, your attitude is depressing.

You coming in this thread to snidely pick at the well-intentioned comments of women discussing feminism is depressing, and stupid. You're a shitty feminist or not one at all based on your activity here, so maybe save the depression for a rainy day.

It is somewhat depressing that feminism as a historical movement would be represented popularly by a few random men, instead of women who have worked hard and often tirelessly for its aims. Maybe if men spent more time being feminist instead of trying to obstruct discussions of feminism on the internet with pissy asides, they would be more iconic within the movement.
posted by stoneandstar at 11:38 PM on December 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


billiebee: "Maybe I didn't phrase it well. I guess I meant that if you list four images which represent feminism, and two of them are of men, then it feels somewhat unfair. Men can of course be feminists, but making up half the images thereof? No. Of course I know you were only listing a tiny sample. Hey, it's just my opinion."

I didn't see only four images, and didn't comment on the frequencies of each category. Several Rosie variations, one black dude, one Ryan Gosling, several women...

Your opinion remains sad. 50% of feminists should be men.
posted by IAmBroom at 2:10 PM on December 4, 2013


Muddler, when I click your link, I find pretty acceptable images: classic empowerment posters like Rosie the Riveter (redone in several ways), not-angry-but-loud Ashley Judd, some guy proclaiming himself a feminist, and Ryan Gosling... I don't know if Google is filtering you differently, or if not, what is so wrong with that list, exactly.
posted by IAmBroom at 8:55 PM on December 2
[+] [!]


Rosie the Riveter, Ashley Judd, some guy and Ryan Gosling. You listed four images. Half were men. This was the point I commented on, as you well know.

50% of feminists should be men? So you're pro-equality quotas? Interesting.
posted by billiebee at 2:47 PM on December 4, 2013


I'm pro-equality. And 50% of the population is male.

Honestly, you're twisting everything bizarrely.
posted by IAmBroom at 8:11 AM on December 5, 2013


You know, that's probably because I have no idea what you're trying to say. Frankly, I'd be thrilled if 100% of men wanted to identify as feminists and further the equality agenda. Do you know what? (Brace yourself) They don't all seem to want to! I know, shocking, right?!

Now, if you're saying that feminists must be made up of 50/50 men and women then I think we've got ourselves a problem. Because as I'm sure you don't need spelled out, it's hard to police an ideology like that. "Hey, sister! You can't think that you want equality anymore cos the ranks are already waaay too full of the ladies. I'm afraid I'm gonna have to ask you to become much more anti-reproductive rights, in order to leave space for some guys who we're going to force to fight for equal pay." I don't think that's what you're saying as its obviously nonsense. Of course, if you're saying that actual formalised institutions should be split along (for sake of argument) binary gender lines - government, for example - then I'm with you all the way. Lets do this thing! But I'm not sure that's what you're saying either.

Really, there's a lot to ponder. Excuse me a moment while I slip into my business attire and lift my folder. And where the fuck did I leave my boxing gloves...
posted by billiebee at 9:02 AM on December 5, 2013


I think you left them with the red high heels you were using to crush tiny men with.
posted by zombieflanders at 9:04 AM on December 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


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