The Huge Problem with Stock Photography

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You've seen the listicles that Buzzfeed has posted about absurd stock photos, right? It's all fun and games until you realize that some of these superficial stock photos are rooted in a history of super sexist stereotypes.

Racked recently published a feature on the subject, calling attention to The Hairpin's Women Laughing Alone With Salad, one of the many pieces in recent years that highlight the problematic ways women are portrayed in stock photography.

Despite feminist critiques made in the 1970s, little has changed since then in that arena, and as a result, online media outlets like Bustle and Refinery29 have resorted to shooting their own art. Editors from these sites told Racked that sex was a particularly difficult subject for them to illustrate, and Bustle claims that there is a distinct lack of diversity (read: lots of skinny white women) in the available stock options. As Joan C. Williams, a feminist legal scholar at University of California's Hastings School of Law, told Racked:

"What you find is that you can still say through images stuff that would be taboo to say in words. It would be bad taste to say that feminists are unattractive women who are power-hungry, but that message is loud and clear in plenty of images."

via GIPHY

But slowly, things are changing. SheStock, a #BUILTBYGIRLS stock photography site that catalogs photos of "insightful and inspired visions of the real lives of real women," that were actually shot by women. And last year, gender equality organization Lean In collaborated with Getty Images to produce a collection of 2,500 images with more positive, role model-worthy portrayals of women. Several weeks ago, Lean In released a collection of images with iStock in a more affordable price bracket.

However, there is some backlash against the collection too, saying that the new Getty photos still lack diversification and a degree of reality.

But on the topic of diversity, slowly, strides are being made, too. There's now a collection of women of diverse racial backgrounds working in tech available for free on Flickr by user #WOCInTech Chat.

Clearly, we still have a long way to go. But talking about the issue is one way to get a lot more people to pay attention to the inherent problems with stock photos that perpetuate sexism IRL.

via GIPHY

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