Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Why we need to #RePicture Females in Advertising*.

Images found on getty images

Women play not just one, but many roles. 

Women are an important economical factor globally: they drive consumption, create new businesses and shape society. Never before have there been so many well educated young women – but the same goes for so many active, older women – being more present in society and business than ever before.

Media today is still portraying women in a limited way. 

The female force is a clear fact, but the reality in media is a different one. Typical images are ‘the glamorous sex kitten, the sainted mother, the devious witch, thehard-faced corporate climber’ according to a UNESCO report from 2009. The conclusion - we will need another 75 years to have gender equality in media. And neither is Germany far ahead compared to other countries, nor has there been a big leap forward in the last 5 years.

Broaden the story - instead of limiting it to stereotypes. 

I do not want to argue about stereotypes being right or wrong – but they are only part of the truth, neglecting that women have a more diverse identity. Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie sums it up in a TED talk:
“The single story creates stereotypes, and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story.”
Advertising has started to use natural beauty, imperfection and age as creative success factors, reflecting that people appreciate an honest reflection of today’s culture. The most prominent example is still Dove’s 2004campaign on “real beauty”. Others have followed – from German female magazine “Brigitte” asking women in their 2011 campaign to “live a life more imperfect” to American lingerie brand Aerie launching their spring 2014 ads highlighting “the real you is sexy” by using untouched images.


We need more diverse images to promote a more diverse society. 

A change in how advertising pictures women is about much more than supporting female self-esteem. It reflects how society is changing and influences how we perceive men and women in relationships, family or work context.

The controversy that followed Barilla’s announcement last year to only support a traditional family image, and not see people outside this as their target group, indicates that we are ready for more image variety - as a legacy to the next generation, to support more choice, a different self-image and a better society - just by choosing from a broader range of female images. That this is possible and that society is ready for diversity shows the just as controversial case from Honey Maid that plays with different family and gender roles - and turned negative conversation on their approach into a message of love. 



* I originally wrote this post earlier this year for the Getty Images Website and their co-operation with the LeanIn.org, creating the Lean In Collection, supporting a different female imagery in stock photography. I only added the Honey Maid case to the article as it seems brands are picking up on the fact that we are ready for diversity in female and family imagery in general. Anyone can and should participate in this conversation around how we can #RePicture women in media and advertising.