Money & Career

Why feminism should look a lot more like this

If you type "empowered female" into a photo agency's search tool the results are shockingly limited and almost comical. Find out more about the results here.

woman teaching students in a classroom

Images of teachers, professionals and mothers seldom come up when you’re looking for images of “empowered females”.

Malala Yousafzai. Gloria Steinem. My mother, my grandmother, my great grandmother, and me — those are just a few of the faces and forms I picture in my mind when I hear the word feminist.

When I picture them none of the women are doing anything special or posing with flexed muscles. They’re just being themselves. Some are smiling, some aren’t.

Photographers, however, picture something altogether different when they attempt to represent a woman that believes in gender equality. They see women dressed in business suits wearing boxing gloves (interesting choice of accessory) and buxom supermodels displaying deep cleavage while wielding a drill (no safety goggles?).

Look familiar to you? I didn’t think so.

Unfortunately the term feminism, while pregnant with remarkable associations and clear examples of courage and determination, also comes with a few cuckoo cultural associations. And you can add the world of stock photos to that pile, says a funny and pointed article by New York magazine writer Emily Shornick.

In the piece, Shornick details her experience searching for stock images to represent articles about empowered women. (Most websites and magazines — this one included — draw upon a vast library of stock images to accompany short articles. Arranged by themes, you pick your category and search for a photo that best illustrates the article’s content.)

“But what does a stock service suggest when one searches for empowered female?” writes Shornick.

A woman holding dumbbells.

Shornick’s insight reveals that culturally we’ve got a long way to go. For whatever reason, we have a hard time representing a strong, intelligent, capable professional woman without making her look ridiculous.

What’s the solution? Shornick cheekily suggests a new female-run business platform.

“If this is how feminism looks to the world, maybe what a woman really needs is a stock agency of one’s own,” she suggests.

I’m in. To build up the library, I can offer up my family album, pics of friends and colleagues, even a candid snap shot of my female cat that never takes guff from her older brother.

Tell us in the comment section below, what does feminism look like to you?