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Images & Voices of Hope | December 2, 2020

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Female empowerment becomes prevalent theme in photography, journalism & advertising

Female empowerment becomes prevalent theme in photography, journalism & advertising

This week, Upworthy highlighted a BuzzFeed video that features realistic photos of women and girls. (Stock photo)



We were drawn this week to a BuzzFeed video that portrays images of “real” women — as opposed to the stereotypical images we so often see in traditional advertisements. 

The video highlights women who have different skin tones, hair styles, and body shapes working in a variety of professions. Images of stick-thin, airbrushed girls are interspersed throughout the video to illustrate the contrast between what society tells women they should look like and what the majority of women actually look like. The video’s narrator poses some thought-provoking questions:

  • “Why does it feel so different to see pictures of realistic women? Why aren’t we seeing women we recognize, and why wasn’t I paying more attention to this before?”
  • “Where are the women who sweat through their femininity? Girls who build things for others who can’t?”
  • “When we condone airbrushed faces and Photoshopped bodies, what are we saying about ourselves? That our strengths aren’t strong enough? Our feelings not deep enough? Our cheers not loud enough?”

BuzzFeed’s video was inspired by a partnership between Lean In and Getty Images — one of the biggest providers of stock images. The partnership yielded a collection of stock images that depicts female soldiers, hunters, and bakers. The images show women riding skateboards, mothering children, and working in corporate offices.

There’s beauty in the range.

BuzzFeed’s video and Getty’s images are reflective of the growing number of ads geared toward empowering women. Companies like Dove, Pantene, Always, and Under Armour created ads in 2014 that promoted strong, healthy, and confident women shattering stereotypes.

Some say the ads have started to feel too formulaic. Others have said that they want ads to appeal to their interests, not to their gender. Even so, the ads have been hugely popular and widely shared. They’re also selling products. Dove sales, for instance, have jumped from $2.5 billion to $4 billion since the company unveiled its “Real Beauty” campaign in 2004.

The female empowerment movement in advertising, photography, and journalism demonstrates how different media sectors can work together to reshape messages. It also shows that media has the potential to create meaningful awareness and change – for both men and women.

You can watch the BuzzFeed video here: