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Stock headline February 15, 2014

Posted by Oireachtas Retort in Uncategorized.

Good piece from Laura Slattery during the week on the latest wheeze from Sheryl Sandberg who apparently

was irked by a recent front page that had featured on its blurb a stock picture of a serene woman dressed in maternal white and a wedding band as she cradled a baby,

Obviously the way women and the world are reflected back at us has been well, raked, over, and indeed lampooned for years. In stock imagery a familiar example would be coverage of last year’s abortion bill accompanied by shots of headless women in their third trimester.

So what is new for Sandberg? A joint venture with Getty

to create a library of photographs that “celebrate female empowerment and leadership”,


images of professional women, for example, include them in group office shots that quite clearly show at least one man listening attentively to a more senior woman colleague,

at least one man listening and as Slattery points out

Here’s where the limitations of the Lean In library rear their blandly photogenic heads: images are only ever as “positive” and “empowering” as their context.

and that

[ stock image] use might mean a “real person” could not be located, persuaded to speak about their experiences and pose as a “case study”. More often, it means the media organisation did not choose to use their resources to attempt to talk to that real person.


instead of the messy reality of human lives, we have unthreatening models of both sexes with white teeth and weed-free gardens.

Unthreatening models is, of course, what Lean In is all about. This latest turn to staged imagery mirrors the priority of cosmetic over structure with the bonus of presenting the
right kind of woman to aspire to.

Most of all, Sandberg’s efforts should be viewed as the actions of someone whose own  business is built on images of women as both content & advertising (like the publications – and facebook advertisers! – she will soon be collecting image royalties from) and not least on the back of a 2013 where images & issues around violence against women and breastfeeding generated acres of bad publicity for Facebook.

In both cases Sandberg’s company was slow to act and only moved after pressure from advertisers. Difficult not to see similar motivation$ here but we can only marvel at turning a year of hostile campaigns into another few million..


1. AonRud - February 15, 2014

During the abortion debate last year RTÉ had a standard anxious woman silhouette image that kept popping up.


Presumably tagged ‘abortion’ in their database. (It also pops up around the internet for mental health related stories.)

While its probably best not to read into it too deeply, as an image of despair it does reveal a certain attitude to the issue.


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