In this week’s Wednesday 5 we focus on the woman and the image. There’s a growing movement among photographers to counter the culture of perfection in the portrayal of women’s bodies; Getty Images has launched a new initiative devoted to the powerful depiction of women; the good, the bad, and the ugly in the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty; The Representation Project puts together a year in review of women in the media; and where are the women in late-night television?




Countering the “Culture of Perfection”

Under the Red Dress Project

There is a growing movement among photographers to counter “the culture of perfection” when it comes to the portrayal of women’s bodies in the media. Last summer we shared with you A Beautiful Body, a project by photographer Jade Beall, who was on a nationwide mission to celebrate mothers’ bodies, un-Photoshopped and unretouched. The impetus for the book project started with her own feelings of the inferiority of her body after she had her first child. We can now add cancer-survivor Beth Whaanga, who collaborated with photographer Nadia Masot in a series of photos called Under the Red Dress Project, which portray the scars and changes to her body caused by cancer. Writing in The Guardian, Kira Cochrane observed of the growing movement of raw and provocative images:

Part of the raw power of these photos comes from their place within a culture in which bodies, particularly women’s bodies, are so rarely depicted honestly . . . The images most likely to shift people’s perspectives radically are those, like Whaanga’s, which depict people candidly—and not sexualised, airbrushed or posed to perfection.



The Image: Powerful Depictions of Women

 Lean In CollectionImage via

When we at Women’s Voices for Change endeavor to find photos and illustrations to fit our stories, it becomes a tricky game. Finding  images that portray women as multi-dimensional beings and that represent them truthfully and respectfully is no easy task. So imagine how thrilled we were to see this announcement from Getty Images:

We are proud to present the Lean In Collection, a library of images devoted to the powerful depiction of women, girls and the people who support them. Jointly curated by Getty Images and LeanIn.Org—the collection features over 2,500 images of female leadership in contemporary work and life.

The  term “woman” is the most common search on And what usually pop up as the result of these searches, not only for Getty but for other stock photo sites like Shutterstock and iStockphoto, are what Megan Garber of The Atlantic deems “woman laughing alone with salad” images. She writes:

We, as the images’ end-users, get treated to collections like Women Laughing Alone With Salad. And Ladies Lounging (Uncomfortably) With Laptops. And Woman on Verge of Crushing Man With Shoe. Etc. The “woman” in many of these series is often clothed in a power suit and/or stilettos and/or nothing at all; in affect, she often seems sultry and/or angry and/or confused.

We browsed the Lean In Collection ourselves and were happy to see an impressive level of racial diversity and age diversity represented in the collection as well. Take a look for yourself.



The Dove Campaign For Real Beauty: the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Dove Real Beauty Sketches

Almost 10  years since its initial launch, the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty is still going strong. The latest ad,  “Dove Real Beauty Sketches,” in which Dove explored how women view their own beauty versus how others seem has garnered over 62 million views on YouTube alone.  In their extensive analysis for The Inquistive Mind, psychology students Angela Celebre and Ashley Waggoner Denton break down “The good, the bad, and the ugly of the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty.” Here’s what we learn, you decide:

The Good
“The Dove campaign initiated a global conversation to widen the definition of beauty [and] . . . reframe[d] the function of purchasing their beauty products and toiletries from one focused on utilitarian outcomes . . . to one that is focused on expressing important values and connecting with others. “

The Bad
“Dove sought to challenge dominant beauty norms by depicting “real” women with “real” curves in their advertisements. However, it is argued that these “real” women appear similar enough to pre-existing ideals that they too would be accepted by most beauty standards, suggesting a failure on Dove’s account to truly widen the definition of beauty. . . This is evident in Dove’s casting calls, which read: no tattoos, no scars, flawless skin, beautiful hair, and bodies that fall nicely between ‘not too curvy’ and ‘not too athletic.’ “

The Ugly
Dove’s parent company is Unilever, which is also the parent company of Axe and Fair & Lovely. These brands promote messages that are in direct contradiction to the message that Dove is attempting to promote, which is positive body image.

  • Fair & Lovely, marketed primarily to dark-skinned women, promotes a desire for “lighter skin.”
  • In their ad campaigns, Axe strongly promote the “thin ideal” and sexualization of women.”



Women in the Media: 2013 in Review

According to the The Representation Project, which uses uses film and media content to expose injustices created by gender stereotypes and to shift people’s consciousness toward change, “There was a lot to celebrate this year for women in the media. But some things aren’t changing fast enough.”  See a review of women in  media below, or click  here.



Why Are There No Women in Late-Night?

479px-Chelsea_Handler_2012_ShankboneChelsea Handler is the only woman holding court on late-night television.  That’s one woman among Jimmy Kimmel, David Letterman, Jimmy Fallon, Craig Ferguson, Carson Daly, Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, and  Seth Meyers. Seija Rankin of Refinery 29 asked Handler herself what is at the heart of the absence of women on late-night television. Here’s what she said:

People said no, late-night shows [hosted by a woman] don’t work. And, you know, I had one person who said they did work. And it was a man. He said they’re gonna work; she’s gonna work; she has a different point of view . . . I think I have a responsibility to take care of other women.  . .  I’m looking for the funniest people—and first I’m looking for the funniest woman.




Join the conversation

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

  • Diane Dettmann February 19, 2014 at 6:36 pm

    Found the “Representation Project” very interesting. Women and girls DO deserve better. Images are changing, still not fast enough! As the Dove “Real Beauty” reveals, changing our perception of ourselves as women is one piece of the puzzle, the media another.

  • Roz Warren February 19, 2014 at 10:17 am

    This is the best Wednesday 5 EVER. Great great job of gathering good, relevant (and fun!) information and putting it all together. Bravo!

  • Andrea February 19, 2014 at 7:57 am

    This is a powerful piece. The dove real beauty sketches segment was actually sad- so many women with low self images based on society’s pressure of what “looks good” and how we don’t see the true beauty of ourselves.