I was recently searching for a picture to accompany the blog post “Mind Your Own Business” which is about focusing on your job tasks and not interfering with colleagues’ roles and responsibilities. I went to a popular stock photography website and based on the content of the blog, I simply entered the search term “annoying.” Guess what popped up. I very well could have searched for “annoying woman” or “nagging girlfriend/wife” or “neurotic mother” because the vast majority of photos were of women—women from all backgrounds, of all ages, styled in various ways, and in a variety of “obnoxious” poses. Apparently, we have a monopoly on the concept of being annoying.
I decided to follow this lead and see what happened. I googled “annoying” and while the results were a bit more gender balanced, the first image that popped up was Flo, the Progressive spokeswoman. Other depictions are sexy women, little girls, female cartoon characters, caricatures of women from the 1950s, and on and on. Apparently, you really can’t be any kind of woman or girl without also being an annoying one.
While all of this was going on, I also happened to have the U.S. Open on the television. Serena Williams, who is currently the highest ranked women’s singles tennis player, had just won her match. Serena has not only broken tennis records, but has also been an unparalleled inspiration for female athletes, particularly for women of color. Glowing with hard-earned perspiration and the adulation that would certainly come with her win, Serena was approached by a sports reporter who asked her a question about her leopard print tennis outfit.
I decided to flip through the channels to see what other representations of women and girls were on TV. It’s currently Princess Week on the Disney Channel. The news channels were referencing the celebrity nude photo hacking scandal. I shuddered and decided TV time was over.
I then turned to a copy of a very popular business magazine that I had sitting around. I perused it and almost all of the articles were written by men, about men, with an obvious audience of other men in mind.
Every single day we are faced with a barrage of media images, from all the sources I’ve highlighted to billboards, internet ads, social media messages, newspaper stories, etc. that both implicitly and explicitly tell us not only how we should behave as women but also that we will never be better than men.
As my adventures in media proved to me yet again, we have our work cut out for us. Women not only are equal to men but also bring a unique skill set and valuable perspective to workplaces, homes, schools, playgrounds, churches, and every environment in which we are included. Although it’s 2014, we obviously still have a long way to go in communicating this value and ensuring our rightful place in the eyes of the world.