Female Rising

Embed from Getty Images

“We’re going to start with Beyonce, because she’s AMAZING,” Pam Grossman, curator of the Lean In Collection and Director of Visual Trends at Getty Images, said, kicking off a funny, insightful, and deeply feminist voyage through the six most important visual trends around gender.

In less than an hour, Grossman broke apart popular culture and put it back together. Through a pastiche of commercials, movie posters, tabloid images, memes, and blogs she artfully revealed our collective subconscious’s understanding of gender today.

And it isn’t all bad. Grossman concedes that the shear number of representations of women in visual culture remains problematic (and gave props to The Representation Project and the Women’s Media Center for tracking those trends), but she focused on six positive trends that she’s seeing:

  1. The increasing depiction of women as leaders, in business and trades
  2. Mothers as empowering and dads as nurturing
  3. The broader array of female bodies
  4. The rise of the funny woman
  5. The rise of the older woman
  6. The new girl

Each trend deserves a blog post, digital slide show, and TED talk of Grossman presenting her findings. Since this is a blog about girl justice, I’m focusing on “The New Girl.”

Increasingly, images of girls are “expanding the spectrum of possibility and showing pink isn’t the only color in the crayon box.” Toys and books are embracing gender neutrality, and toy stores are taking down the “boy” and “girl” signs, and replacing them with “dinosaurs” “trucks” and “dolls.”

The current generation of young parents grew up around working moms, and with feminism “in the water.” Many don’t mind if their sons and daughters don tutus and superhero t-shirts. Perhaps it should come as no surprise that the most purchased Getty image for the search term “child” is gender ambiguous. “It’s awesome. It’s confusing. It’s exciting,” Grossman said.

But does it matter? What do these trends really mean? Can pantone depictions of girlhood make any impact? If it is right to get up in arms about negative and narrow depictions of women, then it is right to celebrate new, bold, and creative ones. The Lean In collection is an effort to “literally picture a more egalitarian world,” said Grossman. “It is an idealized microcosm of what the world is, and what it will be even more so.” 

Grossman’s “biggest takeaway” from the night is the one that fills me with the most hope: The primary users of social media are women and girls. “For the first time,” Grossman said “The majority of people with the mic, creating images, are women.”

We have the camera and the mic. What are we going to do with it? It’s an exciting, terrifying, and empowering thought. I can’t wait to see what girls create.

“Female Rising” was sponsored by Getty Images and InfluenceHer. To see Grossman’s presentation at SXSW, go here. To learn more about the Digital Trends team’s work, check out curve.gettyimages.com. Their articles on gender are particularly cool: “The Female Gaze” by Pam Grossman, “Female Rising” (no author) and “Female Rising: 5 Key Campaigns” (no author).


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