Women can’t do things that men do

…, or says stock imagery sites.

Since becoming a Senior Instructional Designer we’ve worked exceptionally hard to make sure our modules appear to the represent the global audience that learns with us.

However often when we’re trying to make our pages more appealing, we have to turn to image libraries to help us either make a point, or to just make the page more appealing, so we turn to stock photos.

This sounds fine until you begin to realise that certain stock libraries may only show a particular reflection of life to you. Please try the following searches out, on your stock library, we’re using Adobe stock for today as it’s easy to use and often the most forgiving when adding in extra keywords.

(P.s., for the woke people of the world, this will frustrate, I promise)

Try searching for sailor… then sailor woman.. what did you notice?

Did one show more flesh and one show more authoritative figure? Obviously the call for sailor imagery in our modules is pretty low, however I hope it highlights the underlying bent of the image searches we make.

A screenshot of the search, “sailor woman” from pixabay

Search for business deal… what did you notice?

Any particular skin colours showing more than others? Any particular sex more than others?

Finally, try searching for muslim government, what do you see?

Why the mix of pictures relating to government, then why guns and refugees being turned away?

What about the related keywords from when you search for, “muslim government” in pixabay? (2019, May 5th – this was added)

Muslim government search shows, “Riot Violence Revolution Unrest Protest”

Christian government related search shows, “Cross Jesus Church Catholic Government”

Our team works very hard to show a positive reflection of a global society and of our learners. To make that happen with a stock photos system that may show a rather different reflection to what we want, our searches add on other keywords to help us break free from a particular, stereotypes and tropes.

Please see below how we alter our work by adding in some frankly blunt keywords,

  • Stock photo choices should majorly attempt to prioritise photos of women. That is not always possible, but if we push for it normally, the balance of sex and genders will be more properly represented.
    • Try adding, “woman”, “clothed”, “success”
  • Stock photo choices should majorly attempt to prioritise, or include someone (or a group) who is not white skinned. That is not always possible, but if we push for it normally, the balance of skin colours will be more properly represented across a whole module,
    • Try adding these keywords, “mixed race”, “black”, “turban”
  • Stock photo choices should look to actively  include, and possibly re-hash imagery to positively include muslims. People actively taking part in the activity other than violence or shopping
    • Try adding, “Niqābs business”, “Thobe deal”, “muslim business”, “muslim woman business”

Obviously this is a larger discussion than I’ve covered above, but I hope it shows how we are actively doing our best to use positive imagery in all our global modules.

btw. Most of this post was written a while ago and stock photo libraries change over time, so the searches may hopefully prove the above wrong…

Author: Dan Course

Senior Instructional Designer. Partnerships, people, products, delivery, agile tech and online edu.

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