Racial and religious diversity in ‘empowered’ women images is essential. © steve belkowitz
Empowering Women in Images by deanne delbridge
It’s time to re-wire our synapses about images of women. Not an easy task. Our perspective has behind it thousands of years of stifling stereotypes based on a past reality.
Shocking as it is, before 1920 women could neither vote nor have a political voice. Women were not allowed to obtain a university degree. Before the birth control pill was widely available in the late sixties, women were wives, mothers, and caretakers valued for sexual pleasure, homemaking and reproducing. Being considered a muse, mother, or object simply followed limits imposed by men.
We haven’t yet begun to experience the changes for both men and women that ever-increasing equality will bring to culture, government, and business.
In a world where most heroes featured are male, and only half of all fiction and films include at least two women talking about something other than men, it is not surprising that we are still stuck in the ‘dark ages’ when it comes to depicting women as empowered equals.
Image makers lead us into our future. Ninety percent of our perceptive senses are through our eyes. The images you create give permission to a reality that the masses long for but don’t know they want.
The marketplace is ready for portrayals of women that speak to the truth of their own possibilities: images of women empowered in business, leading the team, working on complicated math and engineering solutions, sailing the boat, doing the surgery — women full of intent!
a new wave of international concern for women is on the rise! photo © lena mirisola
Every woman can remember the age at which she began to feel objectified, limited or viewed differently from her fellow male humans. In spite of that, women have been conditioned since childhood to aspire to the kind of images men love. We must start creating images we can all love.
So how do we grasp the complexities of sexuality in images and not objectify women in the process? How do men overcome the way they have been ‘conditioned’ to experience naked women? We all love our natural state of nakedness in our private lives — how does it often become aberrated, feel overused and tend to perpetuate the idea of women existing primarily for ‘sexual pleasure’?
We begin by understanding an essential difference between an image projecting ‘sensuality’ vs.‘sexuality’. A ‘sexual’ image pushes us away making us feel like a‘voyeur’. We don’t feel comfortable being ‘in it’.
On the other hand a ‘sensual’ image invites us in. We want to be a part of it. That difference of feeling ‘invited’ into the image allows our natural human instincts to flow and keeps the ‘sexiness’ from objectifying both the subject and the viewer.
Ask yourself — am I unnecessarily ‘sexualizing’ this image? Do we really need to ‘sexualize’ a woman in a corporate/ business image by putting her in high-heels?
There’s no question that beauty inspires. As humans we are all attracted to beauty and it’s enlivening effects. However millions of women and girls have learned and believe what current imagery tells them — that they cannot have power without a beautiful face or perfect body. For many women ‘being beautiful’ is still the only path open to feeling empowered.
Disrupting archaic ideas about women — ideas born of and based on a past reality embedded
in our DNA — is an exciting and challenging ‘opportunity of the moment’ for photographers.
Girls will grow into women who become self-empowered instead of ‘agents of men’s dreams’ when all of us – women and men alike – are given daily doses of equality from the images you create!
gender ambiguity adds mystery which allows us to refrain from stereotyped thinking photo © brock elbank
Deanne Delbridge is presenting an APA National sponsored seminar Muse, Mother, Object: Challenging Traditional Depictions of Women — at PhotoPlusExpo in New York City on October 25th 11am –12:30pm
APA members receive a 15% to all seminar (log on to APA membership to access code)
Deanne is a creative consultant based in San Francisco who designs + develops new visual positioning for photographers including award-winning portfolios, websites and promo campaigns – deannedelbridge.com