Women call for brands to take responsibility for the imagery they use 

by | Apr 8, 2019 | Public Relations

Despite decades of work to liberate women from limiting stereotypes, 70 percent of women say they still don’t feel represented in the images they see every day. Many women know the mantra, “you can’t be what you can’t see,” yet many images continue to impose unrealistic beauty standards, presenting a narrow view of who women are, what they should look like, and what they can achieve—and every day, women’s lives are affected by these limitations, exclusions and stereotypes. It affects their health, relationships and the opportunities they are given.

Project #ShowUs is a new initiative from Dove, together with partners Getty Images and Girlgaze, providing a groundbreaking library of over 5,000 images created by women and non-binary individuals to shatter beauty stereotypes, and are available to be licensed by media and advertisers. Dove calls upon creative and media professionals to join them in redefining how women are represented in the images we see around us—celebrating a more diverse and inclusive portrayal of beauty and supporting the confidence of women around the globe by showing them as they want to be seen.

Women demand that media act more responsibly

In one of the largest global studies of its kind, Dove’s research study shows that 67 percent of women are calling for brands to step up and start taking responsibility for the stock imagery they use. Seventy percent of women still don’t feel represented in media and advertising—and the move to a broader definition of beauty has never been more pressing. On Getty Images, the search term “real people” has increased +192 percent over the past year, “diverse women” by +168 percent and “strong women” by +187 percent, providing more evidence of the demand for a more realistic portrayal of women and beauty. There is also a huge need for stock imagery to include women in more progressive and empowering roles, and scenarios with “women leaders” up by +202 percent.

Women want media and advertisers to do a better job of portraying women of physical diversity, with two thirds (66 percent) currently feeling there is limited body shapes and sizes and 64 percent feeling characteristics such as scars, freckles and skin conditions are unrepresented.

The pressure from unrealistic beauty images is damaging to women

The constant bombardment of beauty stereotypes is making 7 in 10 women feel pressurized to reach an unrealistic standard of beauty, contributing to an appearance anxiety epidemic. Women who feel worse about themselves as a result of seeing a narrow definition of beauty day in, day out is impacting their daily lives—from being assertive (30 percent) to wearing the clothes they want (49 percent) or expressing their true identity (37 percent).

Women call for brands to take responsibility for the imagery they use 

“Dove understands the impact unrealistic images of beauty can have on a women’s body confidence and their subsequent ability to reach their full potential. For over 60 years, we have believed in liberating women from narrow beauty ideals and have showcased beauty diversity in our advertising. However, this is not enough, and we cannot make the systemic change we need alone,” said Sophie Galvani, global vice president at Dove, in a news release. “Hence Project #ShowUs—we have spent over a year creating the world’s largest image bank of over 5,000 beauty images breaking beauty stereotypes, and we are now inviting media and advertisers to license the images and join us to take real tangible action. The images have been created and self-tagged by women themselves and as well as asking media and advertisers to license them for their upcoming projects, we are also offering women around the world the opportunity to become part of the change and add their images to the library.”

“Project #ShowUs is the result of real women demanding representation in an industry that often dictates the very image we have of ourselves. In Canada, we’re lucky to live in a diverse, multicultural environment made richer by the contributions of women who have complex stories and voices that insist on being heard,” said Leslie Golts, marketing lead at Dove Canada, in the release. “We’re thrilled about this project and partnership as it gives us the opportunity to represent the powerful women who make up the rich tapestry of Canada as we know it.”

Amanda de Cadenet, founder and CEO of Girlgaze, added: “Girlgaze was born out of a need to center the female perspective and secure paid jobs for women and non-binary creatives. Project #ShowUs is a game changing initiative, as we know when there’s more diversity behind the lens, there is more diversity in front of it. Generated through our jobs platform; the Girlgaze Network, by our global community of female-identifying and non-binary photographers, we are proud to have hired over 300 creatives to create images that truthfully depict female beauty—and in doing so, are also one step closer to closing the gender gap and centering inclusive beauty.”

“Getty Images is a passionate champion for the realistic representation of all through imagery, and through this partnership is proud to be leading the visual industry to change the way women’s beauty is represented in media and advertising,” said Dr. Rebecca Swift, creative insights director at Getty Images, in the release. “Whilst we’ve seen a positive shift in the popularity of photography that realistically represents women, there’s a lot more to be done. Project #ShowUs will break visual clichés on an unprecedented scale, and we invite all media and advertisers to join the movement.”

#ShowUs more women like you

Want to help expand the definition of beauty? Join us at Dove.ca/ShowUs to share your images and you could become part of the Project #ShowUs photo library.

Project #ShowUs is part of Unilever’s commitment to UN Women’s Unstereotype Alliance—a cross-industry global initiative which uses the power of advertising and media to free the world from harmful stereotypes that hold back people and society.

Research was conducted on behalf of Dove by Edelman Intelligence, a specialist applied research company, between December 2018 – February 2019 with 9,027 women aged 18-64 in 11 countries: UK, USA, Canada, France, South Africa, Brazil, Argentina, China, Japan, India, Russia. These countries were selected in order to adequately represent the diversity of women in terms of culture, beliefs, social pressure and economic development as well as a fair representation of the diversity of culture and tradition around beauty. The sample was broadly representative of women in each country in terms of age, region and social grade.

Richard Carufel
Richard Carufel is editor of Bulldog Reporter and the Daily ’Dog, one of the web’s leading sources of PR and marketing communications news and opinions. He has been reporting on the PR and communications industry for over 17 years, and has interviewed hundreds of journalists and PR industry leaders. Reach him at richard.carufel@bulldogreporter.com; @BulldogReporter