What About the Rest of Us?

“Since we live in the heads of those who remember us, we lose control of our lives and become who they want us to be.”― David M. EaglemanRecord Scratch I got tired of beating my head against the Canva program to produce my own interactive PDF for my Making Sense Out of Change course. I finally gave in and passed it off to some pros.   They sent me back the Introduction module for editing. I love a whole lot of what they did!   Except…   Hello? There were 11 images included, all of them lovely. Nine included human beings. All nine were female. All nine were young and thin. Seven of the nine were clearly Caucasian and the other two were ethnically ambiguous, leaning toward Caucasian norms.   Um…???   Where are the rest of us?!?!?   The funniest one by far was the woman placed next to a quote from Miles Davis. There’s at least a 70% chance that the model has no clue who Miles Davis was. (If you don’t, click here. Start with Kind of Blue. You’re welcome.)   Assumptions and Messages A you know, I create a lot of graphics myself to illustrate my work. I know first-hand that stock images nearly always pop up young, thin, white models unless you specifically ask for something else. There aren’t a lot of options. That’s diagnostic.   I’m not mad at the team that created this. At the same time, it’s not going out there without a much, much wider array of humans. If something is going out in the public sphere with my name on it, must include people of all ethnicities, all ages, all body types, all gender expressions. Or at least a close to “all” as we can get.   More Funny-Wrapped COVID GiftsPeople in the  US gained an average of 27 pounds during the pandemic. Interestingly we gained this weight while being more active than we were before the shutdown. Many studies point to different causes, but the most universal culprit seems to have been the overflow of cortisol we experienced under constant daily stress. So what’s good about that?!?   Advertisers finally started to catch on. The typical women’s clothing catalog, aside from plus sized catalogs, exclusively included models who were no larger than a size 4. Look now. Many retailers let you see the clothing advertised on different sizes and shapes of humans. Bravo! Go figure – Very few of us are size 4. It’s nice to see a wider endorsement of humanness, and certainly more helpful to see how different clothes look on different body types so we can decide what we will buy.   Many retailers have also taken to using models of varying ethnicity and body shape in addition to different sizes. Some go even further and show varied gender expressions. I am stoked. Now if they could just do something about those infernal foreign size charts on Satan ooops.., sorry… Amazon, that label a US Women’s size 10 and XXXL, with helpful verbiage like “If fat buy big size.” (That was a real quote I saw once.)   Consider the Messages This presentation looks like it buys into the “YAVIS” bias I learned about in my counselor training. It’s as if we are to believe that only: Young, Attractive (by a narrow community’s perceptions,) Verbal (by a narrow community’s perceptions,) Intelligent (by a narrow community’s perceptions,) Successful, (yes, again, by a narrow community’s perceptions,) people are invested in changing their lives.   Seriously?   Mind you, I have absolutely nothing against people who do fit the image the designers used again and again. Some of them are perfectly lovely people and some have proven to be wonderful clients, but they are most certainly not the only lovely humans in our collective community.   Here are alternative take-aways that aren’t any healthier:

  • If you are young and female-presenting, you only warrant public space if you look like this.
  • If you don’t look like this, you don’t exist.
  • Only people who look like this get to change their lives.
  • People who do look like this really need to CHANGE themselves! (Remember the Peloton holiday blow back of 2019?)

  This unconscious buy-in, having the vast majority of stock images include such a narrow band of options, harms the entire human family. Ironically, if the statistics on who is doing digital creation are to be believed, virtually none of them look like these images.   Rail Against the Machine Fight, my fellow humans! FIGHT! Representation really does matter. When we don’t see ourselves in media and entertainment, we get the message over and over again that we do not have a place in the community. If we are represented, but others aren’t, we can use our access to change the landscape, promote other voices and faces, see to it that the full diversity of our communities are represented in decision-making.   If only I could get the entire industry to recognize the problem, and then maybe have them take the Making Sense Out of Change course…   Sigh.   ................................................................................................................   Are you feeling invisible in the community of humans? Are you visible but looking for ways to change the culture? Contact Tiffany today. Let's make a plan!