Politics & Policy

Sheryl Sandberg Fights Patriarchy With Stock Photos

A “confident female waitress leaning on café counter.”
Out: Housework and power suits. In: Boxing gloves and touch-screens

Sheryl Sandberg isn’t just telling women to lean in anymore, she’s showing them how.

Sandberg thinks that the current crop of stock images used by media outlets is harming women by showing them in outdated power suits or happily performing housework. So the former Facebook executive’s nonprofit, LeanIn.org, is partnering with Getty Images, one of the main suppliers of stock images, to offer a new collection of photos.#ad#

“When we see images of women and girls and men, they often fall into the stereotypes that we’re trying to overcome, and you can’t be what you can’t see,” she told the New York Times. “Do we partner into sexism or do we partner against sexism?” Sandberg’s new library of photos on Getty will seek to “represent women and families in more empowering ways,” the Times reports.

So what counts as an empowering activity for a woman to perform in 2014? Contra the definitive Onion article on the subject, it isn’t quite everything.

A quick browse through the gallery reveals the kinds of visuals that Sandberg thinks can strike a blow against sexism: Women engaging in sports definitely qualifies, and even the clichéd image of a woman in boxing gloves can be empowering with the right lighting. Sandberg also wants women to know that they can do a variety of outdoor activities, in addition to working out in the gym: Rock climbing, hiking, wielding a shovel in an urban garden, jogging, you name it. And riding a bike is as sure a way to signal emancipation as it was in 1890, whether you’re taking your fixed gear for a spin in Brooklyn or commuting to work in Manhattan.

Women can be doctors, and construction workers, and soldiers, but they can also have less high-powered or stereotype-shattering jobs, provided they strike the appropriate pose. This photo of a “confident female waitress leaning on café counter” is instructive. Note she is leaning, with confidence.

But the main innovation of the last few decades that serves as evidence we’ve moved beyond stereotypical ideas of women in the workplace is the iPad. Just the act of holding a tablet and wearing Warby Parker glasses in an office with floor-to-ceiling windows, apparently, says, “I am shattering glass ceilings.”

This kind of empowerment by portable electronic device begins at a young age. Also school girls can now confidently ride the bus and do math. And it’s never too young to start boxing!

Men do have a role in empowering women by the megapixel. They can change diapers, walk through a flower market with a baby strapped to their chest, and hang out with their toddler on the stoop of their brownstone. A man can also be supportive of his working wife by lovingly looking over her shoulder while she types on her laptop.

“The partnership is a way for Lean In to broaden its reach after criticism that Ms. Sandberg’s advice is relevant only to women in corporate America,” according to the Times.

— Katherine Connell is an associate editor at National Review.

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