This is something I’ve been wanting to write about for a long time. Diversity is a huge subject at the moment and it affects so many areas of our lives. As a human nation we are all different sizes, different colours and come from wide ranging backgrounds. We all have different challenges in our lives and yet if you look at the media, at the visual representation of our nation, you’d think we were all immaculate, slim, clear skinned, pale skinned, lean, athletic versions of perfection.
Whether you are dealing with eczema and topical steroid withdrawal, need a wheelchair, live with constant pain or don’t have a body that conforms to the perfection our media industry pushes, this affects you.
We all need kindness, empathy and understanding. We just want respect.
Adobe Stock I’m talking to you…
I recently wrote to Adobe Stock about some pictures they had in their image library, categorised as ‘Fat woman running’. This was after a friend drew my attention to the issue after searching for ‘exhausted runner’. It seems in bad taste to describe any woman as ‘fat’, especially from a company with such a strong image and position. What also struck me was that these ‘fat’ women in the images, were not even fat. Most of them were maybe a size 12 or 14. They had some curves and to me, were just normal people enjoying a run. Why is Adobe labelling these normal women as fat?
As a runner myself, one of the things I LOVE about ALL my running friends is that we are all so different. We don’t conform to any norm and everyone is so inclusive, understanding and kind. Maybe there is something in running that breeds a nicer kind of person! Every runner I’ve ever met has an innate love of their sport and enjoys nothing more than encouraging this pastime in others, no matter what their skillset or experience.
Adobe never replied. They ignored my tweets. Not even a response to say they’ll take a look at the categorisation of their image gallery.
If you then delve further into Adobe’s image library you’ll discover that there is very little diversity.
If you search for yoga – something I did recently when I wrote a blog about Yoga for skin health, all the people doing yoga are white skinned and female. I know many people who practise yoga and again, they’re all different… from different backgrounds, sizes, fitness levels. Yet we all come together to practise and it doesn’t matter what we look like.
If you search for eczema, whilst there are some images of what eczema skin looks like, there are some weird images of people with skin I want to stroke it’s SO smooth, and some kind of red blob to indicate they have a rash! What’s that all about? This isn’t eczema.
So many brands sell beauty products for sensitive skin, suitable for eczema and the imagery they use is all perfect women with no imperfections in their skin. Men have eczema too but you see very few images of them.
If you search for allergies, you get a bunch of boring images of someone sneezing and guess what… they’re nearly all white, female and could all be from the same family.
This is just a tiny look at an issue that is going to take a long time to fix.
If you do see someone with allergies or eczema in a film they are usually portrayed in a weak part, and their asthma, bad skin, weaknesses, just hammer home that they’re not a strong part in the drama.
Yet we all know these conditions can affect anyone.
We just don’t see imperfection or diversity portrayed in the media we consume. We don’t see enough difference in magazines, newspapers, films, TV programmes… We all need to do better.
The world is not perfect. We all have a responsibility to take a look at our prejudices, our inner thoughts and judgements. Are you being fair? Are you being kind? Do you understand what a person is going through?
Think before you make assumptions about anyone.
What sort of example are we setting to our children? Do companies who provide images have a duty to address these complex issues?
I wouldn’t recommend Adobe. Be warned, if you try their 30 day trial and forget to cancel it, you’re also signing up to a year at extortionate rates. I know, I know, read the small print, but any company who operates in this way is not one I want anything to do with. They did give me a refund but I had to really push to get it. Why tie people into a contract if they don’t want your product? Let them go. They don’t like you and are far more likely to try you again when they do need more imagery if you haven’t made it very difficult in previous dealings.
I think you get the picture that I’m disappointed in Adobe stock and any other company who perpetuates the lack of diversity we’ve become used to.
I’d love to hear your views on this.
On another note, I would recommend Pexels if you want decent inclusive, diverse images for your creative project.
Steve H says
hi Ruth – interesting article and to pick up on two of your points:
1) runners – check out @chubs2ridgewaylife on instagram who documents his (unacceptable) abuse from non runners when he has been out and about.
2) yoga – @holajess_ (insta) and Yoga with Jess (Youtube) she challenged the stereotypical images of yoga practitioners (slim, white female) and reaches out to brands she is engaged with to get them to clarify their position on diversity.
Ruth Holroyd says
Thanks Steve, I know Andy (AKA Chubs) and he’s a lovely guy who can run ridiculous distances and endure incredible pain in the pursuit of miles! It’s shocking isn’t it? What people think is acceptable to say. or even that they even think it. Not following Jess so I will check her out.