Women Are Finally out of the Kitchen and Being Seen as Heroines

Well, it’s about damn time! From Wonder Woman to The Handmaiden, the way women are being represented is changing.

In 2017, when studies are still showing women are seriously underrepresented in the media and predominantly placed in domestic spaces such as the kitchen in ads, one of the world’s largest image banks has recognised that the representation of women is improving.

If you’ve ever seen a photo in a magazine, chances are it’s an image from Getty Image’s database. The international stock photo agency has an archive of 80 million images it supplies to businesses and customers worldwide. Oh, and they also get 400 million downloads and 1 billion customer searches from their site every year.

When Getty Images was established 22 years ago, the majority of images of women in its database were of “sexy ladies smiling at the camera, eating salads and selling a whole range of products and services” like vacuum cleaners, toothpaste and probably every detergent ever.

Overly enthusiastic woman laughing alone over a salad.
A standard stock photo example of a woman laughing alone while eating a salad. Seriously…

But over the last six years, women are increasingly being portrayed as badass, strong heroines. Many believe these images are a real reflection of what’s going on in the world.

For the last six years, “woman”, not “man”, has become the top, most searched term on the Getty Images website. Not only that, but “family” is the second most searched term and “business” has dropped to third place. Searches for images of heroines have also increased to 80% worldwide.

According to Getty Images, there is a visual trend reflecting this. It’s called Gritty Woman, and it’s all about “a new woman on the scene… She’s smashing conventions and tearing down walls, more concerned with what she can do than with how she looks… She will fight for her beliefs without apology.”

Female muay thai boxers training with sandbag in a gym.
Say hello to these Gritty Women. Credit – Tom Werner, Getty Images.

Jacqueline Bourke, the Senior Manager of Creative Insights and Planning at Getty Images, says: “We did see the cliché of the sexy lady at the gym, who didn’t appear to sweat and had perfect makeup on, but now we’re seeing this much more messier type of [look], where your hands are in the dirt, and there’s this huge diversity of female stories happening, not just different body shapes, but also different sexual orientations to different ages.

“We’re seeing more of women working from home. We’re also seeing a lot of dads working from home… we’re seeing the rise of single father households. There are images of hands-on dads who are the primary caregiver within the home. I think this just shows we are moving into a far more blended space when it comes to family responsibilities between the genders.”

Young woman looks across mtns and valley, sunrise
Finally, women are starting to be represented in a realistic light.

“We as women in the world, at no significant point in time have we had so much control over our visual representation [online]. There’s a lot of studies out there that show more women take selfies than men do. We’re far more engaged with social media and we’re in charge of our image.

“So, social media serves as a very important pivot point [allowing us] much better control over the way we are being represented. Obviously, feminism does help, but again it’s social media that provides the conversation that we can all get involved in.

“You can see we are really moving forward. We have to make sure this is really happening in far more greater numbers, in far more diversity, in far more shades of grey. It’s about keeping that rallying call going. We’ve been here before when Thelma and Louise came out and at that time, it was a new woman and a new movement, but it didn’t happen and that’s why we need to keep driving it forward all the time. And we all have a responsibility and role to play within that.”

Sylvia Lee


Sylvia is a student journalist who loves travel, lifestyle and politics. Fun fact: she once wrote a story about an evil pencil with plans for world domination in primary school. Sylvia wishes people would stop asking her why she's pescatarian and that she were better at writing about herself in the third person.

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