Female Rising

Main Image Detail150514695 / Jekaterina Nikitina / Flickr


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On the political stage, in pop culture, in the sphere of fashion, and in our day-to-day lives, we’re seeing a rise in female empowerment.  Beauty ideals are expanding, and images of women and girls that are authentic, strong, and comfortable in their own skin are resonating with people around the world.

Browse more images of strong young women.

With half the world’s population being female, it seems awfully trivializing to say that women are currently having a “moment.”  Yet we can’t help but notice a surge in female-centric sentiments happening in the culture right now.  It is, after all, the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, and the 50th anniversary of The Feminine Mystique this year.

There are more females holding office around the world than ever before.  In fact, the US Senate just had to start expansion renovations of the ladies’ bathroom to accommodate all 20 female senators.   Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg is encouraging women to “Lean In” to their careers and be mothers at the same time.

Discover more images of women from our Lean In collection.

So far in 2013, Beyonce has headlined both the Superbowl – the highest-rated television program in the US – and her own “The Sound of Change” concert in London to help raise money for international women and girls’ foundations, let alone her own “Mrs. Carter” world tour.


Eyes on the prize

15-year-old Malala Yousefzai was just voted Time Magazine’s 2nd most influential person in the world, for turning her tragic attack story into a platform for promoting education for all girls.  Eyes remain glued to punk-activist troupe, Pussy Riot, who are still behind bars for their feminist, anti-Putin demonstration at a Moscow church last year.

And many of us “Stood with Wendy,” both in person and via YouTube, as she attempted her 13-hour filibuster to prevent the Texas government from passing legislation that would shut down the majority of the state’s abortion clinics. Something powerful - palpable - is in the air. Momentum is building.

View a selection of images depicting women in leadership roles.


Changing faces

We’re seeing an evolution in depictions of women and girls in the visual landscape at large.  More women than men are using online sharing sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest, which means that more women are in charge of spreading and creating imagery than ever before.  A woman is more likely than a man to have a blog, and we’re seeing fashion blogs like the curve-celebrating GabiFresh and feminist teen site, Rookie, wrestle ownership of beauty standards from exclusive – and exclusionary – fashion magazines by celebrating females of all shapes, sizes, and backgrounds.

Browse a selection of images portraying female individuality.


Real beauty

Big brands are starting to play catch-up, now that they know Dove’s thriving “Real Beauty” campaign isn’t just a flash in the pan, but rather a flashpoint that heralds a new age of body-positivity and acceptance.  It’s wonderful that fashion companies like Lucky Brand are launching plus-size lines.  But even more exciting is when a company like H&M features a fuller-figured model on their site without any mention of size whatsoever - the implication being that their clothes are for all women.

View more images representing people with a variety of body types. 


Equally funny

Women are also proving – despite the late Christopher Hitchens’ opinion – that they are indeed funny.  Comedienne superstars Tina Fey and Amy Poehler got raves when they hosted the Golden Globes, the same year Lena Dunham won two of said Golden Globes for her self-created, self-starring, and uncomfortably hilarious hit show, GIRLS.  Paul Feig proved his female-fronted, box-office behemoth, Bridesmaids, wasn’t a lark by replicating the same success with this summer’s Melissa McCarthy/Sandra Bullock vehicle, The Heat.

The salty British journalist, Caitlin Moran, released her comedic feminist manifesto, “How to Be a Woman,” and the book became a runaway best-seller on both sides of the pond.  Supermodel Cara Delevinge is as famous for her silly mugging off the runway as she is for her grace on it.

And the Tumblr blog Pretty Girls Making Ugly Faces blazed to popularity as a forum that celebrates women looking imperfect, goofy, and downright, well, ugly. This MasterCard campaign is arresting, because it shows women at moments of awe, making “off” faces – not in a state of perfect composure.  People are responding to images of women that are authentic, imperfect, and funny as all get-out.

Browse more images of women acting funny.


Gender fluidity

We’re also seeing more gender fluidity on the children and teens front.  This is an age where girls are encouraged to be the hero(ine)s of their own story – see Hunger Games, The Croods, and Brave, to name a few.

Today’s girl is just as likely to dress up as a comic book character as she is a princess – and sometimes she even combines the two.  And it’s becoming more acceptable for little boys to play with so-called “feminine” toys, thanks the newly released black and silver EASY-BAKE Oven and Harrod’s redesigned toy section that groups playthings by category, not gender.

Discover more images of girls embracing non-traditional gender activities.

Does this suggest that future generations will become more accepting of alpha women and beta men?  There are more bread-winning women and stay-at-home dads than ever before, that’s for sure.  Even better, perhaps all of these terms will be rendered meaningless, as positive depictions of all genders living all different kinds of empowering lives - at work and at home - become the norm.

Key take-aways:

  • Feminism is no longer a dirty word, as women claim their power worldwide.
  • Images of passive, objectified women are antiquated.
  • Today’s woman has agency and strength, but is also funny and real.
  • Prettiness and pink for girls is not going away, but the spectrum is expanding.
  • Today’s children are comfortable blurring traditional gender roles. After all, their parents do.

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