The False Narrative of Stock Photography
Photos of black women breastfeeding are hard to find.
As a business focused on breastfeeding, we have done many stock photography image searches on the topic. It doesn’t matter where you look, the images are typically the same: a (far too composed, in our opinion) white woman, smiling down at her breastfeeding baby.
Even articles highlighting black breastfeeding often feature a photo of a black baby in a mother’s arms, as opposed to a black baby breastfeeding. An important but often overlooked nuance.
Thankfully, searching for images today, in the midst of Black Breastfeeding week, the results are far more diverse than a typical Monday. But we still have a long way to go.
It’s not just a matter of benefitting branding materials. Rather, the images we see in marketing/magazines/our daily lives, directly impact—consciously or unconsciously—our perceptions on breastfeeding and motherhood.
Think about the recent loss of Chadwick Boseman, which has left holes in hearts across the world. His loss is so devastating because he was the first high-profile black superhero. He broke down cultural boundaries and inspired a whole generation of young black men and women.
Representation matters. Though it’s not everything—it won’t fix the fact that black women are 3 or 4 times more likely to die as a result of pregnancy, or that the black infant mortality rate is more than double that of white children—it is certainly something. It’s a powerful connector and motivator.
It’s not just stock breastfeeding photos that do mothers a disservice. Do a quick search for “working mother” and you’re bound to see an overload of happy moms, seamlessly juggling their zillions of responsibilities.
These perpetuate a false narrative that, when used in the context of marketing materials, has every employer wondering why it’s so hard, and every mom feeling like a failure.
Pay attention to what’s out there—and more importantly, what’s not. Try to help craft an inclusive narrative that will ultimately benefit the health of all families.