Genderblend: the changing face of women in media

On Sunday, the world celebrated International Women’s Day to commemorate the ongoing struggle that women still have for equality. Even here in New Zealand, the world’s first country to give women the right to vote, women continue to earn less than similarly qualified and experienced men. And in the creative industry, this inequality is quite evident in the depressing lack of female executive creative directors.

However, things are changing. The way we see men and women is evolving, and many brands have started noticing and reflecting this in their advertising.   

To highlight some of these examples, Getty Images recently compiled short list of the international ads that are leading the charge in representing women as powerful, independent and capable. 

First on the list is Sport England’s spot, which veers away from the trope of toned athletic bodies to feature authentic women engaging in sports. Within 36 hours of its launch, this campaign attracted over three million YouTube views, illustrating that the message resonated with the masses.

 Goldiebox has for some time now been breaking gender norms with clever ads that depict girls playing with toys usually restricted to the boys’ isles of shopping stores. This has now been taken a step further with the brand’s creation of an action figure targeted specifically at girls.   


In this spot, Lego illustrated that imagination isn’t limited to boys and that this notion is as antiquated as the one that says certain jobs can only be done by men.

Synovus Bank illustrates the importance of not pigeon-holing girls into gender stereotypes in a spot that features a story that shows the value in teaching girls to be brave.    

FCKH8.com released this unapologetic—and somewhat controversial—spot to incite conversation on gender roles. Although some critics slammed the spot for encouraging young girls to swear, the ad successfully brought the issue of women’s rights to the fore and resulted in people sharing their opinions on the matter. 

Getty has also noted that these changing representations of of women are also being reflected beyond advertising, with the distinction between femininity and masculinity becoming increasingly obscure in media and entertainment.  

In a new trend analysis, Getty has identified ‘Genderblend‘ imagery, which features androgynous depictions of people, as becoming more prominent in films, photography and even in shopping malls.

A classic example of this would be in the Bob Dylan biopic I’m not there, which had the famous troubadour depicted by both male and female actors over the course of the film. 

More recently, films such as the Hunger Games have also switched the gender roles, positioning a female character as the protector of a male.          

These shifts are also important for brands that are looking to resonate with an audience that no longer values the stereotypical gender roles that have until recently dominated popular culture. Relying on Prince Charming and his Damsel in Distress simply aren’t enough in the modern world.    

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