Mum's the Word

Mum's the Word

A recent survey by Interflora found that if mothers charged for their services, they would bring in an annual salary of around £172,000. To give that some context, it's more than the salary of a school headmaster, headmistress or even the Prime Minister. Regardless of the sum, it's clear that mums are incredibly busy individuals with huge responsibilities, irrespective of whether they are at home full-time or whether they're balancing motherhood and a career.

As we increasingly recognise the strength of these women, we should question the representation of mothers in the imagery we see around us and whether it reflects the reality. With Mother's Day just around the corner in the UK, now is a good time to consider what the creative research team at Getty Images is seeing as the changing face of this iconic figure in media. The results are interesting.

There's no doubt that the general representation of women in imagery has advanced greatly in recent years. Last month Getty Images celebrated the two year anniversary of the Lean In Collection - a collection of imagery devoted to a more contemporary view of women, girls and the communities who support them. The collection was curated in partnership with LeanIn.Org, the women's empowerment non-profit founded by Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg. Over the corresponding two years at Getty Images, sales from the search term 'female business executive' increased by 350 per cent. So the demand for images representing women in the workplace is evidently growing but are we seeing the visual representation of the mother evolve?

Five years ago Getty Images' most popular photograph of a mum featured a Caucasian woman smiling in the sunshine while carrying her daughter on her back. The image is 'classic stock' - it's what you might expect - safe, nurturing and domestic. Fast-forward to 2016 and the landscape has definitely changed. One of our current top-selling images depicting motherhood sees a woman (not Caucasian) climbing in the mountains, whilst carrying her baby in a hiking backpack - she's bold, adventurous and doing what she loves. She still exudes a caring and loving aura, but at the same time she's clearly in control of the life she wants to lead. This shift is in line with the fact that we've seen searches for 'empowered women' increase by a whopping 722 per cent in the last year alone.

While we are definitely seeing some evolution in imagery featuring mothers, we have to look at whether this shift is fully reflected in the wider media. In recent years we've seen the rise of 'dadvertising' - ads that show fathers in a softer, realistic and a more family-orientated light, rather than being the individual who, at best, just does the school run.

In 2015, Colman's Shepherd's Pie advert featured a dad preparing dinner for his daughter after she'd just broken up with her boyfriend. It's a great representation of the sensitive dad, who is 'great at giving hugs,' and is far removed from the fathers of advertising yesteryear. Similarly Nationwide's advert from May 2015 showcased the relationship between father and son through the generations, backed by the emotional soundtrack of 'I'll Keep You Safe' by Sleeping at Last. The 'real dads in ads' revolution is in line with what we're seeing at Getty Images - searches for 'family, father and daughter' increased by 400 per cent from 2014 to 2015, while searches for 'girl and dad hugging' went up by 300 per cent in the same timeframe.

But amongst all of this, where's mum? It would seem for every rugby ball and pint glass that 'dadvertising' has turned away mums are still stuck with washing up liquid and stain remover. If today's multi-tasking mum is worth more than the Prime Minister, surely we should be representing her accurately? Two campaigns that do this well, showcasing mum as the hero she surely is, are Ariel's #ShareTheLoad campaign and P&G's 'Thank You, Mum' campaign, that actually dates back to 2012.

The first example launched last month in India, with the #ShareTheLoad advert asking why laundry and other housework is seen as only a mum's job. In this emotional advert a father apologises for the constraints and demands a patriarchal society has placed on his daughter.

I'm particularly fond of the second example as it frames mums as our everyday strength - someone who is perhaps not always the focus, and not always thanked because we see it as such a normal part of her role, but someone who we simply could not function without.

However, while these ads are great examples, they are simply too far and few between. If we're seeing mothers that can quite literally scale mountains, mainstream media needs to reflect this. Dadvertising is a fantastic start for gender equality, but more please for the hero that is mum.


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