WOMEN
05/11/2012 10:45 am ET

The World According to Stock Photos of Women

Stock photography is one of my favorite things about the internet. It's so corny and mysterious and strangely telling-like this weird mirror universe where everyone wears the same camisole and eats yogurt all day with confused white babies. It's like a window into Heaven for the most boring person in the world.

Because stock photos trade in generalities, specificity is financial suicide. And without specificity, people can't be people-we can only be groups. Women can't work on cars without being either sexy or stupid. Fat people can only do fat-related things, like be frustrated about shopping, or not fit into a pair of jeans. In stock photography, there can't be any backstory required, because if the photo comes with its own story it's useless in the marketplace. A photo needs to be as vague as possible, and play into the stories that people already know. Unfortunately, the stories that most people know are the old, fucked-up ones, which means that stock photos tend to reinforce some not-awesome cultural norms (and invent some totally bananas new ones). Hilarity ensues.

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