An apple or a piece of cake? An apple or a donut? An apple or an ice cream sundae? You might not have to exercise that much thought to make a decision between two items of food, but according to many stock photos, women use a whole lot of mental energy doing just that.
Jason Feifer, a senior editor at Fast Company, noticed the stock photo trend of indecisiveness and used the images to create a Tumblr, titled "Models Who Can't Decide." The stock photos depict almost exclusively women (there is one image of a man and one of a young girl) having a very hard time choosing between two things -- usually two items of food.
Feifer explained to Slate on April 26th that he made the Tumblr because stock photos are seriously hilarious -- for evidence of that see what "stressed women" and "women on Thanksgiving" look like according to stock photography -- but also because they provide a "fascinating cultural lens":
The photographers have to anticipate basic, recurring themes that will bubble up in the media, and then produce images that represent those themes without being too specific. So, the existence of all these photos—especially the ones with the apples—means that it's a safe bet that publications will always be talking to women about dieting, or struggling to make the right eating decisions, or just that gosh it's so hard to do the right thing!
We decided to conduct an informal search of our stock photo provider's database using the search term "woman deciding." We came up with 36 pages of photographs, mostly of ladies trying to choose between an item of fruit and a baked good, occasionally choosing between two items of clothing. There are a similar number of photos labelled "man deciding," but the vast majority of them depict a man pondering without specifying what he's deciding between.
Slate's Katy Waldman couldn't quite decide why she found herself drawn to the "Models Who Can't Decide" Tumblr:
[The photos] reveal the culturewide obsession with women eating things, or worrying about whether to eat things, and which things, and when. (Can there really be so many stories that demand stock images of a woman so torn over snacks? And if so, isn’t that disturbing?) Or is it just funny to see so many people (especially female people) taxing their apparently limited mental powers, because, really, who expends so much energy on such a trivial decision?
We're more inclined towards disturbing. While the collection of photos may seem comical at first glance, it's depressing that there are so many images out there meant to convey women's obsession with food and limited mental capacity. After all, these photos are meant to be used across media, and usually unironically. That means their message -- that women are diet-obsessed, indecisive and ditzy -- is going out to a LOT of readers.
What do you think? Let us know in the comments. And click over to "Models Who Can't Decide" for more.
LOOK: Our Own Contribution To "Models Who Can't Decide"