Art Fag City contributor Shana Moulton has created a visual essay of some of the images organizations use to represent women. The results, grouped by style, are strikingly similar, and, dare I say, just plain bad. Moulton has ordered them to generally follow the stages of life, but here are some of the themes and images they display:
- Women’s bodies, often made up of rough, ribbon-like lines, bearing a striking resemblance to what wind would look like if you could see it
- Women holding hands
- Women dancing
- Women generally being in touch with their bodies
- The standard woman gender symbol
- The revolution fist
- The revolution fist and the gender symbol combined
- Earth mothers
- Earth mother trees
- Women with their arms over their heads, ballerina style
As far as representing women is concerned, all of these ideas are pretty predictable and ultimately, not new or interesting at all. One could argue that they serve their purpose, but unless an organizations purpose is centered around women and dance, I don’t see any reason for their logo to be a woman dancing. The best design is that which surprises you, yet seems completely natural at the same time. Think of industrial design, of kitchenware that you use and don’t even think about. To a certain degree, that design is far more impressive than something more obviously molded to a vision; it has been created to make your life so easy you don’t even notice it. Advertising and marketing design is different; it’s meant to catch your eye, to get you interested, and to convey a message, whatever that may be. The problem with the logos for many women’s organizations is that they tell us nothing about what the organization does, only that it is defined by a specific category of people. These images rely on stereotypes and a history of bad design for women’s groups to tell their story, instead of creating a new narrative.
What do you think of some of these images? Are there some that have been left out of this thorough, if not conclusive study? In the film When Harry Met Sally (a “chick flick” that actually seems to appeal to men) one of the main characters points out that, “Everybody thinks they have good taste and a sense of humor but they couldn’t possibly all have good taste.” To some, most of these images might be striking and exciting, while there are few that I’m interested in. Ultimately, though some design is universally renowned, how we decide to represent ourselves holds great weight, and I think anyone trying to represent women and their needs should step up their game.