Guys, stop sexualizing women in your mockups

Just last week, I had a conversation with a woman whom I deeply respect. We chatted about design, education, coffee — you know, the usual stuff.

I’m not sure why I brought it up, but I did. It’s not even something I wanted to talk about:

“Is it weird when men publicly shame the actions of other men in the name of women?”

As a white male designer in Silicon Valley I always assumed that standing up for women’s rights would seem superficial. I mean, how could I possibly understand? My life is almost completely devoid of any adversity towards my race or gender. I was born into demographic privilege.

Her response was unexpected, but it actually made a lot of sense:

“Men can be our best advocates because the men who don’t respect women do respect men.”

I want to talk about something that’s bugged me for ages, but I haven’t had the stones to write about publicly. Fake work is bad enough, but sexually objectifying women in mockups is one of the most despicable practices in our industry. It needs to stop right now.

Messages redesign by Ramotion
Ripple by Meng To
Profile animation by Jakub Antalík. Read the comments as well.

For a young male designer this kind of behavior might seem innocent enough, but regardless of the intent, the consequence remains the same. In an already male-dominated industry, the objectification of women in our work isolates them in the worst possible way — by making them feel uncomfortable and unwelcome in our (already) exclusionary social circles. I mean, design-oriented websites are already invite-only[1], or chase away designers who don’t ‘meet the mark.’

Watching toned men parade around with their junk sticking out makes me feel very uncomfortable. Honestly, I haven’t been able to sit through whole thing — it’s just unwatchable. It’s not much different from the original, though — which I’m sure makes many women feel just as sick.

I’m still no closer to understanding what it’s like to be a woman in a male-dominated industry. But knowing that videos like that are something they’ve had to grow accustomed to makes me feel really shitty.

As designers, our work tells the world how we believe it should look and work. Mockups represent the most ideal possible case — with no real world data to ‘screw it up.’ Whether your tool is a pencil, Sketch, or a camera, it’s your responsibility to make sure your work lives up to the ethical standards we need to protect.

The solution is ridiculously simple.

  1. Be a man and stop using sexualized women in your work. I recommend Facebox or UIfaces for those times you need real-looking people in your mockups.
  2. If you see offending work, say something. Remember, a man can be a woman’s best advocate.
  3. Do excellent work and be excellent to each other. This is just a good rule to live by in general. :)
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