Inclusive Visual Storytelling for Thailand

Trends / Realness
Yuri Endo
Mar 2, 2023
Global media and advertising struggles to portray a compelling representation of Asian and Pacific Peoples that they themselves can relate to.1 Thai people are also plagued by underrepresentation and unspoken stereotypes, and experience different difficulties in their lives. Our VisualGPS consumer survey shows that globally, only 10% feel that diversity is accurately represented in the advertising and media they see every day. In Southeast Asia, 2 in 5 agreed that seeing people like them and their life will have the most significant appeal when deciding what products to buy or companies to use.

Looking at the current visual landscape in the popular visuals downloaded from Getty Images by our Thai customers, we have found significant differences to other Asia Pacific regions for the following areas of diversity that are often missing in imagery, and opportunities to combat stereotypes to drive more inclusive representation. In this article, let’s explore three areas of identity: gender, sexual orientation & gender Identity, and body inclusion. The recommendations for the remaining areas of identity are mentioned in the Asia Pacific overview (see link below).1
Portraying gender equality 
Looking at the composition of the population visualized in the popular visuals downloaded from Getty Images, women are twice as likely to be visualized as homemakers, in parental roles, and in business than men, while men are seen slightly more in leadership roles in business than women.

Thailand is ranked #79 out of 146 countries in the global gender gap rankings.2 Compared to the Asia‑Pacific region and the global average, Thailand has a more significant percentage of women in senior leadership positions. Additionally, 32% of senior leadership positions in Thailand’s mid‑market companies are held by women.3 Studies on COVID‑19’s impact revealed that in Thailand, 26% of young women reported an increase in unpaid adult care, and 41% said increases in unpaid childcare—with both rates exceeding those faced by young men.3 A survey found that 55% of men said that helping their partners out by working on household chores was something they should be proud of instead of being ashamed of. 73% thought it was time for attitudes to change while, one out of three respondents, especially men older than 45, believed housework is the women's responsibility even if they had their own jobs. 4

It is then important to represent women and men equally in business as well as home settings, showing women as business leaders or having authority in the room, as well as men's home life and domestic responsibilities, like caring for children while working and sharing house chores.
Sexual orientation & gender identity in a variety of scenarios 
Less than 1% of visuals used by our Thai customers include LGBTQ+ identities, mainly connected to leisure activities and romantic relationships. But around 8% of the Thai population, about 5 million people, are believed to be members of the LGBTQ+ community or a sub‑group.5 In 2022, Thai politicians passed four different bills to legalize same‑sex unions. If the legislation passes, Thailand will become the second country in Asia to legalize same‑sex unions.

Regarding Thailand’s transgender population, there is still a lack of data‑gathering. However, it is estimated that transgender people represent around 0.3% of the Thai population (estimated 230,000 to 250,000,6 and the Thai population is around 70 million.7) In organizational settings, transgender people have reported a higher number of discrimination incidents than other LGBTQ+ groups. Sex reassignment surgery is legal in Thailand, however, there is no legal route for transgender people to obtain official documentation that reflects their gender identity, and the affirmative policies that exist. In the case of transgender women, they experience verbal and sexual harassment more frequently.8 77% of transgender people said their job applications were refused because they were LGBTQI+ (49% for gay and 62.5% for lesbian respondents). 60% face workplace discrimination compared to 29% of lesbian and 19% of gay respondents. Overall, 3 out of 4 transgender respondents reported facing discrimination at work or when applying for jobs.9

When thinking about driving authentic representation of sexual orientation and gender identity, it is important to show the LGBTQ+ community including those who are trans, nonbinary, or who may have other gender non‑conforming identities in a variety of scenarios and roles within and outside of their communities.  It is also key to show trans people in a variety of scenarios and roles at work, in educational settings, and doing everyday activities.
Inclusive representation of body types 
Just 2% of our Thai customers' most‑used visuals represent body positivity, so larger bodies are rarely represented. When larger bodies are visualized, women are depicted the most and are often seen dieting or working out. What's more, Eurocentric beauty standards are preferred: for example, lighter skin complexion. And women are visualized in beauty concepts 3x more than men.

Thailand still holds unrealistic views of beauty, emphasizing fair skin, doe‑eyes, being tall, and slim with small frames. This leads to women and young girls having a negative relationship with their bodies, possibly leading to mental health issues and eating disorders as they suffer from bullying, discrimination, and prejudice. This goes as far as criticizing a world‑class beauty pageant contestant for her size.

Oppressive educational norms remain in Thailand, such as mandated school uniforms, strict curriculum, and haircut rules strongly rejected by students and the public, leading to large protests. Among students, parents, women, and teachers, 74% said forced haircuts were still being used to discipline students. Mandated haircuts have a negative impact on nearly half of high school student’s ability to share ideas. More than 3 in 5 high school students believe the hair rules teach students that they don’t have control of their bodies or that the way they look is not good enough. Beyond high school, 71% of young women (19‑24 years old) report that mandated haircuts had a negative impact on their self‑confidence. Ultimately, 3 in 5 respondents agreed the hair rules are outdated and should no longer be enforced in schools.10

It’s important to show a variety of body types, facial features, hair, and skin tones—and to show them doing everyday activities, at work and in educational settings with an eye toward being physically and mentally healthy and happy.  
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