5 women redefining body image and sexism through Instagram

Caileen Hogg tells us why she unfollowed 1,000 Instagram accounts, and how doing so opened her eyes to the positive influence of social media

At the beginning of this year I made it my mission to follow Instagram accounts that make a positive impact on the world and, rather selfishly, my self-esteem. This meant unfollowing 1,000 Instagram accounts. You know the ones – chicks with glistening abs on a sun-drenched beach doing headstands, fashionistas who seem to live in a world of pastel colours and retro vintage props and reality TV stars whose faces morph into cyborg HD Sindy dolls, bearing no resemblance to their natural faces a year ago.
 
I know what you’re thinking. ‘How on Earth did you unfollow that many people in one go?’ Well, I just sat numbly on my sofa and unfollowed the accounts manually, much like I’d been numbly consuming the content from them. All their content ever gave me was the desire to be someone else, so I decided it would have no impact on my life if I cut them out all together. What I didn’t realise was that by cutting out the sh*t, my eyes would be opened to women using social to make a statement and bring about change. Here are five of my favourites:
 
 
The boob book project
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Source: www.theboobbook.ca/the-book Photo: Yvonne Stanley
Within a day I found The boob book project. The #ThisOnesForMe is a boob selfie campaign that aims to represent every shape and size you can imagine, from around the world. These breasts don’t exist in the media online (or offline for that matter). Some of the stories from these women are astonishing. Cancer survivors, breastfeeding mothers of three, burns victims and lots of women who have been told they don't have the right style of breasts. This account proves that ‘normal’ does not exist.
 
I even took part and sent in my own boob selfie… you know, to represent. How liberating. How wild. Wait, did I just send in a boob selfie that could potentially get published?Yes’, and ‘fuck it!’, were my immediate thoughts. This is a self-love revolution and I’ve joined the crusade!
 
 
Gina Martin, #StopSkirtingTheIssue
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Photo: Gina Martin
Next is the colourful Gina Martin. A woman who’s single-handedly trying to change the law to make upskirting a sexual offence after two men at a festival took pictures up her skirt and used them to try to humiliate her. She was shocked to find out after handing the images and culprits to the police that the act wasn’t a sexual offence, so nothing could be done to prosecute the assault.
 
Ever since, she’s been actively campaigning to change the law under the #StopSkirtingTheIssue hashtag to protect anyone wearing a skirt including in some cases, children.
 
On 15 June, Gina introduced the bill to the England and Wales parliament. It was expected to sail through, as the government showed its full support, so it seemed like a pretty sure thing. However, Tory MP Sir Christopher Chope blocked the bill, adding to his long history of sabotaging private bills such as same sex marriage, the protection of police dogs from being stabbed, restrictions on hospital parking charges for carers and minimum wage. Theresa May, who’s often in a skirt suit, announced she was disappointed with the block and promises that the rest of her government will back moves to get anti-upskirting through legislation soon. Hell, yeah!
 
 
Amika George and Alice Skinner, #FreePeriods
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Illustrations: Alice Skinner 
Blasting through the BS, comes Pink Protest and their mission to #FreePeriods. After it was reported by the BBC that girls were using socks stuffed with toilet tissue or newspaper because they didn’t have the money to buy tampons, this community of utter legends wants to make sure that no girl in the UK is living in ‘period poverty’.
 
Remember the Tampon Tax? Well, despite all the protests our government continues to tax sanitary products as luxury items, resulting in women in the UK spending an average £18,000 in their lifetime on these items. To put this further into perspective, Jaffa Cakes aren’t taxed because they are classed as an essential item. No, I’m not joking!
 
These women continue their protest with events, online video, protests as well as illustrator AliceSkinner’s mini masterpieces, which all help to build their online army of change-seekers.
 
If you agree this is a bloody disgrace, then take action and #FreePeriods.
 
 
Ellen Noble and Pauline Ferrand-Prevot, #BunnyhopThePatriarchy
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Ellen Noble hopping the barriers at Jingle Cross. Photo: Molly Hurford
Admittedly, I didn’t find this social movement via Instagram but because of conversations about my shiny new socially-aware feed Danielle Welton, Head of Content at SevenC3 and founder of cycling magazine Casquette, sent me the story of Pauline Ferrand-Prevot and Ellen Noble.
 
After the pair were told that women can’t physically bunnyhop jumps in cycle-cross races, with that justifying lower prize money, less TV coverage and less sponsorship, they fought back by doing exactly that and then creating the BunnyhopThePatriarchy hashtag as a firm rebuttal to anyone who says women can’t perform to the same standards as men.
 
“Anytime people think there’s something women can’t do in a patriarchal society, I want to say to them, ‘No, we’re going to do it and we’re going to kick ass while we’re doing it,’” says Ellen.
 
 
Phoebe Montague, 100 Women I Know
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Photo: Phoebe Montague
Last but by no means least, I want to spotlight the sublime 100 Women I Know feed. Founder Phoebe Montague launched the project by publishing a questionnaire asking women she knew about their experiences of rape and sexual assault. From the responses she received she wrote a book and made a documentary. “The results give a blunt, honest, unapologetic and emotional account of the realities that women face,” says Phoebe.
 
The 100 Women I Know team is now on a mission to empower young people to reconsider their preconceptions of rape through films, books and workshops. For our children’s future, I recommend you pay close attention to this movement.
 

Over to you…


So what Instagram account will you choose to follow next? And don’t say it’s going to be a perfectly tanned travel blogger who is balancing on the edge of an infinity pool wearing a Rolex and looking out over some nondescript mountainous landscape. You’ve probably got 1000 more of those… I know I did.