What it means to be a woman today, illustrated

We asked five illustrators for their interpretation of being a woman in 2016

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Polly Nor – International Women's Day
Illustration by Polly Nor

A picture is often worth more than words can say – particularly if that picture is hand drawn by one of the most exciting female illustrators. Responding to the question ‘What does it mean to be a woman today?’, five of our favourite artists – Celeste Mountjoy, Ambivalently YoursPolly NorFrances Cannon and Ayqa Khan – offered their own interpretations.

A theme emerged – although none of the illustrators discussed their work with one another – that us as women should stick together. It sounds pretty obvious, and we shouldn't need a day to tell us that (although props to International Women's Day happening right now), but it is a nice, wonderfully drawn nudge that is sometimes needed to remind us of the kinship – and possibilities of kinship – that we share as women.

CELESTE MOUNTJOY (@FILTHYRATBAG)

“This piece is a kind of commentary on how I like to see women build one another up rather than try to break each other down. We are all in the same boat and it's important to water each other into big happy trees. Grow the people around you. Love ladies.”

See more work from Mountjoy here

AMBIVALENTLY YOURS (@AMBIVALENTLYYOURS)

“I believe in the feminist understanding that ‘the personal is political’ (as coined by Carol Hanisch). I believe that personal experiences are influenced by a larger political climate and that sharing our stories can be a radical feminist act. Yet, while individual stories are important, they are not universal. On days like International Women’s day (or every day for that matter) it is crucial that we make room for multiple stories to coexist without hierarchy and to remember that the definition of the word “woman” should be inclusive, expandable and intersectional.”

See more work from Ambivalently Yours here

FRANCES CANNON (@FRANCESCANNON)

“Women's Day can be a reminder to women and lovers of women to band together and support each other! Remember the incredible accomplishments of historical women, and celebrate the accomplishments of women today! Be confident in your own sexuality, beauty, ability, belief and body and show trust and kindness towards other women of all races, bodies, backgrounds and beliefs.”

See more work from Cannon here

AYQA KHAN (@AYQAKHAN)

“The references I used are all ones that I have a connection with. Audre Lorde and Angela Davis are both women who have taught me so much and have had a huge impact on women in general. I am still learning so much from so many incredible women. Playing a twist on iconic figures is something I often do, because I never had any role models from mainstream media that I felt like I could relate to. I often wonder how I would be like if there was a lot more diversity in such widely accessible mediums especially in regards to South Asian woman. Bikini Kill is so, so powerful and I'm not sure if any of their records went gold but they have in my head/art! Overall, my goal with this piece is to showcase a reality in which we all can be individualists and highlight the ones who have shown a path in my life.”

See more work from Khan here

POLLY NOR (@POLLYNOR)

“I wanted to draw something bright and fun to celebrate our progression whilst highlighting how much further we have to go. The climbing wall represents an ongoing, up-hill struggle in which we must take steps towards a more equal and safe society for all women.”

See more work from Nor here

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