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The radical artists using Instagram for empowerment

These are the artists turning social media into a soap box when it comes to issues like gender, religion and the body

Using social media as a vehicle to tackle mainstream notions of body image, religion, beauty, gender and more, there’s a crop of young artists out there who are turning Instagram from social platform to soap box. Fed up with the dribble we are fed on the daily through mediums like advertising and ingrained societal norms, this is just a handful of @handles going against the status quo that you should hit ‘follow’ on.


Earlier this week Seattle-based photographer Ashley Armitage posted the below photo of her friend in blue bikini bottoms on her Instagram. While early comments were positive it didn’t take long for the trolls to roll in; "This is gross ew just shave lol", "Shave ur box slob", were just a few lowlights. But for Armitage it wasn’t about shock value it was about education. Breaking down the mainstream image of womens’ hair free bodies and giving one body a platform to reclaim its beauty – and, if you keep an eye on her feed, many more to come.


Alongside best friend Mina, Dounia makes up one-half of this dreamy twosome tackling intolerance online – from fat shaming to systematic oppression to Islamophobia. By using social media as an instrument in their battle to empower minorities and those who don't fit the 'ideal', Dounia debunks the notion that social media is for the shallow.


Boychild uses the body and make-up as a vehicle for expression, typically seen as radical gender bending but the artist is quick to assert her work is more about connecting with humans. However, by glancing at her Instagram it’s difficult to deny the power of her work and the interaction it has within the discussion of gender. “To me, gender is this word that people use to explain this thing. I usually am almost ass-naked when I’m performing and people will still give me one gender or the other, and I think that’s really cool and interesting. My work isn’t about gender at all and I think that’s actually the most important thing about my relationship to gender, that it’s not about,” she told us last year.


Cyber princess, artist, model and photographer Arvida Byström is no stranger to pushing the boundaries of body image. Fed up with the wipe clean image of women that we’re sold through advertising and the public domain, her Instagram feed is full of selfies celebrating her being, well, her. From body hair to period cups, speaking with us earlier this year she said, “It sucks to feel like a freak and be grossed out by your own body. This makes people sick.”


Speaking with Dazed about her photography earlier this year, Brown told us: “Black women are subjugated to fit into that standard, specifically in regards to our hair because it’s both politicised and racialized – a predicament white people are exempt from. Traditional hairstyles such as locs, box braids, cornrows, Senegalese twists, afros, twist outs, and bantu knots are forms of resistance against white-washed beauty standards. To see a white public figure or platform adopt our resistance and receive appraisal is disorienting.” With that said, her images aim to refute the whitewashing of beauty standards, delving into traditions, notions of identity and self-grooming that WoC undergo daily. While her Instagram remains fairly quiet at the moment, she's working on new photos, with hints scattered across her feed – definitely one to keep an eye on.