Women and gender: by far the two most talked about issues on social media that people still haven’t quite wrapped their heads around. It’s funny that we are still debating over equal rights for various communities, but that is precisely why we need groups and individuals to comb these narratives into mainstream conversation. Before respect and equality comes understanding; while activists, celebrities, and the media have worked hard in the wake of #MeToo to pave the way for gender equality, women’s rights, and zero tolerance towards sexual assault, there still seems to be levelled differences between public perceptions and opinions on what is respectable and acceptable behaviour.
In an inspiring TED Talk by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, she talks about the differences between men and women, and how these are not inherent but rather socialised. She puts women’s issues, gender issues, and sex issues at the forefront of a cultural discussion, and challenges us to rethink certain narratives that have been built around these topics.
Adichie is eloquent and relatable, but TED is not a medium often perused (unfortunately) by many people. How else, then, can we educate and spread important messages? Social media, of course. There are a number of Instagram accounts managed by people who are fighting to change certain hegemonic narratives regarding the issues raised; they do so in a quick, engaging manner and espouse important values for society to live by.
Here are the Top 10 Instagram accounts addressing important issues about women, gender, and sexuality that you need to follow.
1 – @redtabletalk
We begin with the most followed (+ legitimate) account, with an audience of 1.8M. It is a multi-generational talk show presented by Jada Pinkett Smith, Willow Smith and Adrienne Banfield-Norris. While their full content is posted on Facebook, they use Instagram for clips, pictures, and behind the scenes things which gives us a more well-rounded take on the show.
Their top post from this year is a series of stunning portraits of the 3 women who host the show, in lieu of International Women’s Day.
2 – @pollynor
Polly Nor has 1.1m followers on Instagram and her medium is drawing — “women and their demons” to be specific. Her account is mostly made up of female characters drawn in a very unconventional manner, often with blemishes, body hair, and unkempt hairstyles. This is interspersed with some intermittent personal content, as well as tattoos that people get of her art.
Her top post from this year is a meme that @gucci commissioned her to do. The brand released a statement on Facebook calling Polly Nor a “one-woman meme machine”.
“With her focus on women, demons, and the societal sexism, her drawings have hilarious insights that make you want to hit “like” and then be her best friend. She reclaims devilry as powerfully feminine. Her idea of the perfect funeral hymn? “Glamorous” by Fergie, feat. Ludacris. If you’ve ever promised yourself you’d start saving up like a responsible adult only to blow it off when faced with an accessory you can’t resist, Polly Nor is the artist for you.”
This partnership was honestly a big win for them both: Polly Nor had her art recognized and paid for, while Gucci got to be represented by the powerful work of a talented woman.
The woman behind this account identifies as a “feminist in progress”, meaning that she is not necessarily an expert but she feels very strongly about feminist issues and other concerns that might intersect with it — we love a woman who cares.
While her content is mostly reposted or re-shared from Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook and other platforms, her stories detail original and curated content.
Most interestingly, she holds regular debates where she invites people to take part in a discussion via Instagram Live so that they can share opposing viewpoints and reach common ground. Her top post from this year is this meme from the Golden Globes: funny, informed, and right on the nose.
4 – @alokvmenon
Alok identifies as gender non-conforming, and uses fashion, writing, and performance as mediums to express himself (and, by extension, his views). As a person of colour, his voice is an important one in the community because issues of equality and marginalisation are almost always intersectional. While the majority of his audience is US-based, he also has a significant following in India.
Here is Alok’s top post this year: showing off the kind of body we don’t ever see under a bikini and in doing so, changing the narratives of body positivity and gender roles.
5 – @outmagazine
With 372.4K followers, Out Magazine compiles content from everywhere. Their name is a play on the phrase ‘coming out’, which means that they focus predominantly on LGBT issues. They feature celebrities, models, politicians, artists, performers, anyone and everyone who has something valuable to show or say in support of equality.
Take for example their top performing post this year which is a clip of Ellen Page speaking about hate on the Late Show with Stephen Colbert.
View this post on Instagram
LOUDER FOR THE BIGOTS IN THE BACK 🗣 Link in bio for full video. @ellenpage (📽: @colbertlateshow) — “This is what happens. If you are in a position of power and you hate people, and you want to cause suffering to them, you go through the trouble — you spend your career trying to cause suffering, what do you think is going to happen? Kids are going to be abused, and they are going to kill themselves, and people are going to be beaten on the street. I have traveled the world, and I have met the most marginalized people you can meet. I am lucky to have this time and privilege to say this. This needs to ****ing stop.”
As a strong brown woman myself, this account is one of my personal favourites. They identify as a ‘digital stomping ground’, which really is a very empowering way to couch social media activism and through their content they aim to challenge archaic traditions and embrace feminism. Tradition and progress don’t always have to be mutually exclusive.
While their following of 67K is still rather small, it has been growing steadily. Their top performing post for this year is a repost from a women’s march. The post is informative and well-articulated, which achieves two goals: (1) shedding light on important issues, and (2) giving a voice to brown women across the globe and allowing them to share their views.
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“My eye does this funny twitch when I hear someone in 2019 tell me they don’t understand why people march for women’s rights. 💯💯 – • Violence against women and girls is a global issue with 1 in 3 women across the world experiencing abuse. • At least 250,000 maternal deaths and as many as 1.7 million newborn deaths would be averted if the need for both family planning and maternal and newborn health services were met. • Female genital mutilation affects more than 200 million girls and women alive today in 30 countries. • American women serving in Iraq or Afghanistan are more likely to be raped by a comrade then killed by an enemy, and the rate of sexual harassment reports is higher than ever. In 2016, service members reported 6,172 cases of sexual assault compared to 6,082 in 2015. • At least 1000 honor killings occur in India and Pakistan each annually. • Women around the world aged 15-44 are more at risk from rape and domestic violence than from cancer, car accidents, war & malaria. — And as a 20-something girl tryna make it out here, I’m fully aware that talking about these things might put people in a situation where they feel awkward, but if no one talks about these things, and no one does anything about them— they’re just going to keep happening. And as far as social relationships go, here’s what I know from what I’ve learned so far: Men of quality, don’t fear equality. Same thing with the ladies, and everybody in between. Keep people in your life who give a shit, because man, the world’s not gonna get any better if we keep dissociating from what’s going on.” — Ambika (aka @gangesgal) 🗝🗝 – Thanks to our dear friends for tagging us in your protest photos. ♥️🙏🏽 Keep em’ coming. ✨✨ #womenswave
7 – @gurlstalk
With a following of 245K, they put out content that is important, engaging, and aesthetically pleasing. They also put out monthly themes, which makes the content more cohesive, and organize podcasts with experts on the topic, or people who have something to say/share.
This is their top performing post of 2019:
A diverse illustration of things we don’t (but should) see in mainstream porn.
8 – @girlboss
This is one of the most followed accounts of the 10 listed here, with 1.1M followers. ‘Girlboss’ or ‘ladyboss’ are terms we often hear to describe a female boss, as if the word ‘boss’ is gender specific, and inadvertently only refers to men. By naming an account catered to ambitious, career-driven women @girlboss, women are taking ownership of the title, and deciding what narratives are told and spun in relation.
Their top performing post this year is a clip from Katelyn Ohashi’s gymnastic routine which might not seem ‘revolutionary’ at the get go, but really is a fine example of female capability and drive, as well as a perfect source of motivation.
9 – @camixvx
With 36K followers, Camila Rosa is the smallest of all the accounts listed here, but that says nothing about her immense talent. With an engagement rate of 4.01%, her content is really resonating with people.
Take a look at her top performing post, for example.
She put this drawing out for International Women’s Day and it is powerful on so many fronts, despite the simple design: (1) it showcases a woman of colour, (2) she does not display any features conventionally expected of women (e.g. no makeup, frowning), (3) the red background is both typically feminine but also strong and fierce.
10 – @ashlukadraws
The final account in this series is also an art account, managed by Ashley Lukashevsky in a bid to “dismantle patriarchal nonsense + systemic racism”. By this point, you might realize that race and gender are often intersectional and it is impossible to talk about one without talking about the other.
Ashley is also a micro influencer with 70K followers but she has a notably high engagement rate of 7.24%. Her art resonates!
Her top performing post of this year is a mural that she completed for the Basic Needs Centre at UC Berkeley.
Women truly are the present and the future.