From #freethenipple to The Everyday Sexism Project, digital media has spread the feminist debate wide open. Blogging platform Tumblr started the conversation with its huge global community and came to characterise the hyper-digital, cut-and-paste aesthetic shaping our style zeitgeist. Tumblr is the photo pin-board for every teenage girl on the planet. And now, its pin-up girls are flocking to Instagram, where a pastel-hued selfie speaks a thousand words.
Aesthetically, Instagram’s feminism embodies trash culture, existing in a glittery 90s throwback universe alongside zines such as Polyester and the Pulp Girls. The look (a lovechild of kitsch and low-fi acid house) reflects what’s going on under the surface: the never-ending struggle through puberty during the digital revolution. These are the girls who never really grew up, immortalised as pastel-haired loners moping in their teenage bedrooms, posing provocatively in front of the mirror.
Fully signed up members of the girl gang include Petra Collins and Molly Soda, the cyber feminists who rejoice in an unabashed celebration of girlishness. They leak their own nudes and style themselves self-consciously, based on post-modern adaptations of feminism. For example, take the trend for vibrant armpit hair, which recently sparked controversy amongst the mainstream media. Championed by darlings such as Seattle stylist Roxie Hunt and Youtuber Destiny Moreno, any cyber feminist worth her salt is currently dyeing her pits to match her plaits.
Armpit hair is the original ‘fuck you’ to hetero-normative beauty stereotypes, grown from feminism’s radical grassroots in the 1960s. Once stigmatised as a symbol of man-hatred, the hairy pit has now been liberated as something provocative and beautiful. On Weibo, China’s version of Twitter, feminists have even launched a hairy armpit photo competition to fight the patriarchy and embrace a selfie op at the same time. Has the rejection of a beauty ideal become the beauty ideal? If you live on the Internet, you would assume so.
Activism is cute on the Internet, where fashion post-dates the political. So, what is the cause? Candy-coloured Swedish photographer Arvida Byström expresses distaste for guys who harass her at the club to her 85k followers. Her semi-naked selfies often feature strategically placed emojis covering her nipples, captioned with “#freethenipple cuz then this photo would b so much cuter”. Dressed to impress in her trademark slogan tees - ‘my pussy my choice’ and ‘what boyfriend?’ - Byström and her crew cut and paste third wave feminist ideas into a 21st century aesthetic. They protest against Instagram’s bizarre revulsion of female nudity. Inclusive of queer culture and lesbian wet dreams, the riot grrrl subculture is alive and well.
Words: Trudie Carter
Sculpture: Nice Tits by Sarah Lucas