Social media is a powerful tool. It can help Global Citizens target world leaders to make commitments to help the world’s poor. Digital platforms can empower girls and women, sparking dialogue to challenge old gender stereotypes. And in the case of these women, they're empowering with every post on Instagram. That's why we want you to follow these inspiring and badass women who are motivating us on the daily.
Whether they are reimagining women in comics, refuting misogynistic comments online or IRL, or are inspirational female athletes, these women know how to fiercely advance rights for girls and women. You may not agree with all their posts—some are quite controversial—but hey girl, that’s what it takes to tackle gender taboos.
1. Rupi Kaur
thank you @instagram for providing me with the exact response my work was created to critique. you deleted a photo of a woman who is fully covered and menstruating stating that it goes against community guidelines when your guidelines outline that it is nothing but acceptable. the girl is fully clothed. the photo is mine. it is not attacking a certain group. nor is it spam. and because it does not break those guidelines i will repost it again. i will not apologize for not feeding the ego and pride of misogynist society that will have my body in an underwear but not be okay with a small leak. when your pages are filled with countless photos/accounts where women (so many who are underage) are objectified. pornified. and treated less than human. thank you. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀ ⠀⠀⠀ ⠀ this image is a part of my photoseries project for my visual rhetoric course. you can view the full series at rupikaur.com the photos were shot by myself and @prabhkaur1 (and no. the blood. is not real.) ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀ i bleed each month to help make humankind a possibility. my womb is home to the divine. a source of life for our species. whether i choose to create or not. but very few times it is seen that way. in older civilizations this blood was considered holy. in some it still is. but a majority of people. societies. and communities shun this natural process. some are more comfortable with the pornification of women. the sexualization of women. the violence and degradation of women than this. they cannot be bothered to express their disgust about all that. but will be angered and bothered by this. we menstruate and they see it as dirty. attention seeking. sick. a burden. as if this process is less natural than breathing. as if it is not a bridge between this universe and the last. as if this process is not love. labour. life. selfless and strikingly beautiful.
After posting a photograph of a woman laying in bed with a period stain, Kaur’s post was taken down twice by Instagram. The reason? Her image did not meeting “Community Guidelines.”
Her intent with the photograph was to demystify periods, to normalize the monthly mystery much of society still deems taboo. Instagram’s blockage of her post on the basis that it fell into the category of a sexual act, violence or nudity did not stop Kaur from speaking out. She took to Facebook and her post went viral. Today, you can check out inspirational positive body image poetry, and photos of girls and women challenging stereotypes @rupikaur.
Amandla Stenberg, the actress who played Rue in “The Hunger Games,” is just as fierce on Instagram. She’s outspoken against racial inequality, effortlessly grasping the importance of including men in the gender equality spectrum at just 17. She understands “Youth activism” is a powerful tool.
Misty Copeland is one of the most talented ballerinas out there. She’s beyond poised when it comes to dancing. She’s strong on stage and when it comes to activism, she displays just as much presence. In 2015, Copeland was recognized as the first African American woman to become principal dancer in American Ballet Theater’s 75 year history.
Lauren Singer is doing the unthinkable — she’s living a zero waste, totally trash-free life in NYC. Zero waste cleaning products, menstrual hygiene tips, and bamboo toothbrushes are just some of the knowledge she shares on how to fit four years of your life’s waste into one Mason jar.
5. Adwoa Aboah
Adwoa Aboah is more than a fashion model. She’s also a role model who has created a space GURLS TALK for women to talk about gender equality and feminism. She’s open and honest about her personal struggles with mental illness, unrealistic beauty expectations, and sobriety.
“These girls need to be listened to, whatever the subject, big or small, educated on the realities of what is going on in the world … things like mental health, addiction, and eating disorders,” Aboah told Dazed.
At 12, actress Rowan Blanchard was cat-called, or verbally sexually harassed — something 88 percent of women experience in their lifetime in some countries, according the UN Women. She’s only 14, but the ideals she chooses to share (to more than 4M followers) already shows maturity beyond her years.
Tennis star Serena Williams was already fierce before she shut down reporters for asking why she wasn’t smiling or laughing after a match. Her response was the best. Between honest quotes, and celeb cameos she’s clearly a strong woman on and off the court. Her #TBT to her first tennis days is also adorable.
8. Mari Malek
Mari Malek is a badass humanitarian, DJ, activist, and refugee turned supermodel. Her Instagram brings together daily beauty in her life — providing a glimpse into the “few things [she] juggles” like Stand4Education her nonprofit which aims to end violence in South Sudan through providing access to education.
Joanna Thangiah’s colorful illustrations really speak for themselves. They are provocative drawings of no-bullshit characters that preach on mental health, body image, and feminist ideals in all colors of the rainbow.
10. Women in Comics
The man, woman, or women behind this Instagram account reimagines superheroes, fairytale characters, villains and much more into powercharged advocates for gender equality. The account also touches on some sad realities about sexual violence.
Switching gears to an activist, yogi and athlete more grounded than Women in Comics’ flying heroines — Jessamyn “a fat femme” yogi dispelling myths that being fit, and healthy only comes in one shape.
“Believing in your strength in the face of opposition is incredibly difficult, but it's the responsibility of the oppressed,” she shared while teaching a yoga class.
12. Miki Agrawal
Miki Agrawal, co-founder of Thinx, the hottest upset to the decades old period management market, is always up to new innovations. Follow her for Instagram inspiration and to stay up-to-date on latest trends in periods, bathroom talk, and uncovering secrets about bathroom gender signs. Agrawal shares a unique look into the life a business savvy female changing the way we think and talk about periods and more.
13. Yagazie Emezi
Yagazie Emezi is a documentary photographer and artist born and based in Nigeria. Her work focuses on the fashion and culture there. Follow her to see beautiful people inside and out, gorgeous travel photos, and even sneaky shots of baby turtles and delicious “disguised healthy food.” Oh, and her cartoons are the shit!
From lush rolling hills to photobombs of farm animals, Aussie nomad Laura Miller may look like your average Instagrammer, but she has a beautiful story behind her Love Walk Eat See account. After she found out she was slowly going blind, Miller decided to change her life to explore the world. She’s now visited 19 countries, sharing the things she loves.
15. Katie Meyler
Katie Meyler is the founder of More Than Me, and one of Time Magazine’s People of The Year in 2014. Her life is “crazy.” She’s dedicated to much more than herself — she started a school in Liberia after learning about young girls who were trading sex for drinkable water. She stayed through parts of the Ebola crisis. There’s nothing stopping Meyler from keeping girls off the street and in school. That’s what I’d call badass.
16. Mariska Hargitay
Hargitay played Benson, a seriously tough detective the Special Victims Unit, who seeks justice for victims of sexual abuse and violence on the show Law & Order: SVU. In real life, she supports the cause to protect girls and women just as much.
17. Nimisha Bhanot
Canadian artist Nimisha Bhanot paints portraits of Indian women being badass. While the women she paints are not necessarily partaking in healthy activities — smoking, biting into a Big Mac — the deeper symbolism reveals totally independent Indian women liberated to make their own choices.
These are just some of the women encouraging gender equality you could add into your life. You also might be surprised by the strength, and eloquent nature of the feminists (men and women) already in your life sharing their thoughts in social media too.