How 5 Feminist Illustrators Are Depicting The Modern Woman Today

2016 has been hard on women. Even if you’re killing it as an Olympic athlete or presidential candidate, criticism is harsh and fast-flowing. Yet the events of the past year have opened up different channels for discussion, and have led to a rise in feminist illustrators. In a time when we ingest information as sound bites, drawings have become an increasingly popular medium for commentating on the cultural issues affecting us. Light-hearted or serious, illustrations can be instantly more compelling and engaging than articles or speeches. They have the power to summarise thoughts and feelings in a single image (plus they’re easy to digest on our Insta feed). The relatable drawings shared by a new wave of female illustrators capture the very essence of what it means to exist as a woman today. They depict the grave challenges facing us – career frustration, the pay gap, motherhood, the growing pressures of social media – but they also nail the irrational thought processes that torment us every day. 'Will I get taken seriously at work if I wear trainers?' 'Is this selfie going to break the internet?' Below are five of our favourite female illustrators who are honestly and humorously depicting what it means to be a woman in 2016.

Julie Houts
Julie Houts has been described as Instagram’s favourite female illustrator and, with 119k followers under her belt, she just might be. If you don’t already follow her, take a moment to do so now as her posts will make you chuckle/cringe/cry in agreement on your morning commute. Julie uses humour to capture life as a young woman, penning wry annotations and scenarios that are all too close to home. With an emphasis on fashion content, her witty pieces show the whirlwind of emotions that we experience on a daily basis, from blowing your money on payday to what goes through your mind on an awful Tinder date. Julie explains how the stress of “muchness” is exerting a huge pressure on women right now. With so many things to think about – from how you look to how you act – it’s difficult to find value. She told us: “There’s pressure on young women to own everything about themselves. That’s hard to do if you’re still figuring out what you’re about.” Sara Andreasson @saraandreasson
Sweden-born, London-based illustrator Sara Andreasson graduated from the School of Design and Crafts in Gothenburg with a degree in fine art in 2015 and since then has amassed an impressive client base including Nike, The New York Times, MTV, AnOther and Refinery29. Her bold, abstract prints are social commentary with a playful touch, dealing with friendship, the work/life balance and the trials and tribulations of lust and love. Andreasson's work pushes against conventional ideas of what it means to be a woman, whether it's a cigarette-smoking Frida Kahlo or unshaven girls dancing in their underwear. Produced earlier this year, a collaboration with Monki entitled “Not Here For Your Approval” celebrated the fact that women are free to be whoever they want to be. She told Clash: “I try to convey a lot of things with my art, but my most common theme is feminism. I think it’s important to show that it’s possible for young women to be lots of different things."

Nina Cosford
Nina Cosford garnered an international following after producing illustrations for Lena Dunham’s hit TV show Girls. This year, she released a new book titled My Name is Girl, which delves into issues surrounding identity and self-confidence. She labels this constant self-analysis, self-criticism and search for improvement as “girl brain”, something with which we’re all too familiar. Nina’s insightful book is a tongue-in-cheek take on surviving the real world. It tackles the obstacles on the assault course that is female life, from running with boobs, to avoiding creepy stares on a night out – and everything in between. Cosford told us: “So much content online and on social media is filtered and only shows people from a certain angle. I like trying to break through to explore what some girls might really be thinking or feeling about themselves.” Laura Callaghan @lauracallaghanillustration
The titles of the works in Laura’s 2016 collection Aspirational derive from motivational quotes – but the women in each image appear uninspired and dissatisfied. This paradox represents a culture in which women do not feel comfortable in their own skin. Laura creates relatable scenarios to explore these contradictions; from the girl stuck in a soul-sapping job to the girl searching for self-improvement, we can all identify with one (or more) of her characters.

Daisy Bernard
In September, Daisy Bernard produced a series of illustrations for The Tab on the double standards that so often apply to women’s lives: from how we behave at work to how we act in relationships. Her powerful pictures were rapidly picked up and shared across the internet by A-listers like Ashton Kutcher and Nicki Minaj. Daisy explained that it wasn’t a single experience that inspired her to do the series but the accumulation of the daily injustices that many women have come to accept as normal. “It was things like wearing heels to work to look 'presentable', or being shrugged off as 'bossy' or 'a bitch' for having an opinion, and being told you’re 'fake' for wearing too much makeup.” “With the expectations put on us by men and other women, it can be confusing being a woman, so I was trying to illustrate this as simply as I could. I want people to see that these contradictions are actually ridiculous.” We couldn't agree more.

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