These Illustrations Transform the “Forbidden” Aspects of Women’s Bodies into an Empowering, Insta-Friendly Sensation
Every Body celebrates inclusivity and the representation of human beings in every shape and form.
There are lots of ways to learn to love your body. Getting into athletics is one approach (like, “Damn, look what my body can DO!“); building a supportive community is another. For Christine Yahya, the key to body positivity was making art that shows how it’s totally empowering to uncover the parts of our bodies we’re told to cover up: from stretch marks to belly rolls, and beyond. It doesn’t hurt that her adorable figures are sharable as heck.
The Aussie illustrator has joined the swell of body-positive artists flooding Instagram with their beautiful, inclusive work that aims to show how our bodies (all of ‘em) are beautiful things. Her nearly 35,000 Insta-followers seem to agree. We talked to her about her body-positive illustration series, “Pink Bits,” and what she hopes to contribute to the body positivity movement.
B+C: Can you tell us about the origins of the Pink Bits project, what inspired it, and where you hope to take it?
Christine Yahya: The Pink Bits Instagram account was created in October of 2016. I didn’t start it with any plans in mind, but had drawn the “First Ladies of Pink Bits” one evening when I was drawing for leisure. I had actually used photos of myself as reference photos for these — I wanted to see my own shapes on paper. I quite liked what I had drawn and felt a sense of empowerment from it, and so, on a whim, I shared it to a new Instagram account. Other people seemed to feel the same, so I continued drawing. I’m striving to represent as many women as I can. I hope to keep drawing, take on some fun projects and commissions, and fill my web store with beautiful prints.
B+C: Has it helped you on a personal level to reclaim the less-celebrated aspects of the female body?
CY: It has helped me immensely on a personal level! I describe my page as “drawing the bits and shapes we’re told to hide,” and I really strive to draw all of these parts that are not celebrated or represented often in a wider societal space.
Drawing these parts of womanhood and reclaiming them as beautiful has been really important to me personally. For so long growing up I tried to mould myself to the ideals of beauty, but reclaiming all the things I was trying to alter and seeing them as beautiful and natural has been so empowering.
I have been hugely affected by the body-positive and self-love movements, and also through drawing lots for Pink Bits; it’s helped me develop a much healthier approach to treating my body and mind with kindness, love, and respect. It’s changed how I view myself and my body. The communities themselves have created a space of people who support each other, uplift and help expand each other’s knowledge and thoughts on body, mind, and self-love. It’s such an important movement and I’m so happy to be a part of it.
B+C: When it comes to increasing the representation of a more diverse range of body types in the media, do you think it’s possible to have an impact on marketing, ads, and fashion mags through grassroots artistic efforts like yours?
CY: Yes, definitely! I’ve always thought it’s stupid for marketing, ads, and media to only focus on a narrow portion of the population. People will connect with you and your product if they feel represented, if they feel like they can see themselves in, or using the product, or if they are being respected as a potential customer.
Artistic efforts like mine strive to represent all these people who are overlooked and not commonly represented. The amount of love and support I’ve received for sharing my artwork has been overwhelming in the best possible way, and really shows the want and need for more representation. I really believe efforts like mine can impact wider media. The more interest being expressed in a need to represent diversity, the better — [that] makes our voice for these changes stronger.
B+C: Out of all the drawings you’ve done, one of my favorites is of a woman fully clothed and wearing a hijab. Initially, I was thinking about the conflict around the idea of building a project that intended to show “the bits and shapes we’re told to hide” and including a drawing of someone who was so covered up among all these other women who weren’t. Then I realized that any of these drawings could be of Muslim women — you can’t identify someone’s religion when all the signifiers (a cross on a chain, a hijab, etc.) are stripped away. To me, that has an amazing unifying power but I’d love to know why you included this particular drawing and your feelings about it.
CY: Thank you very much! And you’re absolutely right; any of the women in my drawings could be of any religion or faith. As I want my page to represent as many women as possible, I thought I’d like to represent someone in a hijab [and] of Muslim faith [but] it had to be respectful to the religion.
On another level, in our current political climate, where we have a president that likes to fuel anger, hate, and division, sadly, some wearers of the hijab have been fearful at times of wearing it. This is so saddening to me.
Through my illustrations, I like to draw women who are doing what they want, being who they are, and looking however they choose, regardless of societal pressures, expectations, or marketing. I also draw those “bits and shapes we’re told to hide” — this can extend to the expression of religion. So I wanted to represent the hijab. [Wearing it] is a decision made by a woman; she is choosing her clothing, religion, and way of life, and therefore doing what she wants, being who she is and dressing how she chooses — which Pink Bits definitely stands for, especially in the face of unjust views toward the religion.
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(Images via Christine Yahya, Pink Bits)