Priyanka Paul’s account Artwhoring is committed to change gender perceptions and is taking Instagram by storm
Artwhoring – a provocative name that surely catches one’s attention, and so does the illustration and poetry that comes along with it which makes one pause while scrolling through one’s phone.
Priyanka Paul is 20. Her Instagram account does not shy away from presenting her take on sexuality, in quite a precise and relatable manner as well. She is a feminist to the core and her works aim at hitting patriarchy at its very root.
Questioning the accepted social norms, the account is dedicated to create a conversation about preconceived ideas on gender and sexuality. Starting the endeavor at the age of 17, Priyanka always hoped that her works would encourage critical thinking.
“I’ve always been an angsty teenager and I found that I expressed myself best when I drew or wrote, so that’s just what I do. I draw and write, and people seem to like it. I started this account because I had a lot to say – be it a
bout my own self, or culture, or politics. I’ve always striven to create something that makes people think,” she says.
With almost 30,000 followers, her bold and bright digital art is mostly accompanied by poetry that challenges the status quo – be it sex education, menstrual myths or body politics. A few of her striking works feature pubic hair, sanitary napkins, tampons along with recreating bold images of goddesses not conforming to their traditional roles . Some of these are printed on t-shirts as well.
For instance, Kali is seen wearing a graphic t-shirt with multiple piercings and is strictly against misogyny. In another post Japanese sun goddess Amaterasu is a supporter of the Free the Nipple Movement and she does love her sushi. A new-age Greek Goddess, Hera, who is the patron goddess of family, women, childbirth and marriage, is currently on her university’s debate team and can be found on various social platforms arguing on women issues.
“Visual imagery has always fascinated me. It has the power to have such a deep impact, far deeper than even words can. You look at a drawing and it catches your eye, and you’re prone to want to know more. It’s such a great tool to educate people with,” she further adds.
Her liberal use of self-portraits to convey pertinent questions on social justice perhaps makes her work even more popular. In one of her posts she addresses gender roles through an illustration and prose that reconstructs her life as a female from the age of six. She goes on to explain the way the gender dynamics play out in society and how she in her own way tries not to adhere to norms. Drawing in several likes and comments, it’s probably the reliability of her work that plays in her favour.
Not just her work, the name of her account is as interesting as it is impactful. “Artwhoring was just a name that popped into my head but I find it relevant to my belief in feminism. Words like whore and slut are degrading towards sex workers, and that’s something that belittles their labour. Prostitution was once practised in India, without the unnecessary stigma. It’s now looked down upon. Art as a career choice is also looked down upon often. Artwhoring to me, signifies dignity in labour,” she says.
Priyanka further explains why she emphasised on the word ‘whore’. “I use the word because more than often words like ‘slut’ and ‘whore’ are not used to refer to the profession but to women who choose to not conform or dress promiscuously or have sex as much as men do. And as Albus Dumbledore said, ‘Fear of a name increases the fear of the thing itself.’ And I truly believe fierce, non-conforming, bold women should be feared.”
With provocative and gutsy content as these, she is surely not spared from abuses on social media. However, she doesn’t let it get to her. “I talk about things that make people uncomfortable, and rightly so. If these things weren’t problems, we wouldn’t be talking about them in the first place. The fact that today any feminist post troubles a group of people, is all the more reason to be talking about it. I’ve got rape threats, death threats, had my work taken down, threatened with FIRs, subjected to lewd and communal comments. You can choose to feed the trolls and waste your time, or you can block and ignore.” Despite the flak, Priyanka’s work is slowly taking down accepted regressive norms, one post at a time.