2016’s Most Empowering Images Of Self-Expression

The internet has always had a complicated love-hate relationship with nudity. In any one given moment, a section of internet users will have their sensibilities offended and will consequently be highly critical of women, and sometimes men, showing off acres of flesh. This includes instances where the images are not sexually explicit.

Self-expression continued to flourish in 2016, however, helped in no small part by the continued growth of social media and mobile devices that are being shipped with increasingly more and more features. Not all self-expression stories were equal however and some sparked more debate and conversation than others.

Pregnant woman’s selfie

Tess Holiday, a fat acceptance icon and a plus-size model, back in June shared with her over 1.4 million followers on Instagram a selfie of her naked body when she was heavily pregnant. The post provoked controversy and discussion. But Tess was unrepentant and unbowed.

To view image in Instagram, please click here. Warning: image may be offensive to some viewers.

“I will continue to live unapologetically, to thrive in this body, prove the naysayers wrong & laugh at the ignorance,” Holiday wrote.

Adipositivity project

Having started her Adipositivity Project 10 years ago, Substantia Jones took her campaign of inculcating self-acceptance in overweight people to New Zealand last year. In the process, the photographer from New York City took nude and semi-nude pictures of around 30 New Zealanders in a move meant to promote a positive body image in fat people.

Embracing women’s bodies

Despite having been declared unsuitable for Australians under the age of 15, the film Embrace was allowed to screen in New Zealand. The film featured a vivid depiction of women’s private parts and was meant to prove to women that their genitalia comes in all shapes and sizes. It was also meant to dissuade them from being influenced into thinking that there is a standard shape or size and consequently turn to labiaplasty and other cosmetic procedures in order to get a “designer genital.”


Despite the derogatory comments he made about women who on average constitute over half of the electorate, Donald Trump went on to clinch the presidency of the United States. This prompted a teenager from Oregon to start a photo campaign to remind Americans of who they had elected. Aria Watson’s project dubbed #SignedByTrump saw the U.S. President-elect’s quotes written on the naked bodies of the gender he had demeaned.

donald trump

“As a proud feminist, hearing Trump say ‘grab them by the pu**y’ and talk about how he could do anything he wanted made me absolutely sick,” Watson told a UK newspaper.

Men too

Clamping down on self-expression was not limited to women’s bodies, though. Facebook in 2016 took the unusual step of banning a photo of a man holding his baby son in the shower that had been posted by a woman from Arizona. The social media giant eventually reinstated the photo but the woman’s initial fears that the photo would be misinterpreted as being sexual had been confirmed.


A beach event in Wellington meant to mark the Free The Nipple Beach Day ignited controversy with some arguing for it and others vehemently opposed to it. The organizer said that the aim of the event was to reinforce the idea no one has the right to women’s bodies except the women themselves.

Kim Kardashian

Having done it in previous years, Kim Kardashian did not disappoint in 2016 with her selfies. In a nude posted to her Instagram account in which her vulva and nipples were blacked out, the reality TV star once again became the object of criticism. She responded to the criticism defiantly reminding everyone who cared to listen that her body was hers and she would do as she pleased with it.

“It’s 2016. The body-shaming and slut-shaming – it’s like, enough is enough. I will not live my life dictated by the issues you have with my sexuality. You be you and let me be me,” Kardashian wrote in an open letter.

[Featured Image by Andy Kropa/AP Images]