Social media platforms may be utilized to broaden the horizons of women (left), but it can also degrade users self-esteem and confidence.
Social media platforms may be utilized to broaden the horizons of women (left), but it can also degrade users’ self-esteem and confidence.
Nathaniel Covarrubias

HEAD TO HEAD: How does social media allow women to express themselves?

Accolade managing editor senior Irene Sheen scrolls through X, formerly known as Twitter, in hopes of retweeting posts concerning women’s rights.
PRO: Changing the narrative for women one click at a time

Gone are the days of door-to-door canvassing and physical petitions.

Although a familiar sight for the late 19th-century women’s suffrage movement, traditional methods of activism like signature campaigns and paper pamphlets have ceded to the power of the online sphere.

Therefore, transcending geographical borders and time constraints, social media and digital activism empower women and provide us an avenue to fight against the patriarchy. 

According to a September 2020 survey conducted by the Pew Research Center, 31% of U.S. adults believe that social media is very effective in raising public awareness about political and societal issues, and 49% believe that it is somewhat effective. As a teenager navigating the challenges of womanhood, I have personally turned to social media to support movements that resonate with my commitment to advancing women’s rights. 

Aside from encouraging women to express themselves creatively, popular social media platforms such as TikTok, X — formerly known as Twitter — and Instagram have produced an onset of movements geared toward uplifting female voices. 

The “#MeToo” campaign — a social media initiative that catalyzed women across the globe to share their experiences with sexual assault — serves as one of the most prominent examples of successful internet activism. 

First coined by activist Tarana Burke, according to the National Women’s History Museum, the phrase later gained popularity in 2017 following producer Harvey Weinstein’s sexual assault allegations. Actress Alyssa Milano then took to Twitter, mobilizing thousands across the globe to stand in solidarity with victims of sexual violence.

According to Britannica, on average, “#MeToo” was tweeted more than 55,000 times a day in 2018. The movement spurred international coverage, sparking immense support for survivors and criticism of social institutions that perpetuated violence against women. Therefore, the growth of online forums has allowed creators to garner broad, immediate and accessible awareness on issues that matter most to us women.

Although the initiative dates back nearly seven years ago, contributing to debates surrounding its relevance, this movement has considerably normalized social media activism. 

As indicated in a November 2023 article from Forbes, “In 2023, the movement continues to push to make broader systemic changes to protect survivors in the workplace through law and policy updates, as well as continuing to change our culture at large.”

Social media has mobilized me to spend more time researching and supporting different female empowerment initiatives. Something as simple as retweeting a post or uploading an Instagram graphic can have profound impacts, and as a teenager raised in this digital age, I have witnessed it all.

Instagram posts advocating for increased reproductive healthcare access have compelled me to contact my local representatives, and informative TikTok videos on Middle Eastern conflict have inspired me to host letter-writing workshops on Iranian women’s rights in collaboration with the Junior State of America organization. Therefore, virtual platforms have largely impacted my involvement in social activism.

Although social media prompts valid concerns regarding self-esteem and toxic beauty standards, digital networking platforms have rather facilitated the creation of diverse and supportive communities of like-minded individuals — many of which include body-positive allies.

TikTok influencer Spencer Barbosa (@spencer.barbosa) has built a successful career and 9.9 million followers with beauty pep-talk videos that normalize larger bodies, inspiring me and many others to feel comfortable in our skins. Likewise, disability rights creator Imani Barbarin (@crutches_and_spice) has utilized her forum to advocate for social and political issues affecting women of color. 

“You do not exist to lose weight,” Barbosa said in a Friday, Jan. 19, TikTok video. “Seeking and getting male validation isn’t going to actually make you feel better.” 

Barbosa and Barbarin are part of a growing number of influencers who have altered my perspective on womanhood, misogyny and patriarchy. Hence, as a student advocate, I view these online platforms as an indispensable tool for amplifying voices that go unheard.

According to a June 2019 article from the Harvard Business Review, “women only appear in a quarter of television, radio and print news” as subjects of stories. Given the historical barriers to mainstream media representation, I feel liberated by the endless content possibilities that social media grants to women. Thus, the digital age allows us to build thriving careers and uplifting communities.  

Social media celebrates women in just the right ways, and I’m here for that.

Accolade managing editor senior Irene Sheen scrolls through X, formerly known as Twitter, in hopes of retweeting posts concerning women’s rights. (Image used with permission from Irene Sheen)
Accolade copy editor sophomore Nicole Park applies her newly bought skincare ampoule after being influenced to purchase it by various TikTok and Instagram influencers.
CON: I want to be me, not a Korean Barbie doll


A perfectly toned, blond girl climbs the StairMaster in the gym while giving workout advice in a TikTok video.

Another swipe.

A video features an Asian girl with large eyes, a chiseled jawline and long, luscious hair captioned “#barbiegirl.”

During my daily hour of unhealthy scrolling on TikTok, such content endlessly pops up on my For You Page. It’s no different on Instagram — 12.1 million posts tagged #bodygoals flood the platform.

Despite the buzz about women empowerment on social media, such videos make me question if they achieve the opposite effect, constantly degrading women and giving them little to no forum to empower themselves. Online platforms can play a significant role in perpetuating harmful stereotypes, encasing women into unhealthy standards they feel pressured to meet. 

Yes, social media can empower women — historically the more underrepresented gender — by presenting them with an opportunity to express themselves to a larger audience. However, toxic trends and constant stereotyping overpower the positive.

For instance, the “#bodygoals” trend promotes harmful ideals. However, a woman shouldn’t have a goal to change her appearance for pure aesthetic to appeal to the male gaze.

As a girl who’s constantly online, I’ve noticed that while some creators showcase women’s achievements, it’s not enough.

On forums like TikTok, countless numbers of creators who fit the “influencer” stereotype post videos showcasing their killer bodies, clear skin and perfect lifestyles. 

For example, the #A4waistchallenge and #CollarboneChallenge were viral challenges in 2023 that not only swept the internet but also destroyed viewers’ body image. For the A4 waist challenge, participants put a piece of A4 printer paper, only measuring 8.27 wide by 11.69 inches high, in front of their slim waists to flaunt their figures. 

To successfully complete this challenge, the creator’s waist must be entirely covered by a small piece of paper. The latter challenge consisted of users demonstrating their skinny figures by stacking coins on their collarbones.

Through these ridiculous dares, creators successfully make negative social comparisons, making people like me feel pressured to achieve the same build. However, to combat such negative thoughts, I strive to remind myself that all bodies are perfect, no matter their shape or size.

Creators use seamless editing tools embedded on platforms like TikTok to portray an idealized version of themselves, devoid of imperfections: a face with no pores, wrinkles or acne. This results in poor body image, creating unrealistic beauty standards, especially among those ages 10-19, who make up 32.5% of all U.S. TikTok users, according to statistics posted by

As a result, girls may feel obligated to change themselves, whether it be their appearance or even their lifestyle, to become more like these fake creators.

Similarly, social media degrades viewers — many times, girls — by promoting them to follow unrealistic creators who do the opposite of practicing empowerment. Personally, I often stumble across multiple TikTok videos advertising viral Korean skincare products, all from creators with clear and plump skin.

Will my skin look that nice if I buy that product?

Admittedly, more often than not, I cave in to these beautiful influencers and buy their viral skincare products, ranging from toners to serums, in their videos. As a result, I currently have an overflow of products, seven to be exact, that aren’t making a huge difference on my skin compared to the creators who use the same items.

This is not woman empowerment — it’s degradation.

The difference between these charming influencers and me leaves me questioning what I can do “better” to look as great as them, scarring my body image and self-esteem.

Ultimately, I strive to resist falling victim to social media’s unhealthy stereotypes and gimmicks. Rather than comparing my physique to those online, I want to prioritize how I, not anyone else, feel living in my body. As long as I’m comfortable with myself and grow my confidence, I trust my body image will stand unwavering, even with the temptation of social media’s toxic views.

Accolade copy editor sophomore Nicole Park applies her newly bought skincare ampoule after being influenced to purchase it by various TikTok and Instagram influencers. (Image used with permission from Nicole Park)
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Nicole Park
Nicole Park, Copy Editor
After taking the Journalism 1 class, sophomore Nicole Park is elated to spend her first year on staff as one of the copy editors. During her time as a cub reporter, Park earned a Best of SNO award for her story exploring the topic of accessories on students’ backpacks. Park looks forward to covering a wide range of stories to further hone her writing and explore the depths of journalism. When she is not working on a story assignment, Park spends her time playing on the girls volleyball team and is a member of school clubs like American Red Cross. In her free time, she enjoys watching dramas, eating good food and going out with friends.
Irene Sheen
Irene Sheen, Managing Editor
After spending her junior year on staff as the special sections editor, senior Irene Sheen is excited to contribute to The Accolade as the next managing editor. During her final year of high school, she strives to strengthen her writing expertise, and most importantly, enhance the publication’s print products. With a profound passion for political reform and civic engagement, the journalist also intends to use this platform to facilitate conversations on social and cultural issues. Outside of Room 138, Sheen takes pleasure in binging movies, baking bread, exploring cafes and experimenting with her nails.
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