Despite all the progress we've made, womanhood today is still fraught with many of the same issues that our gender has always faced. Society's standards for what a woman should look like, behave, and endure haven't disappeared; they may not manifest in the same forms as they did decades ago, but boy, do they exist.
When French illustrator and graphic designer Cécile Dormeau started noticing how much time and energy she, her sisters, and her friends put into "complaining all the time about what's wrong about our bodies," she decided to get to work.
"In a society obsessed by 'how you should look,' I wanted to draw girls how they [actually] look," Dormeau told A Plus. "Nobody is perfect, having flaws is completely normal, and we really need to celebrate diversity. As the media shows us that our appearance is the only thing that seems to matter, my illustrations are a way to say to self-conscious girls, 'Move on girl because you're worth much more than that.'"
Dormeau's work is a colorful, tongue-in-cheek depiction of what it's like to be a woman in the 21st century. Her characters are shown in different sizes and colors, with cellulite, stretch marks, hairy legs, muffin tops — just real, everyday women carving out a space to occupy amid society's complex power structures.
Dormeau told us that she's often inspired by her observations and experiences, whether it's from late night drunk talks with her friends, her sister's "craziness," people on the street, or something she's read. "Drawing things which are not often brought out in the daylight, hidden actions or details that we are too ashamed to share, taboos, etc. are the main themes that I like to work with," she said. "I want to celebrate imperfection!"
Though much of Dormeau's illustrations are focused on body image, a handful touch on sexual harassment. Dormeau said that highlighting this problem should start a conversation about how to help girls and women defend themselves against it.
"I think this is really important to try to find humor in all these complex topics to help girls to de-dramatize about their image, to question themselves about what society except from them to be acceptable," Dormeau said.
"How many times as a teenager (or even older) you will think, 'I am not normal' because you will not identify with what the media is showing you. I really want to say this by my illustrations: 'Don't worry, you're not alone. I have flaws and problems too, I am fucked up too sometimes. You are completely normal!'"
Ultimately, Dormeau wants to inspire a broader idea of beauty:
We need to show more diversity and bring the light on these women who are beautiful for what they are and what they do, and not for what they look like. This world doesn't need perfect girls, it just need great girls.