let photographer sarah stockman take you inside facebook's secret feminist world
In these private groups, 'You’re free to be angry or sexual, you’re free to be exactly who you are and who you might normally hide online.'
Photography by Sarah Stockman.
Among all the baby photos and recipe videos, Facebook harbors countless private groups where people from all over the world form digital connections. Some bond over dog photos and clothing sales, others find safe and private spaces to be themselves and divest their deepest secrets.
Photographer Sarah Stockman is a member of Bad Gals Club, one of the many closed feminist groups that provides a fiercely loyal and supportive community to its members. Bad Gals allows its 1,000 female members to be as open as they want, share personal stories and images, and express a candor that is usually reserved for locked diaries. The resulting intimacy and sense of community is staggering and, in response, Sarah found herself wanting to document some of the amazing women she'd met through this world.
Tell us about your series.
It's a portraiture series of women from this online Facebook group I'm a part of called Bad Gals Club, which is made up of people from specifically Melbourne but also around the world. It's a safe space, or I guess as close as we can get to that.
Were the Bad Gals interested in being photographed?
Yeah, when I made the original post about photographing the girls, I got 60 or 70 responses. Obviously I can't photograph that many people in a short space of time but I had to start somewhere, it was so hard to choose. I started with two girls who I knew outside of the group and from there, I tried to photograph the people that were most excited about it first because I knew I'd get the most out of them.
Was there a lot of discussion around how people wanted to be seen or presented?
I let them set the scene. Most were like, "I just want to be depicted as strong and feminine in a non-conditional sense."
Do you feel the photos provide some insight into how the girls construct themselves in these online communities?
Yeah, there's an interesting play when you photograph someone; there's always going to be a performance and a constructed identity. It's like how your identity online is curated by you around what you want to show the world. Bad Gals Club is this very free and open community where you don't have to worry too much about being judged or belittled in any way. You're free to be angry or sexual, you're free to be exactly who you are and who you might normally hide online.
Do you have plans to keep documenting the Bad Gals, given their level of interest in the project?
I'm definitely going to continue. I have this enormous wealth of people and excellent human beings who are willing to step in front of the lens for me, so I'm definitely going to utilize that.
It's kind of sad that such an attitude of openness can only exist in a hidden group. How has Bad Gals Club influenced you personally?
It's definitely been a giant learning curve on many levels, especially around accepting myself and re-defining how I see femininity. It's just about being 100 percent yourself. I mean screw society, screw what they expect of you, screw men—I don't need that shit (laughs). I don't need your gaze and I don't need your judgment, I got me and I got my gals.
Text Hannah Butterworth
Photography Sarah Stockman