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Meet The Ugly Girls Club: The Royal Holloway Feminist Society Turning The Idea Of Beauty On Its Head

02/12/2014 12:57 GMT | Updated 02/12/2014 16:59 GMT

When Natasha Barrett and her fellow feminist society members were dubbed "the ugly girls club" while running a stall on sexual consent at their student union club night, it really hit a nerve.

Not because they were hurt by the comment - no, these women know better than that - but because they were sick of females being constantly judged purely on their image.

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"We sort of started laughing about it," Natasha, an English Literature student at Royal Holloway University, London (RHUL), recalls. "And then we started sending each other very tongue in cheek selfies with the hashtag #uglygirlsclub.

kirsty young

The feminist society on the night they were dubbed "the ugly girls club". L-R: Molly Coulthard (secretary), H Beverley (social sec), Natasha Barrett (president), Grace Kirkby (communications officer) and Antonia King (diversity officer)

"Some old members of RHUL Feminist Society joined in as well as current members and it started to grow. We thought let's make it a little campaign as although the selfies are ironic, the message is incredibly important."

And so, The Ugly Girls Club was born.

The man responsible was no doubt blissfully unaware how one vulgar, throwaway comment could have snowballed into a campaign spanning more than 800 members and heralding national media coverage. Exeter University has now even set up its own branch.

However 20-year-old Natasha, who is well aware of the problematic female image, certainly isn't surprised at how the campaign has resonated.

"I'm honestly not surprised it struck a chord with people - of any gender," says the feminist society president. Being judged purely on image is a problem everyone faces in terms of social and career elements of life.

"Our aim is to make a stand against people being judged on appearance rather than their achievements and strong traits. We also wish to make a point against conventional beauty standards and help people find confidence by coming together in solidarity against these very relevant issues.

"One student commented 'I'll never delete my unsatisfactory selfies again' which made us happy to hear it was having the right effect."

Around 200 selfies have been uploaded to social media with the hashtag since Sunday, and it doesn't look to be slowing down.

Lad culture at RHUL is "probably similar" to many other universities in the area, Natasha explains, where issues of sexual harassment are present. She says she, along with many of her friends, have experienced it.

However, Natasha and her fellow students are fighting for change.

"Our student union is working really hard with to promote consent. For example, our men's rugby team has done a number of workshops to raise awareness of the issue among their members."

And RHUL's feminist society has big plans for the future.

"We're going to keep working with the NUS and our women's and marginalised genders officer at Royal Holloway to contribute to campaigns they are running.

"We also want to launch our own. For example, we want to start a video campaign about the true definition of feminism, and we plan to collaborate with other societies to launch a campaign for women in sport.

"We also want to be careful to maintain the social, safe space that our society creates for like minded students, meeting once a week and holding more intimate events just for our paid members."

It may seem like an awful lot, but, as Natasha puts it, feminism still has a "long way to go".

Our favourite ugly selfies so far. Join in @RHuglygirlsclub