When I saw all of the Me toos popping up all over social media, I didn't think I would be surprised. I was. It seemed every woman I know posted Me too. I knew it was common. I know 5 women very closely that have been sexually abused, but there are so many more. It made me stop and re think my experiences. Have I been assaulted or harassed? Did I just normalize behavior? I've been physically abused by a boyfriend. Does that count? Should I add my name to the list of women who have really suffered? After some thought, I didn't post the hastag because I felt it would misrepresent my experiences. I've never been raped, molested, or sexually harassed in the workplace. But, I wanted to post it all then same. I wanted to stand with my mother's, sisters, cousins, and friends. I wanted to post it because in a broader sense of assault and harassment, there isn't a woman who hasn't experienced it. I can't count the times my butt has been grabbed in a crowd nor can I aptly describe the fear and disgust that follows a catcall.
#Metoo just scratches the surface. Our society and culture is one that women are constantly to blame and are often treated as if they are somehow less. After Trump wasn't immediately dismissed from the election because of the Billy Bush tapes, I was genuinely afraid. I was afraid of what strange men on the street would think was ok, because the American people deemed Trump's words and actions acceptable. A new fire in my feminist heart was lit. In the wake of Wienstein, I've felt like something MUST be done. We live in a society that normalizes rape, objectification of women, and both blatant and casual misogyny. On top of this, instead of placing blame on the abuser, people villanize politicians, hollywood, and anyone with an opposing political opinion.
I found myself engaging in online debates (something I don't normally do). But as I scrolled through my news feed, I came across a call for art for The Healthy House, Louisville Grows Headquarters. A light amidst the muck. Their winter show, entitled "Whose society, Whose justice?" explores the way our society functions and who it benefits. Something in me clicked and I knew what I had to do.
The Healthy House allowed three submissions, and I decided that my submissions would express the way I felt at various times in my life while experiencing societal injustice. This includes everything from casual misogyny masked as chivalry to being betrayed when reporting my abuse. Our society is not one who believes its victims or acknowledges how even casual misogyny contributes to rape culture.
So, I set to work. My first piece reflects one of the millions of times someone has said that I really shouldn't be doing something and I should just let whatever man was there at the time do it for me. I had a concept in my head and put brush to canvas. The whole time I was painting, I was unsure. But then I stepped back, and I liked what I saw. As I stood in front of something new and different, I was struck with the knowledge that this is what I should be doing. I NEED to be drawing inspiration from my real life experiences. In so many ways this makes me vulnerable and runs the risk of me getting in the way of my art. But it was so clear. I was going to do more of this.
As the day went on, I started to think about how I felt when I reported my own abuse and was dismissed and not believed. I remembered how I felt hearing about the sexual assault of close friends. I remembered how it felt to be told it was my fault that men had straying eyes and my responsibility to dress differently. I realized, that I had a lot more than three paintings I needed to do. So, I've decided to work on a collection titled "Me too". I want to expose all the ugly, stand up for myself and for the women I love, and I want to turn it into something beautiful. The only way to do that is to be vulnerable. I know this is going to be a challenge. But I whole heartedly believe this is a challenge worth doing.
I believe this world desperately needs beauty, art, and the vulnerability it requires to share yourself with others. This is why I paint. I want to share myself and to make this world a more beautiful and loving place.
I don’t paint what I see. I paint how I feel. And I feel that it's time for a change.