Interview with Artist Carol Rossetti

Carol Rossetti is a designer and illustrator from Brazil, who has been making waves in feminist spaces lately with her series of illustrations entitled simply “Women“. The illustrations generally depict a woman dealing with some societal attitude towards her choices, appearance or identity, and include a positive message of support and solidarity.

Carol_Lorena

It took Lorena a long time to find her sensuality because she has never seen herself represented as beauty, only as tragedy…
But you are so much more than the way the media portrays you, aren’t you, Lorena? Your wheelchair is freedom and it can run over anyone who reduces you to stereotypes.

When Carol first started sharing translations of her work in English, they were widely shared, and suddenly feminists around the world wanted them in their own languages – the Tel Aviv based feminist collective Sholefet first translated them into Hebrew, and then they were translated into Spanish, and now they are being translated into such various languages as Arabic, Russian, Italian, Czech, Lithuanian, Hindi, Norwegian, Romanian, Japanese, Malayalam, Tamil, Bahasa Melayu & Bahasa Indonesia…. It’s fair to say Carol has sparked something of a movement! Carol was kind enough to answer Femina Invicta’s questions about her work, and why she thinks its appeal is so universal.


Q: What does feminism mean to you? Can you tell us something about how your feminist consciousness has developed over time?

That’s a really interesting question. Some people see me nowadays and think I’ve always been like that, and that’s not true. I grew up and changed a lot. I was born in a country full of prejudice and oppression despite the whole diversity we have. Even though my parents are wonderful people, everybody is affected by their culture, and I grew up believing in some nasty stereotypes. If you asked me ten years ago, I’d probably say something silly like “I’m neither feminist or sexist, I’m humanist!” Common attitudes got me to believe that feminism was something unnecessary for these times, that the fight was over, women already got equality and now feminism is just a bunch of man-hating unloved women. There was a long process of deconstruction of my own concepts and prejudices. It took a lot of research, a lot of listening, learning and thinking. Reviewing our privileges is not something easy to do, but it’s necessary.

Q: What place does art fill in your life? Are there any particular artists that you are inspired by?

I think that illustration has always been a way of expressing myself. I usually don’t talk much about myself. I’m an only child, and maybe because of that I have always felt comfortable alone. Solitude has never been a problem to me; I’m actually really fond of having some moments for myself. My way of expressing my feelings and my identity was always through drawing. I tried acting and playing the guitar, but it didn’t really work out. There are many artists that have inspired me in different ways, in different moments of my life. Amanda Palmer, Neil Gaiman, Dave McKean, Will Eisner, Marjani Strapi, Criag Thompson, Quino, Crepax…

Q: What do you think the connection is between art and feminism?

I think feminism is something very important and very complex. It needs to be spread, to be talked about; it needs to get out of this bubble of young, white, European women. In so many parts of the world, feminism is still very misunderstood and unknown. And I truly believe that art and design can do a lot to make it easier to understand. When it comes to information, design can do a wonderful job. And when it comes to emotion, I think art is always a great answer.

Carol_Mariana

Q: Do you see art as a form of activism? How do you see feminist art fitting in with, or contributing to, other forms of activism?

Art is expression. It expresses ideas, feelings, and identities. And none of those is detached from politics. We need to deconstruct this idea that politics is something for politicians. Politics is everybody’s business, and it’s not a synonym to bureaucracy. It’s pretty much in everything: our culture, our routines, our jobs… The only people who can really afford to think that politics is not their business are the ones that are very privileged. People who have never had anything denied to them because of their gender, sexuality, race, nationality, ethnicity and beliefs. The rest of us can’t afford this luxury, we need to fight every day to be respected and accepted. Some need to fight more, some need to fight less. But it’s really important to understand that art is not detached from politics because art IS politics in so many ways. Whenever we make a statement, whenever we say that something needs to change, whenever we realize there’s a fight to be fought… Well, that’s politics, and art is a tool that we have to express ideas and change the world. And feminist art is so very important! Now that we have so many people accessing the internet, I see a huge potential of reaching people, and that’s amazing!

Q: Your “Women” series has become quite successful! How did the series begin? Did you expect it to make such waves? What are the most exceptional and/or exciting responses you’ve received?

I’ve never really expected such visibility. I wanted to practice my technique with colored pencils on kraft paper and I thought I might as well do it while sending a positive message to my friends who already followed my page. I think what led me to it was a day when I saw this friend of mine sharing a photo on Facebook of a fat woman wearing yoga pants, and the caption was “ouch my eyes”. Well, I was really intrigued by how and unknown person’s dressing choice could be so annoying to someone that would get this person to say something so disrespectful about it on Facebook – which I believe is not that different from shouting it to a whole neighborhood. So my first drawing was about a fat girl wearing a horizontal stripes dress. But she had a name. She was called Marina. And she had a friendly face. And there was a text saying she loved that dress, and a friendly advice at the end to wear it and be happy. I guess it worked, because my friend shared this illustration and I’ve never seen her saying anything mean to other women ever since. On the contrary, she actually started sharing some feminist content that I never expected to see on her timeline!

Now, the responses were very diverse. Most of them are very positive, people thanking me and telling me never to stop with it. A few of them were aggressive and/or disrespectful, but at the end I managed to handle it well. I was very shocked to see people thanking me and saying that my work really got them through a very difficult time in their lives. I didn’t see that coming. It’s amazing, but it feels weird, because I don’t really feel like I’m doing something amazing. My work feels really simple, actually. It’s good; I think so, but not genius. It’s really just about respect in the end.

Q: Where do you get the ideas for the illustrations in the series? Are they based on real women?

The characters are not real, but the situations are. Some of them I observed in my friends, my relatives or even myself. But I usually change names and features. Except for Whitney (which is Whitney Thore, the Fat Girl Dancing) and Aline (Aline Lemos, a fellow artist and friend).

Q: The series has been very well received all around the world – what do you think makes women from such different locations and backgrounds identify with your work?

I think gender oppression is something real all around, but in different ways. In this group we have on Facebook with all the translators, it was clear that there were differences, both in women’s rights and in cultural aspects. But still there is a common feeling that feminism is still necessary – in some places more than others, of course, but there’s still a lot to fight for. For example, maybe abortion is already legal in Japan, but on the other hand there’s an enormous pressure for women to get married there, as if they were not complete without a husband. So, there are many different aspects to be discussed.

Q: What artists do you recommend?

When it comes to illustrations and comics, I think there are many people worth getting to know. In Brazil I see many women with a fantastic work, like Aline Lemos, Samie Carvalho (who is actually in Japan, but she’s Brazilian too), Lu Cafaggi, Cris Peter, Bi Anca… There are the eternal great ones like Neil Gaiman, Will Eisner, Art Spiegelman, Craig Thompson, Marjani Strapi, Melind Gebbie… Oh, recently I read one from Israel that I really liked. It’s called “Farm 54”, from Galit and Gilad Seliktar.

Carol_AlineCarol_ElisaCarol_Susan

Q: And a sort of unfair question to end with – do you have a favorite from among your “Women” illustrations?

Hahaha! That’s evil! Like asking a mother which is her favorite child, right? Well, I really liked the colors in Susan and Elisa… :)

Thanks!!

Thank YOU!

Carol_Amanda

Amanda decided that shaving just isn’t her thing…
Amanda, it’s your body, and you do whatever you want with it. No social convention should have a say in your identity.


>> Visit Carol’s Facebook Page

Men and Rape Culture

Generally, men are willing to admit that women are raped. They are able to admit that nearly every woman and girl experience, have experienced, or will experience harassment, assault, or other violence, and in a more-than-singular or exceptional way. The moment it becomes something to stubbornly deny is when the person committing the violence is named. Because men can identify with a guy who has a name. What is apparently so difficult for them is the idea that *they* can be part of the problem. Not that they really fear a false accusation – because in any case very few complaints are taken seriously, and even fewer ever make it to court, and fewer yet result in any significant punishment to the accused. It’s simply – if they admit that their friend, their brother, even their neighbor harassed or assaulted someone, it projects upon them. Even if they do not see themselves as violent, they identify more with the accused than the accuser, viscerally, instinctively, because they know that they live in this environment, they see what goes on around them, they laugh at certain types of jokes, or maybe they slept with someone who didn’t really want to and required “persuasion”, or a friend of theirs did. They label women as sluts or cheap or easy, and think that therefore they are less entitled to sovereignty over their own bodies. They don’t want to be held responsible, and therefore – even though just a moment ago they had no issue with the generic story (“When I was 20 years old, I was raped.” “Oh, how awful!”), now, when the story is more real and immediate (“Your friend, Bill, raped me.”) they suddenly insist on the involvement of courts, and police, and evidentiary systems they don’t begin to comprehend unless they studied law.

And so, in every discussion about rape or sexual violence, no matter how horrifying the story, or how overwhelming the statistics, of millions and millions of cases… Their first reaction will be something about false accusations, or they’ll find some way to blame the victim, or they’ll entrench themselves behind some legal concept they don’t understand (presumption of innocence).

And so I say – men – check yourselves. The day is coming where you will no longer have the privilege of remaining indifferent. You don’t need to be a rapist to be part of rape culture, and this is a culture that will not stand.

Trans* Woman Told by National Insurance Psychiatrist: Go Work as a Prostitute

News from Israel, the ostensible LGBT paradise:

Psychiatrists sends trans woman to be a prostitute

D., a 24-year-old student, has reported that the shrink at the National Insurance (Social Security) office in Netanya recommended that she work in prostitution, saying “As a trans woman you can make a living as a prostitute, so I see no reason to give you a Social Security allowance”.

Some factoids: According to reported numbers, about 95% of trans* people in Israel have difficulty finding work, making them possibly the most discriminated populations in the labor market. National Insurance policy dictates that trans* people be classified as having a mental disorder – Gender Identity Disorder (GID) (according to the ICD; the DSM has removed GID from its list of disorders). This means that trans* people can receive living allowances under disability law rather than under unemployment laws.

According to D., the psychiatrist told her that living allowances are for the disabled, and that as long as she has the option of prostitution, she can make a living and therefore is not eligible.

The National Insurance Institute has responded that this their policy includes “sensitivity to special populations” and maintaining the dignity of all applicants, and that they are investigating the complaint.

An open letter on Syria to Western narcissists

Originally posted on the human province:

ImageOn the eve of what seem to be ineluctable strikes on Syria, I’ve been struggling with what my position on Syria should be. Before I get to that though, I should say that while I’m not Syrian, I too have some skin in the game, as it were. On our way to donate blood for a friend’s mother’s surgery last month, my wife got a call from a friend telling us to avoid the neighborhood of Bir al-Abed in Beirut’s southern suburbs, since there had just been a large explosion there. At Bahman Hospital, my wife and baby daughter and I saw ambulances speeding toward us carrying those who had just been wounded. And a few days after I’d left for southern Turkey to conduct interviews with Syrians who had fled the war in their homes, I found out that a car bomb had just gone off a few…

View original 824 more words

The Israeli Police State

Last night, a couple dozens of Border Police and city police raided a closed cafe is South Tel Aviv, where one of the owners and an employee were closing down the kitchen and register. Police forced their way into the business, and attacked and manhandled the proprietor, Orly Chen. Both of the women were arrested. The barrista was released this morning, Chen is still in interrogation.

OrlyChenArrestCafe Alby

Apparently, a city inspector reported that Alby, the cafe, was open (though it was clearly locked) because a group of “Women in Yellow” (a grassroots group that has organized to patrol the increasingly violent streets of South Tel Aviv, which the police generally avoid and have become particularly dangerous to women) had wrapped up their patrol in front of the closed cafe.

Women In Yellow

One of the founders of the Women in Yellow is activist Ortal Ben Dayan. And this is where the story begins to make sense: About 1-2 weeks ago, Ben Dayan confronted a Border Police officer who was being verbally abusive to a Palestinian family sitting at the cafe. The officer proceeded to verbally abuse Ben Dayan, and demanded she provide identification. Under Israeli law, citizens have the right to refuse to identify themselves unless they are being detained under suspicion of a crime (and I believe they need to be informed what the crime is). Ben Dayan was clearly not under suspicion, and had no need to identify. The police officer then placed her under arrest, claiming she had “offended a public official”. After a night in jail and some legal ludicrousness, Ben Dayan was found to not be in violation of any law and was released. The officer who arrested her, on the other hand, was surprisingly not let off so easily – after extremely racist statements were found on his Facebook profile, he was dismissed from service.

Read more here – http://www.haaretz.com/news/national/.premium-1.541537

(I don’t like to link to Ha’aretz, which is a supposedly progressive newspaper that supports rapists, and has recently launched a pornographic ad campaign objectifying women, and also gates their content to paid subscribers – but I’m making an exception here since it is difficult to find reports on these things in English. Hopefully, you’ll reach the non-paid content.)

So, going back to the raid on Alby: If for the sake of argument we accept the inspector’s assertion that the cafe was open – why did an entire caravan of police cars and a couple dozen police show up? Why did the BORDER POLICE rather than the city police take the lead on the situation? This was clearly not a run-of-the-mill business infraction situation. It appears that the association between Alby and the incident with Ben Dayan made it a target (the cafe is a regular hangout for queer and political activist groups, and Ben Dayan runs her own vintage shop next door).

But clearly even the original assertion is completely fabricated. When police arrived the business was locked up, and they threatened Chen that if she did not open up, they would break the glass storefront.

Here are two videos showing the police conduct (including where an officer clearly goes to where Chen is standing behind the counter and grabs her. He apparently claimed she attacked him). The whole time Chen is asking – what am I being arrested for? and receiving no answer. At one point as she is being pushed into the patrol car, the officer near her says “the arresting officer informed you what for”. The video is uncut from the arrest to that point – and at no time is Chen informed what the arrest is for.

See video of Chen’s arrest here:

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As I’m writing this report (Aug 27, late morning Jerusalem time), I have been informed that under a police order the cafe has been shut down for 30 days, for supposed safety violations. As you can see below, every single possible violation has been marked on the form (how likely is that?). Even though I already knew I was living in a state where there is minimal oversight of police and minimal respect for human rights, Israel likes to maintain the *appearance* of propriety, and I really didn’t know that the police could just take away a business’ right to exist with no court approval or intervention.

Update ~ noon Jerusalem time: City and Riot police arrive at Alby to harass customers and onlookers, illegally demanding they provide picture ID and leave the premises.

Update ~2pm Jerusalem time: Police are trying to remove equipment from the cafe. Activists preventing it. 

Update ~3pm Jerusalem time: Having faced resistance from the activists and customers, the Riot Police returned with a warrant to remove the business’ computer, under suspicion of “agitation”. How military dictatorship is that? Somewhat Kafkaesque? People are agitated that the business owner is being detained without charge and her business targeted for closure, which retroactively enables the police to seize the cafe’s computer for… agitation? 

Activists vowing to block them from carrying this out indefinitely. Also, a protest rally is planned this evening in front of the South Tel Aviv police station. If anyone reading this is in the vicinity of Tel Aviv please come (or at least distribute the event). 

Incidentally, Alby is one of the few queer-friendly (and queer-owned) businesses in Tel Aviv, which is virtually the only queer-friendly place in Israel. I invite anyone who is interested in exposing the true face of Israel in the face of the extreme pinkwashing of the Israeli government and allies organizations worldwide to share this and other stories. I encourage BDS activists to us this too: While for some people (like the Tom Jones representatives on Facebook) Islamophobia and therefore abuse of Palestinians may be palatable, the mindset that allows that abuse affects us all, and until we are all safe, no one is safe. And anti-BDS voices certainly use the supposed queer-friendliness of Israeli authorities as a (very poor) counter argument to Palestinian solidarity.

The police closure order on Alby:

Copies of the licenses supposedly lacking: 

Electrical Inspection

Business License

Gas Inspection

Some other famous instances of police brutality :

Where All Arabs Are Terrorists

Trigger warning for extreme racism and violence. I really wish this was in English. I’ve translated parts of this below, but there are some things that no amount of translation will ever get across. This is a screenshot from a Facebook page in Hebrew, called “Death to all Terrorists”. Terrorists, apparently, are any and all Arabs.

These are responses to an image of dozens of bodies of dead Syrians in body bags. This page (and others) have been publishing various images of victims of the violence in Syria, including children. These responses are typical.

Earlier today and yesterday, I was involved in yet another discussion on BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions upon Israel, a movement calling for cultural boycotts on Israel until they comply with International law regarding treatment of Palestinians and the occupation of Palestinian people and territories). A repeated theme in this discussion is Jews (not necessarily Israelis) who post such statements as “Dear [name of musician], Israel is a peace-seeking nation, and Jews are peace-seeking people! We never start wars, we respect people, we are the victims!” and so on and so forth.

I really want to expose the true mindset in Israel. It is NOT peaceful or peace-seeking. Naftali Bennet, Israel’s Minister of Commerce, recently admitted to killing an unspecified number of Arabs, for unspecified reasons, and declared that is just fine. The people in this post, are not some fringe group. These are regular Israelis, and what they have written here – translated below – are things I hear every day. Everywhere I go. Read through, if you can stomach it, and judge for yourselves.

  • Don’t worry about the children, they’d just grow up to be terrorists anyway.
  • Beautiful picture!
  • LOLOL what a pleasure! And I’m not a racist, just a [sports team] fan! Buh-bye!
  • What a waste of good body bags.
  • Here’s to more in the ditch, amen.
  • Hoping for more, and more!
  • Pour acid on them, and then burn B’Tzelem (a human rights org) along with them
  • Death to them all, happy day
  • Great to wake up to good news in the morning!
  • Only 1000… Hoping for more.
  • Not enough
  • Praise God forever!
  • Pleasure :)
  • As Naftali Bennet said, “Terrorists must be killed”. Period.
  • The creator be praised!
  • More
  • God willing, all the Arabs will die, amen.
  • More, with God’s help.
  • LOL, you all are making me laugh.
  • God willing, so it shall be, every day
  • [image, parodying Arabic phrasing] what a beautiful sight!
  • More, and more
  • I’m lighting the grill, who’s joining me? It isn’t every day 1000 whores die
  • Let’s party! Who’ll bring the sweets? I’ll bring chips.
  • Oh no, what a tragedy!…. A thousand is too few!
  • Assad is the best!
  • So much fun to see this picture! Amen that this happens again and they all die! Amen!
  • Only 1000? Can’t we add some zeros to that?
  • My son is only four, and he passed by the computer so I quickly closed the picture, but he glimpsed it and asked me, “What’s that? Rats?” LOLOL He pretty much got it right.
  • Too bad there weren’t more.
  • So wonderful, God willing we’ll see beautiful images like this every day.
  • Do the math – how many virgins required?

Now repeat this by thousands of Facebook accounts, groups, cafes, buses, homes, army bases, schools, workplaces…. This is normal Israel, when it isn’t being pinkwashed, whitewashed, propagandized, and spinned.