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

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…

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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.

A Short Rant

I’m pretty tired of always being expected to be apologetic to hegemonic persons who automatically get riled up at the merest hint that they may be in collusion with an oppressive system – whether men, white people, cis-people, straight people… Seriously, no matter how good you THINK your intentions are, you benefit as a member of that group from the oppression of others. You have a responsibility to proactively act against all the attitudes and behaviors that perpetuate the existing structure. You don’t get off by saying “I don’t see color” or “we’re all human” or “everyone is equally deserving of respect”, or “Just be nice to everybody!” (“nice” really isn’t the issue). By doing that, you are erasing and ignoring and minimizing the actual lived experiences of marginalized people – THEY never say they don’t see color or that everyone should love each other equally, because their ENTIRE LIFE EXPERIENCE is based on the fact that people DO see color (or gender, or ethnicity, or weight, or age… and they DON’T LIKE IT). You don’t get to say “generalizing about men is equally sexist to what men do to women”, because guess what: it isn’t. If that was all we were dealing with, we wouldn’t be here, doing this feminism thing. And getting no end of crap for it. We get to be mad, because we’re the ones getting raped, murdered, beaten, paid less, judged, disowned, legislated against, maligned, harassed, and more. You don’t get to act as if there is parity between us. If I hate you – nothing happens to you except you feel I was unpleasant to you. I live in a state of fear and violence, whether or not you even recognize my existence. I get to say “I hate straights/cis-people/men”, even if that isn’t “nice”. I don’t owe you my niceness. You don’t get to hate women/people of color/trans* people – because when you do, you are supporting an entire system of oppression and violence. Someday, when the playing field is even, you will have a right to claim that this attitude might lead to oppression. Someday, on that day that will only arrive if TODAY YOU RECOGNIZE YOUR PRIVILEGES AND THE OPPRESSIONS OF OTHERS. But for now – you don’t get to take away our anger. Their anger. The anger that comes from being stomped on and marginalized. YOU JUST DON’T.

269 is free!

You might have read my previous posts on the 269 movement – an animal liberation movement that started in Israel/Occupied Palestine, and spread worldwide. The group gained international attention when they did a public branding event – activists gathered in the center of Tel Aviv and got branded with the number 269 – in honor of the namesake of the movement, a calf being raised for beef known only by the number stapled to his ear.

Later, the group staged public tattoo events: People stood in line emulating a concentration camp/slaughterhouse scenario, and got a tattoo with the number 269. Sister events were quickly organized in solidarity in places as diverse as Johannesburg, Melbourne, Augusta Georgia, Prague, Peru, Brazil, Berlin, and more. **

Picture2 Picture1

Picture3

ANYWAY – The exciting news is that earlier today an anonymous message was delivered to the 269 Life site, saying that activists liberated 269 – now a young bull – only hours before he was to be slaughtered, and took him to safety. The action took place several weeks ago, and they say that 269 is doing well.

It is only one life out of the billions that will be sacrificed to the human lust for murdered flesh… But it is a LIFE. And a highly symbolic one. I can’t think of better news to start my day!

Follow 269 Life:

Website: http://www.269life.com
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/269calf
Twitter: https://twitter.com/269_life

** The next international solidarity event will take place on September 26, 2013! Find out where the event nearest you is taking place, or organize your own local event and send pictures to to 269 Life!

The Revolution Is Here, Read All About It!

bi:notes for a bisexual revolutionI am part of a very radical, political, and informed bisexual community. I am proud of the people comprising this community, but as little as two or three years ago I didn’t even know they existed. If I pause to think about how I came to know these amazing revolutionary friends, and how I learned pretty much everything I know about bisexual politics, it’s fairly easy to pinpoint a handful of key people, who by reading them and engaging with them, I literally changed how I think: about myself, my gender and sexual identities, about community and politics, and about a million other things. One of these people is Shiri Eisner, whose book Bi: Notes for a Bisexual Revolution has just been published.

By reading Eisner online* (Facebook, Tumblr, and her Hebrew- and English-language blogs) and engaging in the same or similar political discussions (and, of course, with other persons active in radical politics as well), I was able to come to terms, for the first time, with ideas I was either blind to, ignorant of, or in total denial of their existence. I had never heard of bisexual erasure, for example, and I wasn’t troubled by it either, because my own bisexual identity was not important to me.

This new (to me) political discourse made me question myself – why was I willing to suppress my own identity? It isn’t as though I was against identity politics in principle, as I was an active feminist, a supporter of Palestinian liberation, an anti-racism and anti-colonialism activist, and more… What was it about bisexuality that was so easy to dismiss? And once I was aware of my own identity issues, how could I ignore the political aspects of accepting or denying my bisexuality? Was I not collaborating with a system that was oppressing me and others like me?

And as oppression is not my cup of tea… My perceptions had to change.

I can’t actually describe how momentous of a change this was for me. It was a watershed moment, a light bulb switching on, an epiphany… Pick your phrase, but I simply cannot overstate the significance, because this wasn’t just about bisexuality, it was a defining moment for me in understanding my own belief systems – that I have a radical rather than liberal political viewpoint, and that I had gained new critical lenses with which to examine all power relations. It led to a redefining of my feminism, my activism, my gender identity, my participation in other groups’ activism as an ally… It changed my life, and there is no going back. My activism has taken on an entirely different aspect, whether online or in “real life”, and as a result I have come to recognize that I have strength and influence I never imagined.

But what does this have to do with the book?

I don’t think my personal story is unique. I think there are many of us out there, people with non-normative sexual and gender identities, who find each other mostly online, and there share information and experiences and political ideas. I think we gather knowledge and awareness like berries, sometimes in abundance sometimes scraping from scarcity, but always searching and not necessarily knowing everything we might want to about developing ideas or even history, or just the state of things. Or simply getting information in a form or in an order we can digest. So sometimes we gain understanding, sometimes we don’t, it can be hit and miss, and there isn’t one central place in which we can start at the beginning (say, what is bisexuality, anyway?) and then move on to more advanced concepts and tools.

In my view, Bi: Notes for a Bisexual Revolution is the first time all this knowledge has been collected into one place, in a clear and coherent way, defining not only what bisexuality is and is not, but also the societal forces that influence attitudes towards bisexuals, and their consequences. What it has taken me a couple of painstaking years to learn and internalize, Eisner has brilliantly collated into a comprehensive, yet readable book, accompanied by her own unique analysis. While the book certainly deals with advanced concepts, it takes care to define them, and is geared to be an accessible and useful tool for both beginners and those more deeply involved in bisexual discourse.

So why should you read the book?

First of all, you are guaranteed to learn something new, or get a new perspective on familiar topics. For example, even the most basic question of how bisexuality is defined is not free from disagreement, controversy, and political significance, and the book’s explanations are very illuminating. And that is just the beginning – the book introduces many other concepts we should all know, from monosexism to bisexual erasure to gender subversion… Even familiar terms are explored in a way that uncovers their revolutionary potential and places them in contexts that are both surprising and revealing.

In addition, you will learn about issues surrounding bisexuality – such as how bisexuals are disproportionately and detrimentally affected in terms of health, finances, and sexual violence. The book also discusses how bisexuality and the bisexual struggle intersect with, and are influenced by, other oppressions and struggles (there are entire chapters on bisexuality and feminism, bi and trans, bisexuality and the homo-centric gay movement, and bisexuality and racialization).

Finally, you will also gain tools for understanding and dealing with some of the challenges and concepts presented – such as deconstructing common biphobic stereotypes and tropes (bisexuality doesn’t exist, bisexuals are just confused, bisexuals are really either gay or straight, bisexuals spread diseases, bisexuals are inherently unfaithful, and more).

Book Quote: Transgender and Bi and intertwining ideas

But perhaps what most appeals to me is that while Eisner certainly does instruct, the book in no way comes to excuse or to defend: Eisner is unapologetic and even aggressive in her insistence on the inherent legitimacy of bisexual identity and community, without seeking approval from any external source; moreover – in seeing the subversive and intrinsically revolutionary potential of bisexuality, as a challenging force to oppressive, binary, mono- and cis-sexist, hegemonic cultures.

I feel extremely validated by the very existence of this book. I like it very much when things I know, or believe in, or strive for, are put in writing and can be referenced. I like learning new things and being challenged to see things in new ways. And I feel very privileged to have been a part of the community Eisner uses as her point of reference and example in this very important document.

Oh! – and I am not recommending this book only to bisexuals and other non-monosexuals… My ardent wish would be for all “normative” (monosexuals and cisgender) people to read this book. Perhaps they would begin to become aware of how they contribute to the oppression of others, even if they are doing so in the most unintentional way.

***

* Since that time, we have also met socially and have done activism together.

The bisexual umbrella