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.


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.


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.


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… 🙂


Thank YOU!


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

Tel Aviv Slutwalk 2013

This year I decided to organize the Tel Aviv Slutwalk. Last year, the event was sabotaged by the police (and the weather), while this year a non-feminist organization tried to co-opt the Slutwalk to promote their own political agenda… All very vexing, and so I decided that the event would be safer in my radical little hands.

One of the added values my cohorts and I are trying to bring about in this year’s march is to underline how rape culture affects absolutely everyone, but also how voices that are often silenced anyway, are doubly or triply silenced when it comes to sexual violence. So we’ve invited women from all walks of life, from different ethnicities, refugees, trans* folk, people who are discriminated against for being deaf or in a wheelchair or for any other disability, fat women, lesbian and bisexual women, young and old women… And so on – to share a text saying why she needs the slutwalk. We make a poster of it, and put it on the event page. The results have been nothing short of amazing. The images are in Hebrew, so here is just one sample (though you can see the entire album here if you’d like):

As a teen, I need the Slutwalk because the fact that my breasts have developed does not mean that anyone has the right to mention it all the time, or to touch my breasts. Because I’m tired of all the adults around me interfering with my sexual life, and thinking that is legitimate. As a teen, I have not yet entirely learned how to say no, or to run away or protect myself, and I find myself just freezing in shock and waiting for someone to come by and help me.

As a teen, this is my opportunity to learn to say no, before I get used to being harassed.

I usually do not do any type of fundraising on this blog… But today I decided to make an exception. This event is just that important to me. I set up a page for anyone who want to buy a tank top for the event, or just make a donation. So I thought I’d open up the opportunity here as well, on the off-chance that someone here wants to support this effort. 

The funds will go towards signage and such, and any leftovers will be sent to our sister slutwalks in other cities.

  Donate here, or check out the page with the shirt for sale. Not sure what I would do with international orders for an actual shirt, I guess it depends on the amount of the donation 🙂 The shirt without shipping is about $8-10. So I guess I would send it to you for a donation of $20 and above. Just let me know!

The Revolution Will Not Be Polite: The Issue of Nice versus Good

Rachael from the Social Justice League does it again, with this brilliant post about why it is a mistake to confuse “niceness” with “social justice”.

Slightly abridged version here; you can read the whole post via the provided link.


Social justice is about destroying systematic marginalisation and privilege. Wishing to live in a more just, more equal world is simply not the same thing as wishing to live in a “nicer” world. I am not suggesting niceness is bad or that we should not behave in a nice way towards others if we want to! I also do not equate niceness with cooperation or collaboration with others. Here’s all I am saying: the conflation of ethical or just conduct (goodness), and polite conduct (niceness) is a big problem.

Plenty of oppressive bullshit goes down under the guise of nice. Every day, nice, caring, friendly people try to take our bodily autonomy away from us (women, queers, trans people, nonbinaries, fat people, POC…you name it, they just don’t think we know what’s good for us!). These people would hold a door for us if they saw us coming. Our enemies are not only the people holding “Fags Die God Laughs” signs, they are the nice people who just feel like marriage should be between a man and a woman, no offense, it’s just how they feel! We once got a very nice comment on this site that we decided we could not publish because its content was “But how can I respect women when they dress like – sorry to say it, pardon my language – sluts?”. This is vile, disgusting misogyny and no amount of sugar coating and politeness can make it okay. Similarly, most of the people who run ex-gay therapy clinics are actually very nice and polite! They just want to save you! Nicely! Clearly, niceness means FUCK ALL.

On an even more serious note, nice people also DO horrible bad things on an individual level. In The Gift of Fear by Gavin De Becker, he explicitly says that people who intend to harm others often display niceness towards them in order to make them feel safe and let their guard down. This trick only works because we have been taught that niceness indicates goodness. What is more, according to De Becker, women have been socially conditioned to feel indebted to men who are “nice” to them, which is often exploited by abusers. If this doesn’t seem obvious to you, I suggest you pick up the book – it talks a lot about how socialisation of men and women makes it easier for men to abuse women.

How many more acts that reinforce kyriarchy have to be done nicely and politely before we stop giving people any credit for niceness? Does the niceness of these acts make them acceptable? It does not.

An even bigger issue is that if people think social justice is about niceness, it means they have fundamentally misunderstood privilege. Privilege does not mean you live in a world where people are nice to you and never insult you. It means you live in a world in which you, and people like you, are given systematic advantages over other people. Being marginalised does not mean people are always nasty to you, it means you live in a world in which many aspects of the cultural, social and economic systems are stacked against people like you. Some very privileged people have had awful experiences in life, but it does not erase their privilege. That is because privilege is about groups of people being given different rights and opportunities by the law and by socio-cultural norms. Incidentally, that is why you can have some forms of privilege and not others, and it doesn’t make sense to try to “tally up” one’s privilege into a sum total and compare it against others’.

The conflation of nice and good also creates an avenue of subtle control over marginalised people. After all, what is seen as “nice” is cultural and often even class-dependent, and therefore the “manners” that matter get to be defined by the dominant ethnic group and class. For example, the “tone” argument, the favourite derailing tactic of bigots everywhere, is quite clearly a demand that the oppressor be treated “nicely” at all times by the oppressed – and they get to define what “nice” treatment is. This works because the primacy of nice in our culture creates a useful tool – to control people and to delegitimise their anger. A stark example of this is the stereotype of the desirably meek and passive woman, which is often held over women’s heads if we step out of line. How much easier is it to hold on to social and cultural power when you make a rule that people who ask for an end to their own oppression have to ask for it nicely, never showing anger or any emotion at being systematically disenfranchised? (A lot easier.)

Furthermore, I think the confusion of meanness with oppression is the root cause of why bigots feel that calling someone a “bigot” is as bad as calling someone a “tranny” or taking away their rights. You know, previously I thought they were just being willfully obtuse, but now I realise what is going on. For example, most racists appear to feel that calling POC a racist slur is a roughly equal moral harm to POC calling them a “racist fuckhead”. That’s because they do not understand that using a racist slur is bad in any sense other than it hurts someone’s feelings. And they know from experience that it hurts someone’s feelings to be called racist douche.

So if you – the oppressed – hurt someone’s feelings, you’re just like the oppressor, right? Wrong. Oppression is not about hurt feelings. It is about the rights and opportunities that are not afforded to you because you belong to a certain group of people. When you use a racist slur you imply that non-whiteness is a bad thing, and thus publicly reinforce a system that denies POC the rights and opportunities of white people. Calling a white person a racist fuckhead doesn’t do any of that. Yes, it’s not very nice. And how effective it is as a tactic is definitely up for debate (that’s a whole other blog post). But it’s not oppression.

Being good and being nice are totally unrelated. We need to get serious about debunking this myth, because the confusion between the two is obfuscating our message and handing our oppressors another tool with which to silence us. In some cases, this confusion is putting people (especially women) in real danger.

This social movement can’t achieve its goals if people think it’s essentially some kind of niceness revolution. And anyway, social justice is not about making the world a nicer place. It’s about taking back the rights and opportunities denied to us by law or by social and cultural norms – and breaking out of the toxic mindset that wants us to say please and thankyou when we do.

via » The Revolution Will Not Be Polite: The Issue of Nice versus Good Social Justice League.