The Illustrated Woman: Female Power Posters

This has been a big year for public displays of discontent with gender politics and the patriarchy. And women are showing no signs of slowing down ... or shutting up.

SOME OF THE MOST ICONIC IMAGES OF 2017, ones that will make it into hundreds of American history books, will be the many creative, angry and acerbic posters on display at multiple Women’s Marches around the world.

However, the history of signs and slogans created to empower and politicize women goes back much further than just January. One of the most important 20th century contributions to feminist poster art came by way of the London-based feminist collective See Red Woman’s Workshop, founded in 1974 with an agenda to “...combat the images of the ‘model woman’ which are used by capitalist ideology to keep women from disputing their secondary status or questioning their role in a male dominated society.”

Inspired by the recent publication of a book documenting some of See Red’s most powerful work from the 1970s and 80s, we asked seven contemporary female artists to create political posters that feel especially relevant to the female experience today. Not surprisingly, it turns out that women are facing many of the exactly same issues as their forebears some forty years ago.


“It’s What Your Right Arm’s For” See Red Women’s Workshop
RINEE SHAH I live in San Francisco, home to some of the biggest tech companies of our generation. I'm constantly disappointed in stories about the low numbers of women engineers, sexual harassment from managers and VCs, and gender wage gaps at companies that claim to have progressive values. It seems insane to me that we could still be battling these issues in 2017. 
OLA NIEPSUJ I am enjoying the growing popularity of feminist discussions. Although I believe that women are as powerful as men, I feel like we need a visionary leader and highly supportive “sisterhood” to change the way women’s strength is perceived. My inspiration came from a quote that I incorporated into my poster: “Empowered women empower women,” a quote that appeared on handmade signs during the “black protests” against a proposed abortion ban in my motherland, Poland. Despite gloomy weather, women in black took to the streets in numbers bigger than expected to shift public opinion on the issue. Guess what? We succeeded. I believe that coming together could challenge every assumption about women and help us stand up for ourselves.
INÉS ESTRADA We are currently living in a time when technology allows us to do things that were impossible just a few decades ago. Whether someone should be denied their right to make a responsible choice should not be up for debate. Not all women want to be mothers, and really, why should they? Just as men are free to do with their lives as they wish, so should everyone else be.
KELSEY WROTEN A topic that, for me, is at the forefront of contemporary cultural issues important to women is the expansion and enrichment of the concept of "womanness" itself. Women are growing and struggling together against the various forces of oppression that affect our lives. That's why it's crucial and nonnegotiable that we support and recognize the needs, gifts, and experiences of all our sisters, not just our cis-ters. I'd also like to give credit to my partner, Allyson Peck, a lettering artist and designer, who collaborated with me on this piece. 
PANTEHA ABARESHI Growing up, I remember being taught that there was so much value to be placed on how attractive you were to other people. I chose to focus my piece on the (hyper)sexualization of women because the standards I was told to adhere to were projections of Eurocentric, male-driven fantasies, and it has always been hard for me to escape the feeling that I am seen as a piece of meat—boiled down to my body as a whole, and then even further down, to just a summation of body parts. Whether it's sexual assault or victim-blaming, or violence against trans* women and gender-nonconforming individuals, the misogyny that is intrinsically interlaced with the sexualization of women and their bodies is something I, and all women, have had to fight against, truthfully since forever. As someone who personally identifies on the spectrum of asexuality and aromanticism, it is so disturbing to me when I see (hyper)sexualization inserted into situations and interactions in day-to-day life. It really and truly makes me feel like those who are watching me are carving off pieces of my body and wolfing them down, like ravenous, insatiable beasts. I am not something to be consumed. I am not here for the pleasures of others. My body is my form, my body is my vessel. It is mine, and mine alone.
ANDREA VON BUJDOSS The proclamation "We the People" is hypocrisy if women's rights are not treated as human rights. Our myriad roles as mothers, workers, leaders, teachers, artists, visionaries, sisters, and empathetic problem-solvers have woven the fabric of all societies. We should be celebrated and honored as equals, always.
SHANTI SPARROW My mum, who is a high-ranking state crisis manager in Australia, has been a nurse since the ’70s, an era in which men were paid more purely because they were men. As she has continued in her career, she has noticed that the higher she goes, the less female representation there is. She has become a role model for many new generations of nurses. Unfortunately, the gender balance in positions of power is still very unequal. Thanks to people like my mum, young nurses can see that it is possible to aim high and succeed.
HELEN EUNHWA OH I made an image about women's looks. In my daily life, sometimes I feel that there is some invisible regulation for women's outfits. For example, women have to remove their body hair to be smooth and shiny-looking; they have to be skinny, pretty, sexy, and feminine, etc. However, there are so many different women with diverse cultures, characteristics, and tastes. Some people like tomboy styles; some like hip-hop styles; some like to be really sexy and cute. Even if they do not wear really girly clothes or try to be “feminine,” they are all women. Their own unique styles should be respected no matter what.

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