As we gear up to celebrate Women’s History Month in March, we realize this year has an even bigger significance that previous years, mainly because of the political climate we live in. Here in the United States, we just saw the election of Donald Trump, who won (the electoral college, not the popular vote) by denigrating women, a disabled reporter, Muslims, Mexicans, and more.
His opponent, Hillary Clinton, was on the receiving end of some vicious character attacks which underscored the ugly way sexism is used as a political tool to defeat women in a system where they are not equally represented. Nevertheless, she made history by becoming the first major party nominee for president, and although she didn’t win, her 3 decades of work in public office will no doubt inspire many other girls to get into politics.
Hillary Clinton was certainly not the first prominent woman to run for office in the United States, and she joins a list of pioneer women around the world and throughout history who have made a name for themselves defying gender and cultural constraints and breaking barriers to forge new pathways for future female generations.
Sadly, there are many amazing women throughout history whose names and stories are not told with as much enthusiasm as those of men. But one artist is making sure that young girls get to be exposed to these icons in a new illustration series. Rori, whose Tumblr account is Rori Comics, is the artist behind ‘100 Days, 100 Women’ where she seeks to fill in the blanks that appear in school text books. Upworthy writer Parker Molloy recently featured Rori’s artwork and spoke about the importance of bringing greater visibility to historical women who are often forgotten or pushed by the wayside in favor of men, with one figure in particular.
“In 1968, Shirley Chisholm became the first African-American woman elected to Congress in U.S. history. Four years later, she ran for president. It’s a bit embarrassing, but I’ll admit that her name didn’t immediately ring a bell to me. Growing up, even as a self-described history buff, I don’t recall ever seeing Chisholm’s name in a textbook. That’s a problem,” writes Parker.
If a self-described history buff and writer struggled to recall who Shirley Chisholm was, imagine the disservice we as a nation are doing to our younger minds by not exposing them to the work of barrier-breakers like Shirley. Rori told Upworthy she is using her artistic talent to give these women the recognition they deserve.
“She’s not well known. That’s a shame, but really common. People do great things and history forgets them. Maybe their story is seen as a side-note, or doesn’t fit smoothly into the narrative,” she said.
We are at a pivotal moment in our culture, where girls need inspiring role models more than ever. What Rori is creating is more than simply a great art project, it is an important piece of the resistance that is growing every day against the hateful, divisive and sexist rhetoric that was given the main stage with the words of someone like Donald Trump.
Rori recalled her own childhood where she wasn’t exposed to the kind of iconic female role models she has been drawing today, and decided to embark on a research project to find women who even she had not previously heard of.
“The more I found figures that truly resonated with me, the more confident and inspired I felt!” she told Upworthy.
She ended up finding 150 women altogether and decided to cut out some of the already well-known names, such as Joan of Arc, in favor of women like Wilma Mankiller, the first female chief of the Cherokee Nation, and Native American and Women’s Rights activist.
There is a distinct intersectional aspect to ‘100 Days, 100 Women’ which we really love, as history books have a way of not only favoring the male story, but also the Caucasian one. Featured throughout the many images released so far, which can be found on her Tumblr account, are African American, Latina, Asian American, Pakistani, Asian, African, Indian, Burmese, European, and many more women whose stories are as incredible as they are inspiring.
These women are leaders, activists, journalists, fighters, politicians, writers, queens, militants, mathematicians, and revolutionaries, just to name a few career paths. As Rori continues to release the images from the series, you can read about each one in a mini history lesson which is a perfect lead-up to Women’s History Month.
We all dream of a world where women’s voices, struggles, lives, and choices are given equal space to be expressed in society. Unfortunately we are nowhere near that place yet, but with artists like Rori who are part of the growing female empowerment and modern feminist movement utilizing digital technology, that is changing.
Rori is certainly not alone in her quest to use art as a means to give visibility to women. Not to long ago we featured the work of Minnesota-based artist and teacher Julie Van Grohl, whose illustration Series ‘100 Days of Badass Babes’ was her way of sharing about inspiring women from around the globe with her audience and students.
Other notable feminist art series we think are extremely dope are Andre Veloux’s ‘Building Blocks of Change’, a series challenging the stereotypical and often narrow depictions of women in society, and Indian artist Priyanka Paul who reimagined historical Indian goddesses as modern feminist heroes.
Art has a way of speaking to the multitudes in a way politics and academia cannot. We are encouraged to see numerous artists using their talents and voices to break through the cultural norms that seek to hold women back, and instead give them the platform they so rightly deserve.