The trending #metoo that is flooding social media has led to the creation of a haunting image by Brooklyn based graphic designer and artist, Victoria Siemer, better known as Witchoria. The image has been received with appreciation by women the world over. It has been reposted on your social media feed at least once and features on my personal timeline. What is #metoo all about? Why is it important and why has Victoria created this image featuring a foggy desolate landscape illuminated with a number of “Me Too” neon lights going into the distance? Let’s review.
Victoria’s ethereal image has cast a visual identity to the choir of status updates posted by women all over the globe. It is a general consensus that the #metoo movement was sparked by a Twitter Update Alyssa Milano created that reads, “Suggested by a friend: If all the women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote ‘Me too’ as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem.” Victoria in an interview with Format Magazine, however, states that the ‘Me Too’ campaign was started by the activist Tarana Burke ten years prior to the recent social media whiplash.
“While it’s cool Milano helped make this into a viral phenomena, you have to give credit to the woman who has been working on this cause for a decade. Burke created ‘Me Too’ as a campaign to aid sexual assault survivors in underprivileged communities where rape crisis centres and sexual assault workers weren’t going. She launched this website: www.metoo.support.”
Victoria expresses that she does not often participate in these types of viral campaigns as she feels that frequently the content creators for these campaigns are promoted and not the cause itself. Like most of us, social media users Victoria went onto Facebook one morning and saw a friend of hers sharing a personal account of rape. Her friend’s personal account was met with aggressive attacks by ‘not all men’ trolls.
“And I saw more and more and more stories and it really clicked that I don’t know any women who didn’t have a story. I was forced to reflect on the things that have happened to me, that has happened to nearly all of us. Honestly, I was fucking livid. And so I created the piece in sort of an emotional frenzy.”
She explains her choice for making her hi-res image available for reposting as a decision she made because of a desire to let her own pain out yet is inclusive of the pain of other femme beings.
“I shot the photo this past spring in the Marin Headlands during a photography residency. I picked it specifically because it matched the tone of what I wanted to create, but because I was also terrified when I shot it. There was this distinct moment when I had ventured down a trail quite far and realized I was completely alone. And I had to figure out if it was worth putting myself in a potentially dangerous situation for ‘the shot’ or if I should turn around and quickly go back to a more public place. I was spooked. I grew up in a place where women get raped and killed on bike paths was fairly commonplace. A woman in Queens last year was brutally murdered jogging through an area that was eerily similar to the one I was shooting in.”
When asked about the unapologetically female tone of her work and if she ever fears being stigmatized, Victoria responds in the following words, “My whole thing is putting it all out there, and because I am a woman, a lot of the experiences that I share through my artwork naturally have that feminine tone/energy in them. I can’t control how that’s interpreted and I really don’t care if that stigmatizes me. I used to fear vulnerability and one day just said “Fuck it” and started letting it all out, no filter. It was the first time I was making work entirely for myself and I didn’t give a heck if other people didn’t like it. It was really liberating. Now that raw openness is a fundamental part of my identity as an artist. I think the reason my artwork has been so well received and has grown the audience it has, is because we’re all human and a lot of experiences are universal. We’re all in this together. And to be honest, if you’re not in it with the rest of us, feel free to unfollow.”
Victoria’s response to this question posed by Format Magazine is powerful and liberating. The fact that we all know women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted is an incredibly painful reality that has been silenced for too long. Like Victoria is unapologetic with her femme voice so must all of us females. Do not allow yourself to be silenced as so many of us have been. I do hope that #metoo has brought some insight to the men who for some reason tried to make this campaign about them when there is a way bigger picture and problem at hand. Thanks for the visual identity Witchoria, it resonates deeply.