And, Still She Persisted: How I Found Inspiration to Keep Fighting For Gender Equality Through a Fog of Feeling Defeated

by Michelle M. Johnson

An accidental double exposure pic of a page
from my upcoming coloring book, Feminism is for Everyone,
completely unfiltered or altered, save for adding my logo.
I'm not a huge fan of using a light board in my work because while I find free-hand drawing incredibly absorbing in a relaxing way, tracing my lines a second time (which is the purpose of a light board in drawing) consumes me in a ridiculously stressful way: I don't breathe properly (subconsciously I hold my breath to be sure my hand copies my original lines smoothly), my brain constantly whispers wicked thoughts ("you're almost there, so watch out - you're gonna screw it up in the next stroke, you know you will, wait for it, wait for it...oops there it is!"), and I have intense anxiety that my eyes aren't seeing my true lines underneath my cover paper properly, so I ink sans glasses, my face hovering inches from my paper and tilted at an bizarre angle to adjust for my astigmatism. Subsequently, the light board stage of my creation process is usually marked by a massive headache at the end of a drawing session. I love this little device (and if you're looking for one, this light board is both inexpensive and reliable) because it has allowed me to conserve paper and time, but it is definitely the stage of my process that feels like a slog, physically; drawing with a light board feels less like art and more like work.

But, in recently inking this page from my upcoming coloring book, Feminism is for Everyone, the two completed drawings, one in ink and one in pencil, fell away from each other while my board's light was still on, and the resulting image took my breath away. I had to stop what I was doing and snap a photo before the accident corrected itself because it was that visually arresting to me.

This double exposure has no filter, and I find it beautifully symbolic, metaphoric even, for the times in which I am finding myself living.

"We Will Rise" is one of the more hopeful and resilient phrases I've chosen to include in this coloring book of signs from the 2017 Women's March. 

"We Will Rise" acknowledges a battle being waged in our country at this moment in time, recognizes that we aren't anywhere near victory, but digs down and digs hard into the root of the mission.

"We Will Rise" reminds me that the journey to true gender equality is a long haul upon which we cannot afford to lose hope.  

I am not immune to losing steam, to feeling like true equality is "just not gonna happen in my lifetime;" I'm getting older, and there are days where my spirit for change, for what is just flat-out right, feels defeated.

Those days have been higher in number lately, as they have for many folks, and I have been coping with that sense of hopelessness with news avoidance (you know, zero media on in the car, keeping away from Facebook not because I don't like people but because I can't stand to be bombarded by everyone sharing the latest headline as if we weren't already the-most-aware-of-current-events society known to human history, tuning out when my son and husband discuss the latest developments in politics, stuff like that, stuff that may seem like being an ostrich, but really it's *my* version of "self-care" because I.can't.handle.it.), long walks and working-lunches spent reading non-fiction on topics that fill my proverbial sails with the proper headwinds to keep.on.keeping.on.

But, damn it, this trick of my light board on this image hit me square in the heart, so much so I may print it out and put it on my fridge: where would I be if my foremothers (and, let's be honest - there have been plenty forefathers, also) lost steam when we as a society lost ground; where would we all be if those who came before us let the times when they felt their age hold them back from believing that change will solidly occur in their lifetime?

To truly rise, there must be layers of support underneath, and in the case of gender equality, those layers are many; I am one of those layers, we all are.

At this insignificant moment, when a work-in-progress coloring page slipped into a distorted visual, creating layers upon layers where before there was just a single set of lines, and caught my attention, that's when it dawned on me how destructively arrogant it was for me to lose hope, lose steam, to feel like "that's just how it is - injustice will always be the majority of the way the world turns," all because I was measuring our societal progress on whether or not I lived to see the moment when women no longer have to fight for basic human rights, when no one does. 

We are all nothing in the grand political/societal scheme of things...and yet we are all everything. Gender equality does not rest on my individual shoulders, nor on anyone else's. Its weight is upon us all, simultaneously and infinitely backwards and forwards in time, in both a clear and unclear fashion, and while I may not live to see its fruition, my continued enthusiasm and belief in the absolute certainty that gender equality *is* achievable is of vital importance. 

The path to justice, to equality, is layered just like this photo I snapped of my drawing. It has clearly and unclearly defined lines, and sometimes it requires a trick-of-the-light for us to see all of those lines and gain a greater understanding of where we exist along that layered collection of lines.

I could take this metaphor deeper and deeper, for sure, but I won't subject you all to further literary analysis (I wasn't an English major for nothing!) - that isn't the point of me taking the time to write this post. I'm writing because I see how we all are feeling - I listen to it, I read it, I infer it from body language and facial expressions - and it is how I have been feeling, too. 

And, then a routine task, the switching on of a light board covered with illustrations, gave me the inspiration and renewed resolve to keep working towards this goal, the goal of gender equality, the goal of having the exact same rights as my partner and son, the goal that I set my sights on 26 years ago (How do I know when I became a feminist? Because I know exactly where and when it was: Loyola Marymount University, Introduction to Sociology, Malone Student Center, Los Angeles, CA.). Such a trivial thing, an accidental thing, a thing I wasn't looking for at all renewed my hope and determination. 

It is out there for all of us, inspiration to persist regardless of where along the layers of the rise to equality our lives may be. And, the burden of finding that renewed spark (if you've been feeling as I have lately) is not yours, I think. It will find you when you are least looking for it, probably on accident, much in the fashion of all good, right and true things. 

All you need do is run with it and put it use:)

(ps - thanks for reading, and if you enjoyed it, I'd love to hear from you in the comments:)





Comments

  1. Absolutely, yes! It's too often difficult to keep going, with so many steps backward at times, in the current political climate. Yet there ARE sparks of hope, if we can only see them, grasp them, and make them grow. We all need encouragement and support, from as many good sources as we can find. Thank you for yours!

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    Replies
    1. You are most welcome! And, I thank you for reading this post - it means the world to me:)

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  2. 💓💓💓💓💓
    I am not in a place to be creative right now. But I know the day will come and I will turn to your drawings for comfort. Love all of who you are!

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    1. It will come, slowly. And, I am here for you along all the steps. Thank you for reading my thoughts:)

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