As a young girl in the 80s who grew up playing sports and legos rather than barbies and dress up, I often felt like I fell outside of the boundaries of conventional gender norms. My role models were often male athletes; not because there weren’t any strong, inspiring women to look up to, but because women who embodied my character just weren’t part of the mainstream cultural dialog at the time. I was called a “tomboy”, as if my driven nature and skinned knees were a sign that I was unfeminine, a sign that I didn’t conform to the expectations of society.
I would occasionally hear the word Feminism being discussed as a teenager, a concept that I only understood as a somewhat controversial idea of a few radical women. Looking back, I wish I had taken the time to seek out those positive female role models that fell outside of what I saw on television and magazines. However, learning about new ideas and new people is sometimes hard to do when you don’t know they should be something you are looking for.
My true introduction to strong female role models came in a dark auditorium in college. As an Art History major with a particular interest in Baroque Art, I was used to seeing paintings from predominantly white men, and then I saw the painting of Judith Slaying Holofernes, by Artemisia Gentileschi, and I was astonished. Not only was she one of the first female artists I had learned about in detail, but she is best known for persevering after a terrible rape as a teenager and painting women throughout history who exhibited both strength and misfortune. She is arguably one of the first Feminists, and her work sparked my desire to learn more.
My love of female artists grew to Cindy Sherman and Frida Kahlo, to Louise Bourgeois and Yayoi Kasuma. I began to pay attention to politics and activism, where I learned about the Suffragettes, Angela Davis, Sandra Day O’Connor, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Coretta Scott King, and Gloria Steinem. It was like a door had been opened in my tomboy soul to show I had been living in a bigger world that I had ever known.
When I had a daughter 12 years ago I promised myself that I would raise her to know that she was enough, that she had the ability to succeed like any one of her peers regardless of her gender, and that she would have female role models that were strong, intelligent, and had the ability to lead. I promised myself that Feminism would be a consistent topic in our house, and that there would always be female examples for her to follow, and that I would do my best to live my life that I would be one of them.
And this is where my Heroes for Her series grew from, an effort to create a visual reminder that women can lead and succeed, create and innovate, overcome and become. Women have an equal right to take up space and be heard.
I’m really excited about this series. I feel like I’m adding a brick to my inspirational parenting wall each time I hang one of these drawings above my daughters bed.
I’m also so grateful that we live in an era were drawings and discussions like these aren’t rare. I don’t ever really hear the term tomboy being used anymore. While our cultural expectations as females isn’t perfect, progress is happening, and I’m so glad my children are here to see it.
I hope you will follow me along in this adventure. My goal is to complete a new drawing of a different inspirational female a month. Prints (and stickers!) will be available here.