CP: Mixed into the positive comments I saw what I assumed were snarky troll comments about men being persecuted by women. Then I started thinking about it, and about my seven year old son. He's a kind, empathetic child who loves his jazz dance classes, and I've had a fear that at some point his peers will start teasing him. I noticed something almost as soon as I started brainstorming the insults I've heard directed toward boys and men" at least half of them were related to bringing down a male by comparing him to a female. This is a problem and it is one that I only rarely see addressed within the scope of feminism. We need to empower young women, but we also need to work on the societal problem of using femininity as an insult. Men and boys are insulted and teased in this manner by both males and females. This is the big reason I followed up my first piece with a male version. We need to be aware of how much power language has to create our perception of the place people have in our society. If being feminine is considered an insult for males, that means it is in our societal subconscious to rank females below males. Females are equal to, not less than men, and being called female should never be an insult. Men who choose paths in life that are traditionally considered feminine should not be teased or insulted for it, just as females who choose traditionally male paths shouldn't be harassed for their choices. Equality comes from all directions, and I thought that was important to address.
JB: Agreed! How has your sudden fame affected you and will it change the way you do or distribute your art going forward?
CP: It's surreal. I went from being an anonymous indie writer to a known artist literally overnight and the first couple days were a chaotic barrage of messages and notifications. I have generalized anxiety disorder, so it was a bit of a jolt to my system. It has calmed down significantly now so I can breathe. I've been overwhelmed and humbled and virtually embraced by thousands of comments and stories and it's still hard for me to believe that a simple drawing I posted on my Facebook page had the power to affect so many. I love seeing all the personalized variations of my original concept. In fact, I've encouraged people to do their own. I don't want to misrepresent another person's point of view, so when people asked me to do versions from perspectives I didn't know enough about, I encouraged them to go ahead and make their own to share. It has really become a collaborative art project, and therapeutic one.
Going forward, I'm doing something I've never done before. I was overwhelmed with requests for prints and there was no way I could handle making and shipping myself, so I set up a store on Zazzle. https://www.zazzle.com/keep_persisting It's a work in progress, and not everything I've made that's available is listed on the storefront yet. I had to switch the content filter to "moderate" because I didn't want the language to get anything flagged. I decided early on to turn this into a charity project, with all proceeds benefiting The Trevor Project and The Midnight Mission. It took me a while to choose the organizations, but I kept going back to those two because they help people out of hard times and dark places and give them the tools to keep persisting.
I'm still trying to keep up my pace of a drawing or so a day. I'm currently working on one that's taking me a little time to figure out the layout, and I'm going to be collaborating with friends on a new Persisted piece in the near future.
JB: What a great idea, on all levels! Does the unexpectedly huge reaction to your art and the resultant buzz give you more hope as we look ahead?
CP: Yes. I was in a dark mindset after the election and my anxiety wasn't making that any easier. Now, I see people from many different walks of life finding their voices and knowing they are not alone. They're finding out just how strong they are as well as recognizing that we need to collectively shift our approach the language. The old idiom of "sticks and stones" really isn't true. Words have power and how we speak to and treat each other ends up making up the foundation of our society. We're becoming more aware of how the words we choose to speak affect others while also knowing we are capable of persevering when ill-intentioned or even well-meaning but thoughtless words are cast at us. Art matters, language matters, and most of all, people matter.
JB: Amen to that. Thanks so much for talking with me, Courtney. It's been a total pleasure. Good luck to you!