The Internet can be a dangerous place as a feminist - with endless trolls, haters, and general Internet bullies amass to hurl insults at you. The discovery of Ambivalently Yours, a Tumblr page/artist/all round great human totally changed my opinion on what the Internet can do - as she brings together like-minded feminists in a supportive and encouraging space.
Ambivalently Yours describes herself as “feminist rants / questionable advice / too much pink” - and this is essentially what her site is, but not quite. How it works is you can submit a question to her Tumblr page [click HERE], and she will get to writing an answer to you, and may even use your story/question as inspiration for an art piece. She’s inspirational and in addition, her art is totally beautiful.
She also has an online store, where you can buy some of her images on mugs, wall-prints, or just about anything else you so desire - click HERE to check them out [and I would 100% recommend everything on here].
We spoke to Ambivalently Yours via e-mail about feminism, the Internet, and more…
COUP DE MAIN: I was reading your post on Facebook yesterday about the story behind The Uncool Collection, and I have so much respect for you that you stuck with your vision, and didn’t dilute your work for pure commercialism. How important is it to you to remain ‘yourself’ through your art, especially in a time where feminism is often tied with commercialism by brands?
AMBIVALENTLY YOURS: When I used to work in fashion, I used my creative skills to illustrate other people’s ideas (whether I agreed with them or not), and there were times where the entire process felt really icky. I didn’t like that I was contributing to something that I did not believe in. Now that I am focusing on my own work, it is very important to me that my content remain honest and undiluted. As you mentioned, feminism is being scooped up by large companies as a sales pitch, and while I applaud these companies for trying to use more positive approaches, there is something very manipulative about the whole process. Part of me struggles with the financial burden of being an independent artist, and the fear of not making ends meet sometimes entices me to want to jump on the trendy feminist bandwagon. Then I remember what it felt like when I didn’t believe in the product I was creating, and how much more important it is to make work that you care about. I am still struggling to find the right balance between cashing in and selling out, but my bottom line is that the art has to always be more important than its commercial potential.
CDM: The phrases you’ve come up with alongside your art are so meaningful - my personal favourites are ‘If you don’t know my pain, you don’t know my strength,' and ‘Her success is not your failure.’ What inspires you to come up with these phrases?
AMBIVALENTLY YOURS: Most of the drawings I post are responses to messages that people write to me on Tumblr. I spend a lot of time reading and re-reading their letters and try to relate their struggles to my own, or to empathise while remembering that it is impossible to really know how someone else feels. None of my drawings and words are about telling people what to do or think, but rather they seek to inspire people to look at their questions from a different perspective.
CDM: Your work is so important in an online setting as it raises awareness about feminism. What are your thoughts on where feminism is today?
AMBIVALENTLY YOURS: Unsurprisingly, I’m a little ambivalent about the status of feminism today. In the last few years, feminism has become really trendy, especially with people like Beyoncé and Taylor Swift speaking up for women’s rights and unapologetically calling themselves feminists. This popularity does worry me a little, because as we know all trends tend to be quite fickle, and often things that are presented in the mainstream with too much enthusiasm tend to be a little oversimplified. But I don’t think that this mainstream embrace of feminism is all bad. I’ve read many articles calling out pop stars for not being “real feminists” just because their version of feminism isn’t at the level of a graduate scholar, yet I wonder if this kind of criticism is looking at the situation from the wrong angle. I don’t think people like Beyoncé and Taylor Swift are trying to offer anyone an in-depth understanding of feminist theory, but they do have the power to inspire a lot of people to want to learn more about feminism. To quote Kathleen Hanna: “I understand people being like, "We don't want feminism to become this fashion that has nothing behind it." But I'm not really worried about that. When somebody that's a huge megastar that has so many young fans, like Taylor Swift or Miley Cyrus or Beyoncé, comes out and says, "I'm a feminist," I mean, that's the sound of hundreds of thousands of girls typing the word into the Internet.”
CDM: I love that you embrace the fact you love pink - something you say is associated with the patriarchal domination of women - it reminds me of buying toys or games for children, and the fact that there are still such distinctions between boys toys and girls toys. Why do you think that colours and particular toys are still so gendered in society?
AMBIVALENTLY YOURS: I think it is really difficult to change things that are engrained in us since childhood, and gendering toys is an excellent way to teach children all about the gender roles that this society expects us to embody. I remember as a young girl having a tomboy phase where I only wanted to wear boy clothes and play with boy things, and I wanted to change my name to a boy’s name. In retrospect, it’s a little sad that I felt that I could only be a boy by doing boy things or a girl by doing girl things, instead of being a little bit of both. That is how I feel now about the colour pink. In art school, a few faculty members told me that I had to let go of my girly aesthetic if I wanted to make powerful feminist art, but instead I decided to make the pink powerful. I decided to be both pink-clad and a feminist, to have my cake and eat it too.
CDM: What do you want people to take away from seeing and sharing your work?
AMBIVALENTLY YOURS: I want to encourage people to question the things they’ve taken for granted, especially the things that make them feel bad about themselves, like gender roles and body ideals as portrayed in the media. I also want people to feel less alone in their struggles, to have that moment when they see what someone else is doing and say: “You get me!”
CDM: After your 91 days of drawing project ended, you said that, “Feminism is tricky, art is tricky, the Internet is tricky, people are tricky.” Why do you think it is important, as a feminist, to constantly be learning and bettering your understanding of the world?
AMBIVALENTLY YOURS: The world is constantly changing and evolving, which means that movements like feminism need to keep adapting to the current political climate. Furthermore, everyone experiences and needs feminism in different ways. Our experiences differ depending on age, race, religion, geographical location, economic status, etc, so it is important to remember that our experiences are not universal and that there is value in discussing these differences. But as I mentioned, it is tricky, and mistakes are made, which is why we have to keep learning and keep refining what it means to be a feminist.
CDM: Is your short-film project still going to go ahead?
AMBIVALENTLY YOURS: Yes, my next big project is a short-film about my work as Ambivalently Yours and the amazing people I have met and collaborated with along the way. If all goes well I will launch it next Spring. Stay tuned!