By: Diana Corvelle
I first encountered #YesAllWomen years before I joined Twitter, and immediately recognized the shared struggle it gave voice to. The hashtag went viral in the aftermath of the 2014 Isla Vista mass murders, perpetrated by a 22-year-old man whose professed motive for attacking women was “retribution” for a lifetime of sexual rejection. Women responded to the tragedy in force, sharing firsthand experiences with harassment and violence on social media. In the days following the killings, nearly two million examples of misogyny and violence against women were posted matter-of-factly in 140 characters or less. The sheer volume of responses laid bare the massive scope of the problem women face, but it was the granular specificity of individual posts that hit home. Confessional tweets such as “My friend&I *laughed* when we noticed we had both dialed 9-1 on our phones while walking together at night like ‘LOL you too?’ #YesAllWomen” suddenly became part of a national dialogue. Articles from The New York Times, The Guardian, The Washington Post, Time, Slate, Forbes, The New Yorker and others quickly followed. The overall message was clear: #NotAllMen want to harm or denigrate women, but #YesAllWomen must contend with those who do.
I remember scrolling through the #YesAllWomen threads in dark recognition, feeling a mixture of validation and despair. The accounts of harassment, discrimination, violence and fear were seemingly endless, and too familiar. At its core, #YesAllWomen is an earnest entreaty to have the ubiquitous problem of misogyny acknowledged as such. The spontaneous outpouring of specific, personal experiences remains powerful testimony of how thoroughly misogyny permeates society today. It also reminds women that we do not face it alone.
#YesAllWomen/Lover's Eye no. 3 Gouache on cut paper, 7" diameter, 2017 by Diana Corvelle
As an artist, I often combine realistic portraits and cut paper in my work, and this latest series is no exception. The key difference is that it also explicitly tackles endemic misogyny. #YesAllWomen/Lover’s Eyes is a collection of eye portraits of the women in my life, painted in gouache on cut paper, that include written accounts of each woman’s experience with misogyny as told to me personally. In format and aesthetic, these works reference the Victorian tradition of devotional “lover’s eye” miniatures, as well as cut paper valentines of the same period. The decision to include text alongside each eye portrait, however, was directly inspired by the contemporary phenomenon #YesAllWomen.
By embarking on this series, I wanted to create a snapshot of what #YesAllWomen looked like in practice. I began by asking women I knew personally – friends, family, coworkers – to share their experiences with misogyny with me. If the premise behind #YesAllWomen was correct, every woman I asked would have at least one example to share. As it turns out, they had many.
The cultural lightning rod of #YesAllWomen proved that individual voices speaking together have the power to influence, so I paired each eye portrait in my series with a first-person narrative. I have painted several lover’s eye miniatures simply out of love for the tradition, but I specifically chose the format for this project because of its unique ability to convey affection while preserving anonymity. Historically, lover’s eye miniatures were faithful portraits – typically painted in watercolor on ivory or gouache on vellum – that took the form of either devotional or mourning jewelry so the wearer could feel close to loved ones. They also connoted secrecy: only those intimately acquainted with an individual could identify them by a single feature out of context, so lover’s eye miniatures were freely exchanged as symbols of love and devotion within an otherwise repressive Victorian society. Since it is currently a common practice to target women who speak out about misogyny, it was important to me to protect the identities of the women who entrusted me with their personal stories.
#YesAllWomen/Lover's Eye no. 4 Gouache on cut paper, 7" x 8" 2017 By Diana Corvelle
Ideally, this project will honor the women I care about and build on the grassroots success of #YesAllWomen. Women viewing the project could potentially feel less isolated in their private hardships. Men are offered the chance to see how certain male behavior appears through the female gaze. Confronting the actual experiences of individual women makes it impossible to deny that misogyny remains pervasive to this day, and that change is necessary. #YesAllWomen/Lover’s Eyes amplifies the female voices in my direct sphere to illustrate how misogyny impacts women – yes, all women – and confirm the premise behind #YesAllWomen as sound.