Women Will Change the World; Art as a Means of Resistance

Posted inDesign Inspiration

I have always been drawn to the inherent strength of women and how they handle challenging situations. From a young age, my mom was a powerful force. My father was out working and came back late; meanwhile, my mother dealt with house chores and three restless and hyperactive kids while studying to be a dentist (in the end, she dropped out because of her demanding kids). Later in life, she took a job in sales at a beauty and skincare company and never stopped until retirement. To this day, she is still a role model to me.

I’ve been lucky that relentless, intelligent, and caring women have been part of my life, like my wife, teachers, classmates, clients, and friends. Some have endured great hardships, leaving me in awe of their resilience and willpower, always giving me something to learn.

It’s no surprise that Black Lives Matter was started by three powerful and fearless women that wanted to stop white supremacy and give voice to the Black community while putting a spotlight on racism, inequality, and discrimination. A movement that became international and set a new course on how quickly a disciplined organization can spread its message to the world through technology, particularly social media.

I come from Mexico, where, unfortunately, women have been mistreated and abused with different kinds of gender-based violence—emotional, physical, sexual, and mental abuse, or a combination thereof.

Lately, women have increasingly expressed their discontent and anger, demanding fair and equitable treatment in the workforce, and of course, not to be passed over, ignored, or worse, killed. From January to November 2021, 842 femicides have occurred with impunity, a 5% rise from that same period in 2020. Why wouldn’t they speak up, right?

I’m fascinated at how Latin American women have been so creatively intelligent and employed the power of unity to bring attention and boost awareness to this sensitive subject. Illustrators like Día Pacheco (Mexico), Yuyi Morales (Mexico), Sarah Jones (Argentina), Emanuela Jaramillo (Colombia), and Camila Rosa (Brazil), among many others, have done it beautifully.

Their visual and written messages are always compelling, and they invite their audiences to engage through action and unity—different styles, but with the same goal.

Emanuela Jaramillo is always strong and inclusive in her commentary and work. Her typographic use is clear, going from simple handwriting to a more elaborate form of collage. But she brings awareness to different kinds of gender violence, conveying empowering messages like “I’m sexual but not your sexual object” or “We want to live not to survive.

What I enjoy most about Día Pacheco is the colorful inclusion of references to an authentic Mexico, using elements like Talavera, Papel Picado, or her organic shapes taken from our ancestral plants. All that makes her work recognizable, especially with her quirky illustration style.

Another great example is LAS TESIS, a Chilean women’s rights movement and performance art group started in 2018 with an intense and creative concept, “El violador eres tú” (the rapist is you).

The protest song and dance quickly became popular in many countries, with powerful lyrics telling a story of how women have lived under patriarchy: “Fault was not mine, nor where I was, nor what I wore.” They also flew to the US to support a women’s rights march in Washington back in 2020 and then traveled to other cities, always with massive support.

What Las Tesis have achieved with performance art as a way of resistance reminds me of the effect that tenacity, conviction, and storytelling have.

As an added note, thinking of Latin American feminism, I have to mention Frida Kahlo, the famous creative soul most known for her paintings. Her artistic career transpired at the beginning of the 20th century, all while being overshadowed by her world-famous husband Diego Rivera; she never fully got the credit she so rightfully deserved during her lifetime.

Frida stood out for her “I am who I am” attitude and painted herself the way she was, with her well-known unibrow and mustache and paying no mind to gender stereotypes. She also got involved in politics, a role predominantly assigned to men in that era, where she defended indigenous rights. She was even open about her sexuality and was associated with famous men and women, a rare occurrence in those times, particularly in Mexico.

The story of these social movements shows us how little by little different pieces start to “wake up” and join forces for a unified purpose. These women believe that art can change the world, and by pushing back with creativity and support, I’m sure they will.

This column will be dedicated to drawing attention to Latin American creatives and companies excelling at bringing creativity and new ideas to life. Stay tuned for more.

Ricardo Saca is the US and Mexico Managing Partner for Cato Brand Partners, a Global Design and Branding Consultancy. He is a Master in Branding from the School of Visual Arts in New York City and has 20+ years of experience working with a wide range of companies, from startups to airlines. He is an animal lover and a plant-based cyclist.