ԻՐԱՎՈՒՆՔՆԵՐ, ՈՉ ԾԱՂԻԿՆԵՐ (2017-2020)
RIGHTS, NOT FLOWERS
About: an Armenian feminist digital campaign, turned t-shirt printing campaign to raise money for the FemLibrary in Yerevan, for International Women’s Day.
Skills and Processes: illustrator; screenprinting onto paper and fabric.
The Women’s Resource Centre in Yerevan asked me to create a poster for International Women’s Day (March 8th), 2017. They were organising a march around Yerevan and a concert to raise money for the Sexual Assault Crisis Center, both of which I wrote about for Hetq, and they asked me to create a design for a poster for the concert.
Though International Women’s Day has its origins in labour movements and organising, starting in Russia on March 8, 1917, when women went on strike in Saint Petersburg - protests which would go on to spark the Russian Revolution. In Armenia however, it is celebrated as a second Valentine’s Day: it is heralded by an inundation of advertisements and public events, all of which promote ideals of traditional heterosexual romantic relationships and femininity.
This hegemonic ideal is epitomised in the modern custom of men giving flowers to women on this day. Armenian feminists, however, refuse to let this way of celebrating womanhood dominate societal discourse on March 8. For them, this day retains its original historical meaning of demanding rights for women.
To celebrate this long history of protest and revolution, I developed a design that I felt reflected the strength of these activists to continue their work of demanding rights, not flowers.
To show the frustration and anger of feminist activists who demand rights, I utilised the clenched fist, internationally symbolising revolution, workers’ rights, anti-fascism, freedom, and solidarity. I decided to have it destroying some flowers to show that women in Armenia no longer wish to receive flowers on March 8th, but reclaim the day’s original meaning of fighting for freedom.
This design helped me learn illustrator, and prompted me to start to develop a more abstract style. Here is my first draft however, using the Center’s slogan of Ես կին եմ, հավես ա (I am a woman, it’s cool).
I was however not happy with this very literal visual interpretation of the idea, and, inspired by more abstract shapes and colours of Matisse and Memphis design, I redesigned it. This visual interpretation has more energy and power.
final design and t-shirt printing
On March 8th, I published my design on Facebook, and it was wildly popular, gaining over 300 shares and becoming well-known in the diaspora.
The following year, when learning how to screen-print, I realised how perfectly the strong visual image would go with my design, and printed t-shirts and posters, which I went on to sell to raise money to save the FemLibrary in Yerevan. The design continues to be widely shared even now, three years later.