I am thrilled to participate in the Girlhood Poster series, presented by the GDC Vancouver Island chapter. Last week at the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, a group of 8 graphic designers launched poster designs in celebration of Girlhood at an evening presentation. This was a very special design project for me, as I have two young daughters. I think a lot about how Sadie and Amelia will navigate their own girlhood as they get older and how they will respond if and when they are confronted with gender stereotypes. I hope that as parents, we will have given our daughters the tools to knock down those obstacles with ease and pursue their goals unfazed. Here's an explanation of my approach to this project through an open letter to my oldest daughter, Sadie:
From the moment I heard the words “it’s a girl!” I have been determined to help you and your sister grow up never feeling limited in any way because of your gender.
When you were a baby we dressed you in a rainbow of colours and gave you a range of un-biased toys to play with – puzzles, ponies, babies and forklifts. As a toddler, you chose pink princesses and fairies anyway. And of course, that’s okay too.
At the start of this poster project, the designers were encouraged to collaborate with the girls in our lives. You and your sister are the inspiration in mine and I remember what it’s like to be your age, even though it was nearly 30 years ago and the world has changed a lot since then. Even at your young ages, that world sometimes sends you harmful, inescapable messages. Just the other day, your three-year-old sister, seeking approval, asked you if she looked pretty. I paused and told her that there are many more important things to be, and that it doesn’t matter if you’re pretty or not, to which she indignantly replied, “Yes, it does.” Twas then that the sirens of parental failure were heard throughout the land.
As a mom, I’ve noticed that when an adult is greeting a little girl, he or she often praises an aspect of her appearance – things like: “What a nice dress you have on!” “Doesn’t your hair look cute today!” Know that your self worth is not connected to your body shape, hair colour or clothing. Know that this is a truth of every girl (and every person for that matter) so advocate FOR each other, rather than against.
So, about the poster. Specifically, the black & white and pink one. I chose to use pink, but not for the cliche reasons you might expect - not because pink has historically represented all things feminine. Pink is simply my favourite colour. I wouldn’t have always admitted this out loud, but I have to ask myself why? I would answer green or yellow if asked what my favourite colour was, reluctant to confess that I actually loved pink, as if it carried some kind of unfavourable association, which it shouldn't. Pink is just a colour – it is white added to red and in the dark, like all colours, it doesn’t even exist. Colour is not meaningless, but all I’m saying is that I love pink and I no longer apologize for it.
There are many photos of you in this poster, doing different things, wearing different expressions and different hats, so to speak, loosely representing your (and every girl’s) multi-dimensional personality and complexity. The photos could be replaced with the image of any girl, or any diverse group of kids, and perhaps should be if widely distributed, but for the sake of this initial version of the poster, there is a reason why I chose to feature multiple images of the same girl: inasmuch as the message and text is speaking to whomever the poster’s audience may be, I wanted to suggest that you are also speaking to yourself—encouraging your self, expressing your self, being compassionate with your self, believing in your self and practicing self-awareness as you watch yourself in different frames of the poster. Do your best to live life unworried about what others think of you, but be conscientious. Love yourself and make your own decisions about your life.
Finally, thank you for contributing your artwork and lettering to these posters. You are so creative. In fact, if you rearrange the letters of your first name, you can spell the word IDEAS. That was a happy accident that I consider to be a wonderful omen for your future.
Dear Girls – daughters, sisters, friends, changemakers - You are enough. I hope you will resist the unrealistic expectations that mainstream media is fond of perpetuating, and reject any half-baked attempts to impose limits on your human potential.
Ask questions. Participate. Explore. Create. Contribute. Grow. Reach. The world is yours.