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Carol Rossetti is an illustrator and graphic designer from Brazil. A few months ago she began a project called Mulheres/Women, depicting women and their stories, and addressing a great variety of themes including racism, gender based violence, ableism, ageism, and LGBTQ identities. When she started sharing the illustrations on her Facebook and Twitter accounts they rapidly went viral.
Carol’s work is all about acceptance, respect, tolerance and inclusion.
We immediately fell in love with her illustrations, and we decided to ask her a few questions. You can find a selection of our favourite illustrations at the end of the interview.
AP: Carol, thank you for agreeing to participate in this interview. In your illustrations you present a great variety of themes, including sexual abuse, clothing, disability, sexual orientation, motherhood, depression… How do you choose the topics?
CR: At first, I used to base my work on experiences of people close to me, and also some personal ones. Now, the project has grown a lot, and I also get suggestions from so many people everyday, and therefore I managed to widen the representation. Nowadays, I talk about things that I had never thought about, because they’re not necessarily part of my routine. It also means I’ve been learning a lot with this project. And that’s great!
AP: It started as a small art initiative, but you immediately obtained great success… Tell me about the evolution of the project.
CR: It has really been quite a development! Things have changed a lot and really fast. I began the illustrations last April, so it got all this visibility in 6 months. My first drawing was Marina and her striped dress. I felt bad about fashion magazines saying what we could wear, and what would be a mortal sin. I see people criticizing other people for their dressing choices all the time, and I think they do it mostly because they’re used to it, because when we speak seriously, most people agree with the concept that we should wear whatever makes us happy. So, I decided to make a drawing about a woman happy in a dress that fashion magazines say it’s not for her, and gave her a name and a face. People liked it, they identified with Marina. Then I made another drawing with a similar concept. And people liked and shared on Facebook. Then another one, and another, and another. Then I translated to English, and people from all round the world started sharing it. It’s amazing how the internet can be a nice place to show our work.
AP: In how many languages are you translating the illustrations?
CR: There are more than 20 languages going on. It’s a slow process because I rewrite the texts manually (at least the languages that use our latin alphabet).
AP: That’s amazing! Theories on identity acknowledge the influence of society in the construction of individual identities. Most of your illustrations deal with the concept of identity, and invite women to react to social pressure. How do you see this dichotomy between individual and society, and what is the impact on women?
CR: I think that society and individuality are like two spheres that are connected, they develop together somehow. I haven’t studied this matter in the most formal way, but I truly believe that society can develop only if individuals respect each other for what they are. I think there’s no point in denying the diversity among people in order to develop the group. I believe the great trick is to learn from this diversity, instead of fighting it. And therefore we see the importance of defending the freedom of expressing one’s identity. Only when people feel free to be who they are, they can individually develop their potential, and each individual inside the group can manage to learn from each other by seeing their mates, and the group will inevitably develop as a whole.
AP: You always include powerful sentences in your illustrations. However, some of the most powerful messages aren’t written there. I am thinking about some illustrations in which the character is on a wheelchair, or without a limb, although the message is not related to disability…
CR: Yes, I think this is very important. Some people are only shown when we’re talking about something that they live, but who are actually a very small part of who they are, and they should never be reduced to that specific characteristic. We can’t talk about people with disabilities only when we talk about disabilities, because that’s not who they are. They’re people, and they live all sorts of situations and emotions, like everybody else. Representing them while talking about other issues is real representation.
AP: Some illustrations appear to be more controversial than others. Did you receive any negative criticism?
CR: Yes, absolutely. It happens. I’m talking about issues that are very common to some people, but that can be really polemic to others. I welcome criticism, because I think I can still make my project a lot better. What I don’t like is when criticism comes in an unnecessarily aggressive way, with rude words and a lot of anger. I usually don’t respond to those. But really, I get a lot more positive feedback than negative.
AP: On your website you mentioned that the project is not exclusively for women, and that you hope that men will identify with female characters. What is your message to men?
CR: I think my project also offers a lot to men. First, many illustrations allow them to identify as well. Maybe not the one about street harassment or abortion, but they might identify with the vegan woman, of the ones concerning homosexuality, transgender people, etc. Also, they’ve got a chance to learn from the ones that are mostly about women. I’ve received messages from men saying that my work made them see they’ve been disrespectful to women without knowing, and they would make their best not to let it happen again. This is great. My message to men is that they are welcome to see, to understand, to learn and to fight with me.
AP: You developed a powerful technique do discuss about important issues. Do you think your project will continue to focus on women, or do you plan to expand the initiative and go beyond gender?
CR: I think it already goes beyond gender. When I talk about racism, even if the illustration stars a woman, it goes beyond gender. But I will keep portraying women, cause that’s the first proposal of the Women Project. I do have other projects in mind as well, though. And who knows what I’m posting next week! : )
AP: GLOBI launched the hashtag #inclusion2me on Twitter, inviting people to share their own understandings and interpretations of inclusion. So, I would like to conclude our conversation with a final question: in one sentence, what does inclusion mean to you?
CR: #inclusion2me is to deconstruct the “default” human being: everybody exists and everybody is a valid representation.
AP: Brilliant! Thanks a lot for participating in this interview!
CR: Thank you! : )
#inclusion2me is to deconstruct the “default” human being: everybody exists and everybody is a valid representation
Andrea Pregel is an inclusion professional with experience in disability, development, education, gender and health across Europe and Asia. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology and Social Research from the University of Turin (Italy), and an Erasmus Mundus MA/Mgr in Special and Inclusive Education from the University of Roehampton in London (UK), the University of Oslo (Norway) and Charles University in Prague (Czech Republic). He is Co-founder and President of the Global Observatory for Inclusion (GLOBI), and works as Programme Advisor for Social Inclusion and Disability at Sightsavers International.