Tarana Burke started something over 10 years ago. It reached me for the first time last fall: #metoo. A feeling had been growing in me for quite some time and this felt like such a release! People starting to flood social media with stories about their lives. I, myself, went all in. I shared sh*t from my past that only a few friends know about. I read as many stories as I possibly could for a few days. It seemed like all the people who had been carrying scars from being sexually and/or assaulted in Sweden were on a path to heal themselves and let go of the shame that comes with it.
My way of expressing myself is through textiles, mainly embroidery. Following the #metoo hashtag, I saw the raised fist symbol in a lot of places: Instagram, Facebook, TV and online media. The Black Power fist at the Olympics 1968 entered my mind, but hands are and always have been a strong symbol in many other ways as well.
Hands would be the theme for my next project.
The keys are significant because this is how I, and many people I know, walk home at night as a way of feeling safer and to possibly protect ourselves… I learnt this in my teens. And still at 39 I put my home keys in my fist when I walk alone and it’s dark out.
Women and non-binary people are forced to think about how they are perceived both day and night, at work, in the subway, the doctor’s office, even in our own homes. I am sick and tired of thinking about how I have to feel fear all the time. My embroidered hands are a way to try and keep the conversation going about how our society isn’t equal until everyone feels safe and can be themselves without being judged or harassed for it.
I wanted to include as many people as I could, and asked friends with different ethnic backgrounds if some of the hands could be seen as relevant for POC even though the background is white linen serviettes. I didn´t want the material to decide how to interpret the artwork, but how I made it speak.
I also wanted different personalities to identify with the pieces, so I made the rocker’s hand, the nerd’s Vulcan salute (“live long and prosper”), the angry, the political and the peaceful one. All of which have keys in their hands.
We all need to think about our different privileges. I am white. I was born as a woman and I see myself as female and heterosexual. I am a middle-class citizen. All of these things make me privileged. I try to remember that. Now I want all the men out there to remember that women have always been second class citizens and we need this to end, to let everyone in, regardless of one’s gender identity.
It isn’t cake. Equal rights for others doesn’t mean less for you.
Author: Jenny Hillevi Larsson
Author Bio: Textile artist and embroiderer based in Stockholm, Sweden
Link to social media or website: www.jennyhillevilarsson.com | Instagram: @jennyhillevilarsson