“U are really showing them.”
An image created by a male feminist in 2016 has become an international symbol for women’s empowerment, and it pretty much sums up the state of the movement.
The drawing, which shows a uterus holding up a middle finger, has appeared on signs at women’s rights protests, on T-shirts and even as a tattoo. The enduring power of the image was attested to Friday when feminist journalist Ellie Schechet tweeted that she had defiantly worn one of the shirts on her morning run.
Schechet, a former Jezebel blogger, recalled that as she jogged through a Brooklyn park, she felt “for one shining and incorrect moment, wow, u are really showing them.”
this morning i ran around prospect park wearing my uterus holding up a middle finger t-shirt and felt for one shining and incorrect moment, wow, u are really showing them
— Ellie Shechet (@ellieshechet) May 17, 2019
Her gesture appeared to be inspired by a wave of state legislation restricting abortions – with Missouri lawmakers being the latest to join the trend.
In a February 2017 blog post for Jezebel, Jim Cooke, the art director of the feminist blog’s parent company, Gizmodo Media Group, boasted about having created the angry uterus image a year earlier. It was used to illustrate a Jezebel post bashing the Centers for Disease Control’s recommendation that women avoid alcohol unless they’re taking birth control.
Usually my uterus is flipping everyone else off but today it’s flipping me off and I’m not amused. Free to a good home.
[gif: drawing of a uterus giving the middle finger] pic.twitter.com/9cDxB6dMh1
— Northwest Nina (@NorthwestNina) December 26, 2019
Cooke recalled having been surprised and thrilled to see his work on protest signs at the January 2017 Women’s March in Washington, D.C.
“How cool!” he exclaimed.
Later, Cooke discovered that the image had also been adopted by Polish feminists, who in October 2016 went on a work strike to protest a proposed national abortion ban, which was ultimately voted down.
“Perhaps people found it because it relies on simple, blunt imagery,” he speculated. “I had drawn it rather quickly last year, and maybe it’s the relative simplicity that makes it more useful and adaptable than I’d ever imagined it would be.
Cooked added: “I know that Jezebel has an international audience, but I never thought an illustration I’d make would become a small piece of global feminist protest iconography.”
The artist went on in his post to invite women around the world to “use this image in your protest, if you feel like it.” He noted that readers could purchase a “Uterus on Unisex Black T-Shirt” from Jezebel’s online store, with half of proceeds going to Planned Parenthood.
At least one woman took Cooke up on the offer. In November 2017, a Maine woman reportedly got the image tattooed on her body.
— Francisca Ortega (@quefrankie) November 10, 2017
Feminists apparently see the uterus image as a forceful assertion of their power and right to control their own reproduction, and critics of the movement would likely find it appropriate, too.
Conservative philosopher Christina Hoff Sommers has summed up the sentiment, saying: “Contemporary feminism can be faulted for its irrational hostility to men, its recklessness with facts and statistics, and its inability to take seriously the possibility that the sexes are equal – but different.”