Donald Trump’s degrading and objectifying language towards women is terrifying, to say the least. While some of his supporters are quick to dismiss his words as “locker room” talk, many women understand just how damaging, hurtful, and triggering his “boy chat” is.
Aria Watson, a first-year college student and devoted Vlogger, wanted to explore the damaging effects of his language by painting them onto Trump’s most common target: women’s naked bodies. The result is a powerful and haunting photo series that confronts the deep-seated notion that sexist chat is harmless.
Watson decided she needed to do something after President-Elect Trump. She told The Huffington Post that she was devastated after Hillary lost. “I never really cared for or understood politics, but this year was different,” she said. “As a feminist, when I saw that Donald Trump actually won, my heart shattered.” (I feel ya, girl).
So, for her final photography assignment, she created #SignedByTrump, a jarring NSFW collection that features Trump’s derogatory comments he’s made about women, including fashion models, previous Apprentice contestants, and talk show hosts. She uploaded the images to her Tumblr after they were deleted from Instagram and Facebook.
In two of the images, it paints the numerical scale he often uses to rate women on attractiveness. I remember the first time I heard Trump rate women between 1-10. He was judging Jennifer Lawrence on Howard Stern, and my first reaction was to look at myself in the mirror and wonder how I measured up. I'm grateful I never heard him say “You have to treat them like shit” (A comment he made about women to the New York Magazine in 1992).
The pictures are however lacking in diversity with only one Latino model among white women. Watson explained to The Huffington Post that this was not unintentional. “I would have LOVED to have some more women of color, but I live in such a small town and attend such a small college where the majority of people are white.”
It may seem counter-productive to pose young women in a way that could be viewed as sexual. For example, one of the images includes a woman on her knees in a pose that is suggestive of giving oral sex. But with Trump’s comment “must be a pretty picture of you dropping to your knees,” painted on her back, you are confronted with just how demeaning and inappropriate his words are.
Watson was motivated by fear and outrage over Trump's win. She said, “I’m scared that the way he speaks about women — this sexism and misogyny — will end up becoming a social norm.”
I argue that this type of language is already a norm for many women. That is, the implications of these words—like the normalization of rape culture or the evaluation of women based solely on their attractiveness—is so normal, such a regular part of so many people’s lives, that it’s invisible. This photo series challenges that by bringing these words to life.
The art project is the just beginning of the resistance against the evil Trump’s win unleashed. Women deserve to live in a world where they can be sexual without being demeaned, where their worth isn’t measured by their attractiveness, and where they can move through spaces without fear of sexual assault and harassment.
“We can’t be afraid to speak up about what we are passionate about,” she said. “I don’t know why Donald Trump is in office, or how this even happened, but he is. What we need now more than ever is to come together. We are stronger together."
Photos from @a.riawatson
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Patricia is a writer, activist, and aspiring journalist. She likes writing about politics, sexuality, and feminism. She is a bit of a wanderer and has lived in Morocco, Australia, and India. Recently moved to Brooklyn, she is currently learning to navigate NYC subways.