NoNonsense Feminism

feminism frontcover

By David Michael Newstead.

The NoNonsense Guide to Feminism by Nikki van der Gaag covers everything from sex workers to LGBTQ rights, advances in girls’ education to the history of feminism. And among its criticisms of patriarchy and capitalism, here are two highlights that stuck out to me.

  • Even from a neoliberal point of view, there are few arguments for not pushing a feminist agenda. In monetary terms alone, the International Labour Organization points out that the barriers which hold back women ‘also hold back economic growth and development in countries with large gender gaps.’ A McKinsey Global Institute report puts a figure on this – it finds that $12 trillion could be added to global GDP by 2025 by advancing women’s equality. In India, ‘gender equality would have a larger economic impact than in any other region in the world – $700 billion of added GDP in 2025,’ but for this to happen, comprehensive change is needed, including ‘raising women’s participation in India’s labor force by 10 percentage points between now and 2025, bringing 68 million more women into the labor force. This will require bridging both economic and social gender gaps.’
  • Feminism seems to provoke particular fury online. Perhaps this is because it now has such a public profile; women who stand up or speak out somehow become the focus of men’s (and other women’s) rage. As British writer Laurie Penny has pointed out, ‘the people sending these messages are often perfectly ordinary men holding down perfectly ordinary jobs.’ She cites a particularly vile and violent comment that was written by a Richard White, ‘who lived in Sidcup, outside London, with a wife and kids, and just happened to run a hate website directed at women and minorities’.

Graphic Design & Internet Propaganda with Aaron Wood

By David Michael Newstead.

As warfare moves online, perhaps it’s only natural that propaganda posters do the same. And at the forefront of this, you’ll find graphic designer Aaron Wood. A few years ago, Wood’s satirical posters turned social media into World War Two style propaganda. Now, it seems his satire is our reality. But Aaron’s work is far from the common meme on Facebook and today Aaron Wood joins me to discuss his career and propaganda.

David Newstead: So, how long have you been a graphic designer?

Aaron Wood: About 15 years. I’ve held design positions in a print shop, gift wrap company, and a copy shop. I also was a freelancer for a couple years, when it was my primary source of income.

David Newstead: What made you want to get into the field?

Aaron Wood: I’ve always loved art. I’ve got a background in drawing/illustration. When I was at the Art Institute of Boston in the mid-1990s, I picked up a real love of fonts and layout.

David Newstead: How would you describe a typical day?

Aaron Wood: Usually I’ll do research for a couple hours coming up with inspiration and ideas. Then I’ll spend an hour or so doing some rough sketching on paper. Then I just dive in and start creating until I’m satisfied. After that, it’s time to promote my work online, and list things in my Etsy shop.

David Newstead: What inspired the propaganda poster series? And what has the response been like?

Aaron Wood: This is a long answer. I wound up joining Google+ when it was in the beta. I quickly found that most people on there pretty much hated anything that wasn’t Google related. Facebook and Apple specifically. So I thought, “This is like an online war.” And then I remembered some of the classic WW2 propaganda. I didn’t want to just change out the type on some of the classics, so I went ahead and made some original posters. Twitter “Be Brief“, Facebook “Farms,” and Google+ “All Must Be Shared.”

The response was highly overwhelming. Some key people shared my work, including the Pete Cashmore from Mashable, and also Jaime Derringer from Design Milk. On a whim I listed them in my newly opened Etsy shop and couldn’t keep the posters in stock.

David Newstead: You’ve made a good number of propaganda posters for social media platforms and other things. Spotify, etc. Do you feel like your work was foreshadowing actual social media propaganda?

Aaron Wood: In some ways, yes. Privacy does play a huge part in people’s online dealings, and that aspect definitely comes into play in my posters. Also, how companies vie for how long people stay on their sites, and how often they’re used.

David Newstead: Out of curiosity, do you have any favorite posters from the Second World War?

Aaron Wood: Two of my favs are Loose Lips Might Sink Ships and We Can Do It (Rosie the Riveter).

David Newstead: What are some of your artistic influences? And do you have a favorite piece you’ve done?

Aaron Wood: I really love anything Art Deco, Pulp/Noir, and a lot of Allied WW2 propaganda, so that plays heavily into my more recent pieces. I’d have to say my Retro Planet posters, and also my Twitter Fail Whale and Apple War Bonds pieces.

David Newstead: What are you working on now and what’s your next big project?

Aaron Wood: I just wrapped up working on the art/design/layout for a card game. Robot Rise! Embrace Your Inner Mad Scientist is on Kickstarter and we hit our goal recently. About a week left on the campaign. View here. Not sure what’s next up!

Check out more of Aaron’s work on Etsy and Behance.