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"People Matter": Word Power in Advocacy Art

"People Matter": Word Power in Advocacy Art

In light of the recent election and inauguration rallies, I've thought a lot about the linguistic landscape surrounding activist campaigns. Because of the many human rights campaigns that have taken place over the past few years, for example, it’s become clear that certain words and phrases now invoke different feelings and associations. While everyone may not be on the same page when it comes to politics, one thing we can all agree on is the importance of words in advocacy art.  

This past summer, ethical clothing brand Sevenly launched a campaign entitled "People Matter." The campaign was inspired by a CNN video which showed African American and Caucasian protesters coming together after the deadly attacks on Dallas police offers, to show that all people matter. The video was so heartwarming that it sparked the charitable brand to create new apparel designs featuring the phrase"People Matter” (their motto when they were founded in 2011).

In a very delicate political climate, certain phrases now hold meaning indicative of political stance. For example, the simple words "all lives matter" have been critized for creating an equal playing field thatoverlooks the oppressed. In stating that #PeopleMatter, Sevenly's campaign was intended to speak to the fact that EVERY human life issignificant, and is connected to a voice that must be heard in civil society. 

These campaign phrases are not the first time that advocacy art has played an important role in history. During the Women's March this past weekend, multiple images of the original women's rights movementfloated around the internet. While this weekend's events were originally critized for being stricly for feminists, any onlookers who examined the linguistic landscape of the posters, signs, and apparel will find that words spoke about all genders, ethnic backgrounds, and religions. Inauguration signs were likewise very eclectic, and drew from many historic themes and phrases.

This brings me to my next point, the use of apparel and accessories to communicate a story. As an undergraduate student, my senior thesis studied how fashion design students from all around the world crafted their self-representation through design. Besides design itself, the words you put on display for everyone to see are an extension of your personality. Attaching those words to your persona speak wonders about who you are and what you believe. Anything from a small logo, showing your support of a particular company, to a flowy raglan tee voicing that humanity matters -- these are examples of how we use apparel and accessories as a true form of self-representation. 

Just as sure as society will continue to evolve and change with time, advocacy art will continue to invoke discourse that reflects the political climate of the time. While the internet likes to create comedic renditions of the linguistic landscape of protests, the importance of language in how we wear what we want to share is a reality that will impact us for generations to come.  

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Contributed by Marisa Flacks @ Fashioning Culture

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