Laura Cook interviewed artist and MSc Social Work student Ru Wormington in advance of her ‘You Are Art’ life drawing workshop on 9th March. You can find Ru on Instagram @badgrl.ruru – go check out her incredible work!
Do you view your art as a form of feminist protest/resistance? If so how?
I do view my art in this way, because from day one I have faced censorship by Instagram for the content that I post. As a result, I do feel as though creating and continuing to post this content is a form of small rebellion in itself because my content is censored as a result of the sexualisation of women’s bodies from a very patriarchal stance. Women’s bodies can be sexual, but they should not be non-consensually sexualised. By explicitly banning content in which women are sexually liberated, or by sexualising nude art in a non -consensual manner, Instagram is reinforcing patriarchal, sexist, heteronormative and oppressive ideas. My sex positive messaging and portrayal of real women’s bodies as they are (works of ART), is my way of rebutting this imposed surveillance.
I actually decided to test out Instagram’s reporting and banning policy, to determine its tolerance for objectively racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic or ableist content by reporting offensive posts and memes. According to Instagram, this sickening content did not go against their community guidelines, but my body positive imagery did? It tells a lot about the ideology informing Instagram’s decision making!
You’ve been supporting the Poland women’s strike Strajk Kobiet – how can art be a part of activism? (Your personal activism or more widely).
I totally feel that art can have a crucial role in activism! I have recently done some illustrations to help promote Ola Poroslo’s campaign with Phat Bristol, who will be hosting a march in Bristol soon in solidarity with Strajk Kobiet. I feel that it makes activism much more accessible, especially in the digital age in which we are living. Making activism more accessible and identifiable is so important when promoting inclusivity within activism. Art can become a really unique means of expression and can mean a lot to people as an educational resource, an emotive piece, a gesture of solidarity, or the face of a campaign – bringing people together. For me, it has provided me with a tool with which to express myself where words don’t always suffice.
You started your art account during the first lockdown – how has art/creativity helped you get through this pandemic?
My art was especially helpful when coping with lockdown one because it gave me a way to clear my head and channel my anger at injustices I was reading about, whilst writing my dissertation on the impact of insufficient LGBTQ+ sex education on LGBTQ+ young people. It is really cathartic and empowering to have an outlet, especially when most other means have been taken away. It also led me to become a member of a fantastic art community on Instagram – bringing the solidarity side!
Which artists (women or GNC people) inspire you and your art? Any accounts to recommend?
So many! I would say the most influential people to me have been @thatangstyartist, and @koukoukreations for unapologetically bringing their feminism to the forefront of their work.
How can we fight censorship of our bodies on Instagram and more widely?
This is the big question! For me, more widely this includes questioning ideologies behind workplace and educational environments expectations of the ‘appropriate’ choice of clothing and photos, questioning intentions behind gendered comments and generally calling people out on fat phobic, ableist or derogatory comments towards women and gender non conforming individuals. On Instagram, it feels sometimes like beating up against a solid brick wall, but together, and by supporting leading figures, we can come together to make meaningful change to normalised ideas and (as a result) Instagram’s policies. There is definitely power in numbers. We are all drops in an ocean which could storm that brick wall if we collectively establish the intent to do so.
In your Instagram bio you describe your art as accessible – what do you mean by this and why is this important?
This means a few things to me. Firstly, I want to ensure that everyone, of all body types and genders (women, trans women, non binary or gender non conforming individuals) feel comfortable and safe to access my page and request commissions. I am also very keen to ensure that my activism doesn’t go in the opposite direction, and exclude those who don’t want to be sexual, or identify as asexual. It is about respecting people for their choices and preferences, rather than exchanging one agenda for another. Secondly, I aim to make my feminism and messaging accessible and understandable, as I feel this is the power behind ‘Insta feminist influencers’ like Florence Given and the Slumflower (regardless of how questionable any other issues around these individuals are). I think resources like Instagram accounts make feminist messaging so much more accessible to so many more people. Finally, I want my art to be affordable, and attempt to keep my prices low. I don’t want to participate in the elitist side of the art world that can become extremely exclusionary. I am more about getting the word OUT.
Have you experienced backlash or discrimination in response to your openness around women’s sexuality?
Absolutely. My own sexuality alone has resulted in judgement and discrimination, even from self-proclaimed feminists in my life (which I feel is not feminist). We are sharing a narrative which goes against the status quo, and challenges men’s position as power holders in society, so naturally, we will face backlash. I also receive numerous inappropriate and disrespectful sexual advances on my account and as a result of my art, and my sexuality (activity and bisexuality) which is so inappropriate. The stigma around women being sexual leads to many men believing that sex is their right and is why rape culture and sexual assault is so rife right now. My own numerous experiences of sexual assault have informed a lot of my motivation behind this art.
How do your commissions work and where can people buy your art? Tell us about the zine you help create and how creatives reading this might get involved?
When people contact me about commissions, I send them my information. I need people to send me evidence that they are over 18 and confirm that all images I am sent will be saved in a password protected folder and deleted when done. There is no commitment that commissions need to be shared on my Instagram – this is decided by the individual. If it is shared, it can also remain anonymous. When people commission a piece, they can decide on the style and have creative input.
I am also an editor for @peachycleanzinedirty, which will be soon posting callouts for our next edition, so creatives can follow this if they want to get involved.
Art is from those who attended Ru’s life drawing workshop.