San Jose Artist Persists With Viral Protest Meme #ShePersisted

Detail of "Nevertheless, She Persisted," inspired by Elizabeth Warren's silencing on the Senate Floor by GOP colleagues during confirmation hearings for Jeff Sessions. Sen. Mitch McConnell complained "She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted.” (Photo: Courtesy of Courtney Privett)

It started on February 7, after Elizabeth Warren was pretty much told to shut up as she tried to read a 1986 letter from Coretta Scott King, the widow of Martin Luther King Jr., on the Senate floor. Warren had raised the letter in objection to Sessions' nomination to attorney general.

100Days_300x300zIn the letter, written when Sessions was a nominee for a federal judgeship, Coretta King accused Sessions of trying to stop black people from voting. Interrupting her time on the floor, Warren's GOP colleagues barred her from speaking for the rest of the debate (although she managed to read the letter later on Facebook).

“Sen. Warren was giving a lengthy speech,” Sen. Mitch McConnell said later. “She had appeared to violate the rule. She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted.”

It didn’t take long for those final two words to gain traction around the internet, becoming a rallying cry for women warned, like Warren, or otherwise condescended to, ignored, silenced, even attacked. Women who, nevertheless, persisted.

San Jose author and artist Courtney Privett felt moved to post a work she called Nevertheless, She Persisted, which depicts a woman facing a wall of words and phrases that women begin hearing in childhood.

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“Calm down,” reads one speech bubble in the artwork. “Smile,” says another. “Bitchy.”

Within hours, the image went viral. 92,000 shared it on Facebook. "Once people started reposting it, I lost track of where it went," she says. At last count, almost 11,000 people have liked the post on Instagram. "My goal is to reveal the sexism and micro-aggressions we all face in our daily life and to promote empathy," she says.

Privett has since added to what is now the "Keep Persisting" series, including versions to address the way people of all genders and races feel silenced or dismissed -- as well as people who experience sexual violence, homelessness, depression, and more. There are still other versions to come. "People keep requesting," she says, "so I have a list I've been going off of."

Privett says she wants to help people "think more about the language we use toward others. These words and phrases come from both males and females, strangers and friends, and we're likely all guilty of speaking some of them at some point."

Privett has since set up a web page where all the proceeds from any art purchased benefit two charitable non-profits, the Midnight Mission and the Trevor Project. "I don't make a whole lot of profit," she adds, "but whatever I'm getting, it's going to those organizations."

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