Inspiration for art and fashion is all around us. Unless you live under a rock, you are aware of the beauty around you and it influences your ideas and creations. With that in the backdrop, I want to address a recent incident because it speaks to a greater issue.
Over the weekend, someone accused M.E. of copying her art. The artist, Zahira, did so publicly on her Instagam account, which prompted her friends and followers to attack M.E. online.
Now, I’m not saying we’ve never fallen short of impeccable integrity. We’re a small business and operating in the digital age has its downfalls and obstacles. We strive to operate with the utmost of principles, but WHEN we miss the mark, we have no issue admitting it.
However, in this case, there is zero foundation for the accusation of “copying.” M.E. created a t- shirt with the image of two female hands in the position of prayer. The idea of female praying hands with long nails was conceived in-house by, Monte, one of the M.E. creatives. We wanted to design women's prayer hands specifically because we had NEVER seen it before…we’d only see men’s as it is such a male-dominated image. I did some research and found one graphic designer,(whose name im going to find!), who made the beautiful version below. We found nothing else.
Back in 2014, I collaborated with my friend Akia of Katrina & Dodo on a line of clothing and accessories exhibiting her artwork shown below.
As we were brainstorming the design of our t-shirt in January of 2017, we reached out to Katrina & Dodo to commission her to replicate the artwork but to draw them so that the hands are in a prayer form. Due to her schedule, she wasn’t able to collaborate on this project. So we took the art she’d originally drawn as inspiration and created new imagery.
While researching praying hands online, we found one set of praying hands that were clearly male and that image was ubiquitous. We used it to determine the placement of the hands and then reworked it with our artwork. You can see the process below.
As I was trying to understand why someone would claim that our very clearly uniquely created artwork was “copied”, I did more research. In looking at Zahira’s artwork, I noticed that her hands are placed in the same iconic fashion as are ALL the prayer hands. In fact, it seems as if Zahira probably got her inspiration from the same ubiquitous image of hands because hers map on to the original image perfectly.
Though I think Zahir’s work is lovely, we most certainly did not in any way, shape, or form copy her or take any inspiration from her work because we had never seen this piece or heard of her until now.
What I find most interesting is that because the image of praying hands are almost all of male hands, somehow the image of female hands praying look alike simply because they both have long nails. If religious imagery wasn’t so heavily male-dominated, and women were more represented, then we likely wouldn’t be having this debate. So this is just another example of how patriarchy can drive a wedge between women if we do let it. At M.E., we are not here for that.
This brings me to my final point. I’d like to take a moment to address bullying, accusations and anonymous commenting on social media. As a result of a misleading instagram post, people who I don’t know began calling me names, accusing me of things I did not do and going all the way in.
I’m a human with feelings.
They said things they almost certainly would not have had we been face-to-face because people tend to be more compassionate in person. I believe that sensitivity and empathy should exist on social media just as it does when you have a human being standing in front of you. We need to do better people.
We removed some of the most abusive comments and when we did, the people who attacked me were upset that their comments were deleted. My instagram is my place of business and a source for inspiration. It’s precious to me and we’ve worked hard to create an environment that is positive and welcoming to those who want to build with us. This is not a government agency where I have to honor people's free speech rights. I will NOT give ignorant, disrespectful or uninformed comments a platform....so why wouldn't I erase them? If someone was in our store, making these types of comments, they would be shown the door. If you’d like to have a civilized conversation, we are here for you. If you want to rant about things about which you don’t know enough…first, just don’t. Second, if you insist, you have to do it somewhere else.
There are better ways of dealing with things - especially as women. The next time you feel like someone has done you wrong, reach out to them first and see what’s up. If you read a comment or story on social media, be sure you know everything you need to know before weighing in. And if your comment is critical, accusatory or a verbal assault, pause to determine whether you would say those things if the person were in the flesh in front of you.
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