In the months leading up to November’s US presidential election, Donald Trump’s so-called “woman problem” was a subject of much discussion. Several polls seemed to indicate that the Republican candidate was failing to woo female voters – particularly the white, suburban women who potentially had the power to swing the election. Trump’s long history of sexist comments, in which he swung between alternately objectifying and vilifying women, were widely considered to be working against him.
And when the now-infamous ‘Trump tapes’ were released in early October, it briefly seemed as though the former reality star’s bid for the White House might actually be toppled by his misogyny. Women wouldn’t vote for this man now, said commentators. How could they, when he was on record as bragging about sexual assault?
Of course, we now know that this argument was flawed. Women – specifically, white women – voted for Trump in their droves. (More than half of white women cast their ballot for a man who had boasted about “[grabbing women] by the pussy”, compared to 26% of Latino women and just 4% of black women.) Evidently, many female voters decided that they either didn’t believe or didn’t care about Trump’s misogyny.
Watson, from Tualatin, Oregon, recently created a striking photo series featuring a selection of the misogynistic remarks Trump has made over the years. Titled #SignedByTrump, the series shows Trump’s quotes painted onto women’s exposed bodies.
The photos were taken as part of Watson’s final project in her Introduction to Photography class at Clatsop Community College, Oregon.
Watson says she posted her photos on Facebook and Instagram, but the photos were removed. However, when she posted them on Tumblr, they quickly went viral, gaining more than 50,000 notes in a day. Her post has since received over 110,000 notes.
She tells Stylist.co.uk that she hopes her photos will remind people of the character of the man soon to be the most powerful politician in the world.
“I know it's hard to change someone’s opinion – in fact, it can be nearly impossible sometimes,” Watson says. “I just hope that my series has opened one person’s eyes and showed them who the President-elect, Donald Trump, is.”
“[But] if it hasn’t done that, then I am just so beyond thankful that my photo series has brought people together and reminded us that we are not alone,” she continues. “We are stronger together and we will be heard.”
Predictably, Watson’s project has seen her targeted by Trump supporters and misogynist trolls online. However, she explains that the support she has received has outweighed any abuse.
“Thankfully I'm really good at ignoring [trolls],” she says. “Plus all the amazing support I have been getting makes it hard to notice anything negative!”
Most of the women in Watson’s photos are white, with the exception of one Latina model. Speaking to BuzzFeed, Watson explained that she would have loved to have more women of colour in the photos, but that the majority of people in her small town and college are white.
“The only other women of colour I knew weren’t 18 yet, but if they were, I would have asked them to model for me,” she said.
“Over the past few days, I’ve gotten messages that have brought me to tears,” Watson continued. “To everyone who has supported me and #SignedByTrump, don’t let anyone silence you. Don’t be afraid to speak up about what you are passionate about.”
“I don’t know why Donald Trump is in office, or how this even happened, but he is. What we need more than ever is to come together. We are stronger together,” she said.
As a result of the attention her photography series has received, Watson has partnered with clothing company The Outrage to create a collection of #SignedByTrump merchandise. 15% of profits will be donated to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) in Trump’s name.
Watch: Aria Watson on the response to her #SignedByTrump photography project
Photos: courtesy of Aria Watson.