Courtney Privett Creates 'She Persisted' Disability Illustrations


Earlier in February, Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) admonished Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) on the Senate floor for reading the words of Coretta Scott King in opposition to Donald Trump nominating Jeff Sessions attorney general. Commenting later on his dismissal of Warren, McConnell remarked “She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted,” words that, unbeknownst to him, would embolden women across the world.

One woman giving those words new meaning is Courtney Privett, 34, a California-based author and illustrator, who uses “Nevertheless, she persisted,” as the theme for a series of illustrations around chronic illness and disability.

“The original illustration was a personal project I created out of some of my own experiences. I’ve heard a lot of negativity in my life and kept going in spite of it, so the piece was art therapy for me,” Privett told The Mighty. “One of the first versions I did was called “We Persist,” about things said to people with invisible disabilities and chronic illnesses.”

The illustration which features speech bubbles filled with comments such as “You’re so brave,” “You don’t look sick,” “You’re too young to be sick” and “But you look so good,” comes from Privett’s own experiences living with several chronic health issues including narcolepsy, depression, anxiety and chronic kidney stones. “Over the years I’ve been misunderstood, insulted and pushed aside, both intentionally and unintentionally, by people who don’t understand what I’m going through,” Privett explained. “I’ve tried to turn all of that into a positive, though.”

Even the way the comic is designed is inspired by Privett’s experience. “The thought bubble layout came from the way my mental illnesses like to throw invasive thoughts at me,” she said. “Sometimes those negative thoughts are so loud that it’s hard to convince myself that they aren’t true.”

After her first illness-inspired illustration, Perth was asked by the Perth Sisterhood of Support, to make an illustration about endometriosis.

 

 

“I felt it was important that I not speak for other people whose backgrounds and experiences are different from my own, but rather work with them as they speak for themselves,” Privett said of her collaborative pieces. “I’ve always been quiet and shy, so it’s a little overwhelming to find out that my own voice has power.”

So far, Privett said, the response to her illustrations has been positive. “I’ve had a few trolls here and there, but I’ve found they don’t bother me like I feared they would,” she added. “If anything, they prove my points, both that the language we use toward others matters and that we can continue to persist through what is thrown at us.”

Privett is currently working on more posts featuring a variety of different conditions. Her most recent disability-related post featuring a woman in a wheelchair was inspired by a comment from a follower about the comments her child, who uses a wheelchair, receives.

“Often times, we aren’t aware that we’re saying something that is hurtful to someone else, simply because we haven’t personally experienced their situation,” she said. “[O]nce we realize how much our language matters, we can work toward speaking in ways that raise those around us.”

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