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Why The #MeToo Movement Matters, Summed Up In One Chart

The graphic represents the swirling tempest of conversation and emotions instigated by powerful men being accused of sexual harassment.

Why The #MeToo Movement Matters, Summed Up In One Chart
[Image: Paula Scher/courtesy Pentagram]
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Over the past few months, each of these men has been accused of sexual harassment and assault by more than one woman. And they are being held responsible for their actions: They’ve been fired. They’ve stepped down from positions of power. They’ve lost elections.

This groundswell of women speaking out about harassment has been called the #MeToo movement. And preeminent designer Paula Scher of the firm Pentagram has recently put all the deep anger and heartache of #MeToo into a striking illustration for the New York Times Magazine.

[Image: Paula Scher/courtesy Pentagram]
The graphic is a circular chart with lettering that looks like it was scrawled in a fit of rage. As #MeToo has been composed primarily of words–of women writing and speaking about the things they have experienced–it is fitting that Scher’s graphic is primarily words, too.

As for the text: It feels searching and unfinished–stream-of-consciousness rendered in graphic form. Quotes include, “What about unfamous men in power?”; “Mitigating circumstances not applicable for outrageous, criminal and predatory behavior”; and “Why is Trump still president?” They’re the questions and ideas that many women and men are turning over in their heads right now, and together, they converge on a larger question: How do you reconcile one sex’s pervasive use of power to intimidate, demean, and hurt others?

“I chose a chart because it seemed necessary to create a hierarchy or structure for measuring how disgusting these offenses are,” Scher tells Co.Design in an email. “The public was starting to evaluate 200 years’ worth of injustices–from misdemeanors to major crimes–in a period of a month and a half. Creating a humorous graphic that broke all of this down seemed the obvious thing to do.”

The illustration is part of a recent issue of the New York Times Magazine that focused on women and power in the workplace. Scher’s illustration lives alongside essays from Jenna Wortham, Parul Seghal, and Ruth Franklin, and other artwork by Ina Jang, Amber Vittoria, and Tracy Ma, who created a stunning image of nested file folders like you’d see on your desktop, representing the way these acts get buried over time in our memories.

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For Scher, the movement is far from over. “What about hardware stores and everyday small businesses? These offenses occur everywhere and it’s important we address them at every level,” she says. “It was my hope that a simple, humorous graphic might help bridge this gap.”

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About the author

Katharine Schwab is an associate editor based in New York who covers technology, design, and culture. Email her at kschwab@fastcompany.com and sign up for her newsletter here: https://tinyletter.com/schwabability

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