Ambivalence - the state of having mixed feelings or contradictory ideas about something or someone.
You know Ambivalently Yours. She's been contributing to feminist internet culture since 2011 and has established a solid following of ambivalent people. She's the pink rebel making art work that will change the world. She's anonymous and is using her anonymity to help people like you and me feel better about our feelings. Ambivalently Yours just released a podcast called Rebelliously Tiny, and in it she answers your questions with guests in the hopes that you can feel better and relate to others who are also struggling. I reached out to Ambivalently Yours hoping that she would talk to me a little bit about her latest project, and received so much more than that in return. This is a passionate interview in which Ambivalently Yours expresses how much each and every one of the people who reach out means to her, but how it creates a pressure and responsibility to her fans that isn't always easy to live up to. I got really emotional just editing this interview.
Sarah Sickles for Pink Things: So who is Ambivalently Yours?
Ambivalently Yours: Ambivalently Yours is my anonymous online persona, created to facilitate the exploration of feminist convictions by embracing ambivalent emotions. Since 2011, I have explored ambivalence through the online sharing of illustrations, sound sketches, videos, blog posts and anonymous notes left in public spaces, and I am currently working on a podcast called Rebelliously Tiny.
I’ve been drawing my whole life because drawing has always been my favorite form of communication. My drawings have become the most important and interactive aspect of my work, and a number of them have gone viral on the Internet. As the drawings grew in popularity, they inspired an unsolicited participation from, often anonymous, online contributors who began to share their conflicting emotions with me. In response, I have been illustrating the ambivalence of my social media followers and posting the drawings online. This process has helped me explore the potential for political resistance and emotional empathy that exists within conflicting emotions.
Pink Things: Why this persona? Why this name? What value does anonymity hold for you? Why choose to be anonymous?
Ambivalently Yours: My desire to remain anonymous online was initially motivated by fear. The Internet can be a volatile place and my work is always inspired by personal experiences, so I found that the only way I could be honest without making myself too vulnerable was to be anonymous. My anonymity was a form of self-preservation, which in turn gave me the courage I needed to be more daring in my art. Also, anonymity allowed me to become more open with myself about my own identity and convictions without having to worry about what the people in my “real life” would say, as I clumsily figured things out along the way. Later, I also realized that my anonymity allowed for people to find themselves in the lack of specificity of my online persona. With this, Ambivalently Yours becomes less of a reflection of my personal self and more of a representation of the ideas behind the work. With anonymity I am exploring ideas of connection through ambiguity and ambivalence.
Pink Things: How would you define your relationship with vulnerability? Why?
Ambivalently Yours: I think that it takes an extreme amount of strength to be openly vulnerable, which is why it is so strange that vulnerability is often seen as a sign of weakness. Being the kind of person who feels every emotion very deeply, I am completely unable to repress my emotions for long (when I do try, it gives me migraines and eye twitches), so I’ve had to embrace my vulnerability and learn to work with it instead of trying to hide it. It’s a work in progress.
Pink Things: What about your relationship with pink. All of your illustrations feature the color! What value does pink have for you? Is there such a thing at too much pink?
Ambivalently Yours: I’ve always loved pink – it is the best color in my opinion. I decided to make all my drawings light pink because people kept telling me not to. The use of pink is actually my rebellion against everyone who told me that pink was not a powerful color, or that my work was too feminine and not confident or strong enough, or that I should use darker pink or black because they are somehow perceived as stronger colors. I disagree that everything associated with girlhood should be automatically be seen as weak. And no, there’s never such a thing as too much pink.
Pink Things: Interaction and the Internet are really important to your practice. Can you talk to me about why?
Ambivalently Yours: When I started working as Ambivalently Yours, I always knew I wanted it to be an online interactive practice because I believe that sharing our experiences with other people can encourage growth and collaboration. I never imagined that the response to my work would ever be so enthusiastic. I feel a huge responsibility towards the people who take the time to write to me. Although I know I’ll never be able to answer everyone, as someone who habitually writes to her heroes, I know what it means to have someone you admire write back to you. To quote Carrie Brownstein:
“A response, any response, implied that I existed, that I was not a weirdo, that I’d be okay. I could have gone to a school counsellor or even talked to my parents, but I needed someone on TV or in the movies to reach out to me, not because they were famous but because they were so far away, it was like being seen from outer space. Suddenly I didn’t feel small; I was bigger than the house I was living in, larger than my town. Thanks to them I somehow belonged to the world.”
- Carrie Brownstein,
Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl
Pink Things: Encompassing your entire creative practice, tell me about the role that feminism plays. What is feminism for you?
Ambivalently Yours: Feminism is the starting point of all of my work as Ambivalently Yours. I first started Ambivalently Yours when I was studying feminist art and working in the fashion industry, which seemed like a huge contradiction. At work, I was the feminist killjoy every time I raised a concern about the sexist undertones in our campaigns, and in art school I was the fashion girl who many assumed was duped by the patriarchy just because I liked cute clothes and girly colors. I felt caught somewhere in-between two worlds that I both loved and hated at times – in other words, I felt ambivalent. Eventually, I decided to stop worrying about what others thought of me and embrace my contradictions. Ambivalently Yours became my fierce alter ego, giving me a way of exploring my feminist questions from this in-between place where things are undefined and pink can be powerful.
So in way, my work is always a simultaneous celebration and critical response to feminism. Many political debates over so-called feminist issues, speak of women as a singular (see cis, white) individual who should be saved instead of consulted or trusted. I think that the more people try to define feminism as this one thing, the more they end up excluding people. By approaching things from an ambivalent perspective, I’m trying to allow multiple definitions to co-exist, and to invest in contradictions and intersections instead of trying to homogenise them. Perhaps this approach could be a way to create a more intersectional feminist movement that can resist and evolve within the dominant culture.
Pink Things: You just started a podcast! Tell me about how you arrived at the decision to expand into podcasting. For those who might not know, what’s it about?
Ambivalently Yours: YES! I have been working on my podcast entitled Rebelliously Tiny for almost a year now, and I finally officially launched the first full episode last week. In each episode, I invite a special guest to help me respond to one the questions I have received on social media. I also create a drawing to go with each episode, based on the original question and the drawing it inspired. I wanted to make a podcast because in the last year I have really gotten into them. Listening to podcasts sometimes helps me calm my anxiety and I think that sound can be a really powerful medium through which to convey some of the emotions I tackle in my online drawings and writings. This podcast was also a way for me to do something that is really hard for me to do – ask for help. I’ve been feeling really overwhelmed with all of the questions I receive, and often feel really unqualified to answer them alone, so through the podcast I am reaching out to my community to try to offer better responses and hopefully encourage other conversations to happen elsewhere.
Pink Things: How did you land on the name?
Ambivalently Yours: A few years ago I made a little drawing with the words "Rebelliously Tiny" on it, and I always sort of liked that expression. Then as we started putting the podcast together, it occurred to me how we were trying to do something so big, with such a small team and budget, which in a way felt perfect. I think that there is this notion that strength is loud and masculine, whereas I wanted to create a place where strength could be something else – something small, but rebellious.
Pink Things: Who are some of the guests? Do you have anything special planned that you can tell me about?
Ambivalently Yours: Each guest is someone from my IRL or URL community who I admire and trust. Some I know really well, others I know the way you know anyone online (by following their social media, knowing only the intentionally curated version of each other). All of the guests are really different from one another, in age, as well as race, gender, and sexual identity, to better reflect the multitudes of identities of the people who write to me.
Pink Things: Do you feel like you loose a little bit of your anonymity with the use of your voice on the podcast? It can be such an identifier!
Ambivalently Yours: As time goes on and my practice expands beyond tumblr, it has become harder and harder to keep the anonymity going, which I am ok with, I think. I don’t want my anonymity to become a gimmick or to stand in the way of me having meaningful exchanges with other people. I don’t have any real plans about the evolution of my anonymity. I kind of just take it one project at a time.
Pink Things: What has been the hardest part so far? The most rewarding? I know it’s still very new.
Ambivalently Yours: This has been a really terrifying project from the start. The technical side of recording and editing are really intimidating. Neither my co-producer, Hannah McCasland, nor I had any experience, so we sort of learned as we went along. I am also very conscious of how much I asked of the guests, all of which were so generous with their time and vulnerability. Now that the podcast is slowly going out into the world, it is starting to feel rewarding. A few people wrote to me after listening to the first episode to tell me how much it meant to them or how much they could relate to it. Those moments – when a stranger writes to you to tell you that they completely get what you are trying to say – are the most comforting feeling.
Pink Things: Do you have any other upcoming projects? What’s next for Ambivalently Yours?
Ambivalently Yours: For the moment I am focusing on the podcast, and in the process of applying for exhibitions, and hoping to maybe take a little time off to rest this summer (which I always plan and never do!). I’m also slowly working on a small series of books – I’m more and more interested in documenting my online work in physical form.
Pink Things: If you had any advice for someone struggling with ambivalence, anonymity, or creativity, what would it be?
Ambivalently Yours: Find someone you can trust and talk about it, either online or in real life. These feelings can be channelled into positive actions if you process them and acknowledge them and learn to work with them. Talking about these feelings with others is a way of putting your thoughts into words and working through them, and the process of sharing your emotions with others can incite moments of empathy and collaboration. That is how you find your allies, and in a world like this, allies are really important.
Ambivalently Yours ❤
This interview was conducted via email and has been condensed and edited.
All drawings by Ambivalently Yours