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Nasty Women 'reclaim' U.S. flag, design goes viral
Stories of Portlanders motivated to take action after Donald Trump's presidential victory in November are common. But one local group has become particularly visible with its signs showing a redesign of the American flag.
Within the flag are eight lines of type that include statements such as "immigrants and refugees are welcome," "women are in charge of their bodies," and "love wins." They're planted in lawns, taped to storefront windows, and posted on billboards all around the city, and now spreading are elsewhere.
The signs are a project of Nasty Women Get Shit Done PDX — a ragtag group of ladies who weren't about to spend any time sulking after Trump's election. In the eight months since the election, the Nasty Women have raised and donated $47,000 for a range of causes, from fighting racism to addressing homelessness.
The group secured 501(c)4 nonprofit status, which doesn't allow for tax-deductible contributions but does afford them the power to lobby and endorse political candidates.
A large portion of the money they have raised so far comes from the flag signs, available in stores all over Portland and downloadable for free on their website.
The 45th U.S. president has instilled fear in immigrant and refugees communities, stemming from his pledge to build a wall between the United States and Mexico and enforcing a Muslim travel ban. Campaign rhetoric and footage disparaging women also have spurred more feminist activism.
"On the Thursday after the election, I woke up in the morning, and realized I needed to do something to get through the next four years," says Ali King, president of Nasty Women. When she's not working on Nasty Women Get Shit Done PDX initiatives, she works full-time as a senior account executive at PDX Parent magazine and cares for two teenagers.
The group's blunt name was a response to the notoriously blunt president, who during an October debate called his opposing candidate, Hillary Clinton, "such a nasty woman." She had been posed with a question about raising taxes on the rich, and responded: "My Social Security payroll contribution will go up, as will Donald's, assuming he can't figure out how to get out of it."
Trump's rejoinder "became a rally cry of women," King says. "If you want to see nasty women, we'll show you."
Upon formation, the group split into four subgroups: one to compile information on politicians for letter writing and phone calls, another diving into researching volunteer opportunities, another into education, while the last tackled visibility.
Little did they know that that last effort would result in a simple yard sign design that would go viral. It started out as a design that a friend of the group made using rainbow colors in a Facebook cover. The group asked to tweak it, putting it on a USA flag.
"We decided we needed to reclaim the flag," King says.
She explains that she never identified with the flag of the United States before.
"To me, it represented some of the wrong things. You know, the history of this country is pretty dark. So I was never proud to be an American. I know I live in a country that has a lot of great things, but I never identified with the flag," King says.
"So, we just decided to reclaim it."
U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Portland, has become a fan of the design. He marched with the group during the March for Science, and carried a cloth version of the flag with him to some events, such as a "Teaching in a Time of Trump" gathering of educators in February. Pete Souza, former President Barack Obama's official White House photographer, posted a photo of the sign on Instagram while visiting Athens, Ohio, last month, with the caption: "Amen."
Not everyone is a fan. When Old Town greeting card store owner Josh Nusbaum and wife Jenn Pagliaro decided to sell the design at Waterknot shortly after the election and put a few signs on the front door, next thing they knew, the windows were shattered by a thrown rock. They responded by boarding up the windows and putting the signs back up.
Nusbaum believes showing the signs is a "unifying measure" that has a "really important effect." It has been translated into 14 languages.
"I think it helps people feel better — it connects them," he says.
Lately Nusbaum has seen a slowdown of sign sales as people have acclimated to the new president.
"It's hard to keep that fire burning all the time. People get complacent, but I know people are still freaked out," he says. "It would be nice if there was something to get that fire lit again."
King also acknowledges the burnout. She had just returned from a vacation to Australia to relax.
"Take a break and make one thing your focus," she says. "You can't take on everything. It's going to be a long battle. It's not just going to end when his presidency ends."
Nasty Women meets on the second Sunday of each month at Colonial Heights Presbyterian Church, 2828 S.E. Stephens St. They have partnered with Portland Police Bureau to host a series of personal safety workshops, with the next scheduled from 7-9 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 13, at the church.
Following the fatal stabbing attacks by white supremacist Jeremy Christian on a MAX train in May, the group is planning bystander intervention trainings.
Find out more at www.nwgsdpdx.org.