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Are Tattoos the Newest Trend in Activism?

Women are getting inked with the new, feminist rallying cry: “Nevertheless, she persisted.”

February 23, 2017

At the beginning of February, Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) made a speech discouraging the confirmation of Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) as attorney general.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell silenced Warren through a rarely invoked rule that claims she “impugned” the character of a colleague. McConnell was quoted as saying “She (Warren) had appeared to violate the rule. She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted.”

Nevertheless, she persisted.

Little did McConnell know that his words would soon become a feminist rallying cry. “Nevertheless, she persisted” started trending within hours, creating a viral #ShePersisted hashtag, which inspired historical connections of feminists past and present.

Sen. Warren even joined in the tweetstorm, sans hashtag, and is offering “She Persisted” t-shirts to donors contributing $25 or more to her 2018 re-election campaign. She also went on “The Daily Show” and emphasized the need to look past this one moment saying, “what we’ve got to do is count on people all around this country to make their voices heard.”

Now some women (myself included) have decided that we want a more permanent reminder to persist, in whatever way that means to us personally — and we're in good company. Just this week, a hundred women in Minneapolis had  the phrase tattooed for charity at a parlor  that donated $55 of every $75 earned to Women Winning, “a local nonprofit with a mission to elect pro-abortion rights women of all political parties into public office.” 

The idea was first presented to me by a co-worker, Jill Giansante, when she mentioned a group of women she knows in Portland who were getting the now-famous phrase tattooed on their bodies. Almost immediately, concepts for our own tattoos began to take root. I started playing around with the design, and took it to Anchor Tattoo in Ballard for their opinion. Only a few days after the words were spoken, I had them permanently inked into the skin on my left forearm, replacing the “t” in “persisted” with the female/Venus symbol (#girlpower).

Morgan’s tattoo.

I have never committed to something so permanent so quickly before. I only have one other tattoo on the back of my neck, which took me three years to actually get, but something about this phrase and the current political climate inspired an urgency that I couldn’t ignore. I have taken a more active role in the causes I believe in since Trump was inaugurated, and I wanted a physical representation of that fight. These words are a reminder that we women have the power to push through whatever obstacles are placed before us, whether they be social, political, or personal.

The following weekend, I accompanied Jill back to the same tattoo parlor and watched as she had the words placed on her upper back — her first tattoo.

I asked Jill what prompted her to take action. “American culture has told its women that we should strive to be more agreeable and pliant — smile more and say less. I’m proud of myself and other strong women in my life for rejecting this idea and refusing to be silenced when others’ rights are at stake,” she said. “I wanted a permanent reminder of my commitment to activism, and this phrase is especially meaningful to me because Elizabeth Warren inspires me to stay true to my values and speak out.”

Jill’s tattoo.

It turns out that Jill, myself, and the group from Portland aren’t the only ones who had this idea. Browse among the #ShePersisted posts on Instagram and Twitter, and you’ll discover a growing female faction memorializing this new feminist motto in ink.







We owe an unlikely “thank you” to Mitch McConnell for giving us a phrase that spurs the feminist movement onward. By placing the words permanently on our bodies, we have allied together to recognize and repeat the actions of Sen. Warren. She faced aggression and oppression while standing up for her beliefs. Nevertheless, she persisted, and so will we.


Morgan McMurray

Morgan McMurray is a writer and editor based in Seattle. A 2013 graduate of Iowa State University, she has a Bachelor of Arts in English, Journalism, and International Studies.

Read more of her work on her personal blog and at Law Street Media.

More stories by Morgan McMurray