Harlot Interview: Headexplodie (aka Annie Wong), Creator of Ovary Actions
Menstruation. It's a word that still makes a lot of people squirm in their seats. Even though it is a physical phenomenon that happens to billions of people around the globe, it is still shrouded in secrecy, riddled with shame, and highly stigmatized. The red tide is starting to change, though. More and more health educators, activists, and everyday people are bringing the discussions of menstruation out of the dark and into the light in a full-blown menstrual movement.
One such mover is graphic artists Annie Wong, who created a collection of menstrual-themed GIFs a friend recently shared with me via Harlot's Facebook page. I can't relay how giddy these moving images make me. They are funny, cute, spot-on, and stigma-smashing all rolled into one so I jumped at the chance to speak with Annie about her project, aptly named Ovary Actions. Here is what we discussed:
Tell us a little bit about yourself, is there anything you want us to know?
My artist name is Headexplodie, and my regular person name is Annie Wong.
I’m an artist who specializes in cute and weird stop motion. Ever since I was a kid I’ve loved entertaining people with my art, but I’m also very introverted so film and animation is currently my favorite way to share and connect with people. I just really love the art of play and making people laugh, so if you’re also down with that, then you’re on my team!
What gave you the idea for this project? Was there a particular “light bulb” moment or was it something you had been working toward?
Like a lot of artists, I was heartbroken by the hate and divisiveness of the 2016 presidential election. While I’ve never been overtly political before in my work, it felt more important than ever to create something that would speak against oppressive ways of thinking and that could connect people. It’s like the second-wave feminist movement said, “The personal is political.” For me, menstruation is very personal experience, and the stigma that surrounds it is political because it’s an attempt to control our bodies (in this case, through language).
The idea behind Ovary Actions is that we make up all these ridiculous euphemisms about periods because a lot of us have been taught that menstruation is gross. I want to illustrate menstruation in a positive and more lighthearted way. I kinda just made what I wish I could’ve grown up with as a young girl.
Why did you choose this medium for your project?
Stop motion animation lends itself well to this subject because it can be easily creepy and/or charming depending on what you do with it. Plus, I’ve always loved handmade things because they are human and imperfect. I specifically wanted to make GIFs because I wanted people to share them with each other. Whenever I communicate online, I’m always using visuals like stickers, emojis, and GIFs. You can communicate a lot ideas and emotions with GIFs.
What has the public reaction been to your project?
There has been a very, very small number of people that are not the audience for it and have said things like “Why all the blood?!” and "Menstruation is NOT cute." But the overwhelming response has been positive and most people agree that it’s time to normalize periods. I’ve been especially happy to see people relating and saying things like “this is me!” and/or tagging their friends. It’s also been really cool seeing people outside of the United States that agree with the message. Thanks to social media, Ovary Actions has been shared in Japan, Ireland, Sweden, The Netherlands, The UK, Mexico and India.
What do you hope people take away from your gifs?
I would, of course, love for people to just get a smile or laugh when looking at the GIFs, but mostly I would love the animations to serve as a means of connection between people to feel comfortable and have fun talking about their bodies. Someone commented recently that using menstrual cups is still taboo for her community in Mexico and my GIFs were helping to open the debate on this. How cool is that?!
What do you wish you would have known about menstruation as a young person?
I wish I knew there were ways to explore the topic that didn’t seem so clinical and dreadful. When I got my first period at 13, the thought that popped in my head was something along the lines of “Oh great. It’s all over now!” I felt like I was entering into a new phase of life where my body was betraying me. Now I don’t see it as a betrayal, it’s just a normal, natural, and healthy process, and I try to have compassion for my body and take care of it while it’s doing it’s thing.
Do you plan to tackle any other sexual/reproductive health related projects in the future?
I would love to someday, especially because I do believe that the more you know, the more confident and comfortable you can be in your own body. I would love to work with sexual health professionals and orgs to make some fun and educational content, so if there are any out there that would like to team up, please reach out!
Do you want people to share your work? How can someone go about doing that?
Yes! On social media my GIFs can be reposted with a credit to @headexplodie, or you can download them from OvaryActions.com and post with the same artist credit. I’m working on making the GIFs into digital and/or physical stickers for people to share, too, so keep an eye on that later this year.