I am so glad to showcase more about this amazing woman! Every conversation with her makes me smile and her ideas about these collection were all phenomenal!
In this interview we find out more about her, the design, her feminist journey etc...
Who is Aleksandra Makarenko, the woman behind The Smash It collection?
Hi, I am Aleksandra, Sasha - for short. I am an aspiring UX Designer and a self-taught illustrator. I am also a chartered member of the British Psychological Society and I used to work as a child psychologist for a decade before moving into a design career. I enjoy hiking, visiting art exhibitions and spending time with my dear friends and family.
What does this illustration mean to you? What are you saying with it?
For me, this illustration is about embracing and celebrating such societally tabooed and “inconvenient” emotions and behaviours in girls and women as righteous anger, honesty and directness with your own voice and opinion. Being a part of a gender-role-bound society, even my caring and loving family couldn’t escape those conventional rules of girls’ upbringing: “It’s not nice and not pretty to be angry if you are a girl”, “well-behaved, good girls never shout, never stomp their feet”, “if you are smiley and sweet, it’s much easier to get what you want”, etc. Today, as a grown-up woman, I am mastering emotional self-awareness, learning not to suppress anger, but explore it instead, identify reasons behind it and channel it into constructive action if needed. I am learning how to SMASH those patriarchal rules and harmful unconscious patterns, which, sadly, still influence my personal and professional growth these days.
Also, Virginia, the creator of TFS, was an inspiration for that illustration, even visually.
What has been your biggest learning since you started as an illustrator/artist?
That illustration is something you can do for fun, but not for a living, LOL. On a more serious note, my biggest learning curve happened when I started using Procreate, a complex and versatile app for digital drawing. It can really do wonders and helps me as an artist tremendously.
What is the goal? What is the big vision of what you would like to achieve?
Oh wow, never thought of a big vision, but maybe I should! I guess, I just want to experience more happiness and inner peace than sadness and frustration in my daily life, and I want to help people in one way or another. Drawing is one of the instruments for achieving that goal.
What is Feminism for you?
It’s about all genders having equal political, economic, and social rights and opportunities. It’s freedom in our own choices, including our actions, thoughts and feelings.
Which “everyday sexism” really bothers you?
When I hear adults saying to kids things like “Boys don’t cry” or when I see them buying little girls toy kitchenware sets instead of Lego (nothing is wrong with girls playing mothers or cooking; it gets bad if they are not given a choice)
Do you remember when you started identifying as a Feminist and why?
I grew up in Russia in the ‘90s and early 2000s, in a quite conventional society. I got married when I was 25, and since then some very random people who have nothing to do with my personal life, started asking me when I was going to have children. I remember experiencing discomfort, but as that kind of intrusive behaviour was considered a norm, I never spoke back and didn’t see it as a violation of my personal boundaries. After moving to London, assimilating here, befriending many incredible, diverse people, and living here for years, I learned that each of us is different and at the same time equal in our own rights, and that the feeling of shame as a childless woman I had before, was induced by the sexist, traditional society. That understanding helped me to breathe freer and since then I called that shiny armour the “F word”.
Who is your biggest feminist role model?
I am lucky to have amazing, strong women in my life who I really want to look alike to, starting from my dear mother. Speaking about famous figures, I admire every single bit about the life and work of Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
What is your favourite Feminist quote?
“The decision whether or not to bear a child is central to a woman’s life, to her wellbeing and dignity. It’s a decision she must make for herself.” - RGB
What is your proud feminist victory?
Getting a British driving licence, and starting driving without fear! Both my husband and I finished driving courses at the same time when we were at the uni, we had the same driving experience at some point, however, for him, it was considered “safer” to drive a car than for me (in defence of my husband, the driving culture in Russia is truly not good). It took years to finally push myself to get behind the wheel, and now I am enjoying that beautiful and simple small piece of freedom every day.
What is your feminist recommendation?
Book: Circe by Madeline Miller
TV show: My Brilliant Friend
Film: The Lost Daughter (2021)
What is your feminist call of action to whoever is reading?
Practice self-awareness every single day, value your emotions and trust your conscious choices, without external validation or approval.