Pluck a clever, peripherally observant, and beautiful woman from the world. Literally any part of the world—far or near, rich or rare, physical or internet. A skyward follower count is not a determinant for selection. Ask her a set of questions that invite a discussion of sexuality, sensuality, modern feminism, career, and creativity, explored through her very personal lens. Have her answer them. And there you have it: that’s In Touch, a Par Femme segment, assembled, for you, with pleasure.
Brooklyn-based illustrator Julie Houts is a woman after our own hearts. A quick jaunt through her Instagram page will elicit many head nods and thoughts to the tune of, ‘Literally Me!’, which is fitting given that is the title of her brilliant, soul-affirming coffee table book. Exploring the shifting femininity of women and the challenges we face in today’s political climate, Julie’s illustrations and the witty captions that accompany them are at once funny, femme and full of all the feels. BARE Sexology sat down with Julie to discuss how she sees the world as depicted through her #relatable heroines.
You seem to be able to capture the twenty to thirty-something psyche unlike any other. Case in point: my girlfriends and I constantly tag one another in your Instagram posts alongside comments like ‘You’ or ‘Literally Me’. How do you get it so right?
That’s great to hear! It’s not really a conscious attempt. I don’t sit down to draw each day like, “Ok, time to capture the psyche of twenty to thirty-something women.” I tend to make an illustration to either dissect a behaviour I see in myself or in the people around me. I’ll read something, watch something, or just notice a pattern in the women around me. Since I am a 32-year-old woman, I think it is sort of an inevitability that my work resonates with other women similar to me in age. Though, it would be funny if what I made mostly resonated with seventy to ninety-year-old men.
How did you cut-through the Instagram noise and get noticed? What does it mean to you to have hundreds of thousands of women following your account?
It wasn’t intentional. I started my Instagram way, way, way back when it was still pretty much a new platform. I think in 2011. I had about six followers, who were my actual friends, and we just treated it like a group chat. We posted pictures of shoes like, “Should I buy these?”. It was very unconsidered, and definitely not curated. I think I started posting drawings I was making at my desk at work because it just felt natural to show a small group of friends a drawing I made. Slowly, as Instagram grew, my following grew as well. I kept posting drawings because I always had been. It wasn’t until a few years ago that the account sort of took off. A couple celebrities re-grammed illustrations of mine, and some press attention followed, and then everything was very different. I got a book deal, quit my job, and now work as full-time illustrator and writer. I could never have imagined how different my life would be as a result of an app. I’m really humbled by all of it. As I said, I never expected any of this to happen, so I am very grateful for all the opportunities I have been given as a result of the support of all these women. It sounds corny, but I do feel a certain responsibility to them in some ways. At the same time, it’s a very abstract sort of relationship that I don’t always understand or know how to navigate.
How do you stay relevant when Instagram is so quick moving and your posts are generational?
Staying “relevant” is not something I try to think about. I am pretty much sitting in my bathrobe and underwear drawing all day. If I manage to squeeze out a drawing I like, that is its own little victory, and if it happens to resonate with people, that's a cherry on top! I feel like it is a slippery slope to start trying to reflect people’s own consciousness back at them.
What does being feminine, today, mean to you? When do you feel most feminine?
I think it’s complicated. I don’t find the term that useful, to be honest! I think it’s most often defined in the binary masculine/feminine. I think my own definition of what it means or looks like to me changes with my mood.
It can sometimes be difficult to 'get in the mood' when working from home. What turns you on?
Creatively, I will read something or look through some of my favourite books for inspiration. Or, I’ll just sit down and start drawing figures, sort of doodling around. Sometimes a certain pose or shape will inform a whole drawing. If it’s not working, I’ll just abandon it and try again the next day. It’s too frustrating to try to force something when it’s not coming.
Romantically, yeah, that is its own challenge. I’m not really getting dressed every day. A lot of times at the end of the day, I find myself in pyjamas, socks and a sweater with a face mask I put on at 10 am. I’ve been hunched over a pad of paper for eight hours, and I’m covered in graphite. Somedays are just like that. But, if I’m trying to pretend I’m a human woman and not a sort of troll person, I’ll just shower and dress myself, put on makeup, do my hair… just return to human form before my boyfriend gets home from work. Maybe have a glass of wine. I think for me it helps to separate the work day from the evening having a “getting ready” ritual. I feel better about myself and am more present.
Your posts are political in the sense that they represent women's very real fear at the state of the nation and sexism (++). What do you think will be our greatest challenge for 2019?
Everything, all of it.