Caylin Yorba-Ruiz: An Empowerment Artist Trailblazer


Caylin Yorba-Ruiz

Caylin Yorba-Ruiz works on decorations for the Women’s Resource Center located at University of California, Riverside. She created a wooden sign and several different prints for them.

Caitlynn Kelley, Journalist

Many students at University Preparatory and all around the world dream about doing something greater than themselves. Class of 2015 alumni Caylin Yorba-Ruiz has done just that. She graduated with a BA in Media and Culture Studies and a BA in Studio Art from the University of California, Riverside. Now, she is an empowerment artist who runs an Etsy store where she sells some of her inspiring, uplifting art, through which she focuses on Latinas, women in general, and emotional well-being. On the about page in her website, she talks about how she empowers and educates her community through accessible and free resources, as well as how she wants to go further in higher education to see the connections between mindfulness and art. 

Caylin Yorba-Ruiz describes what compelled her to be a freelance artist and gives her advice to young artists who are considering going down the same path, “Being a freelance artist allows me to work independently as an Etsy seller while also working with multiple clients who share the same values of empowering individuals and promoting well-being. This allows me to invest in the growth of fellow women-owned small businesses and innovative nonprofit organizations, such as htm.elle, SafeSquad, ACLU SoCal, Business Innovation Factory, and Feminist Sticker Club. My advice to any high school students [who are] considering pursuing freelance work is to not get discouraged. I think it has taken me a solid two years to have some type of client consistency and actually work with a client base that matches my advocacy, but it can definitely be discouraging towards the beginning.”

In the US, every March, Women’s History Month is celebrated to recognize and remember all of the inspiring women who have made contributions to society. This year marks a 100 years in the United States since women got the right to vote. Since then, there has been a lot of improvement in trying to achieve equality for women. There was a record-breaking number of women that were elected to serve in Congress during late 2018 and pieces of legislation that have tried to close the inequality gap. However, there is still a long way to go.  Even though women are decreasing the gender pay gap because they are getting jobs that require a high level of skills, the gap still exists. The gender wage gap can be explained by how women are more likely to take time off during their careers to care for their children or relatives. However, there is also a discrimination factor at play. According to the British Trade Union Association, or TUC, when a man has children, he gets an increase in his pay, but when a woman has children, her pay decreases 30%. The gender wage gap is even worse for Latinas and black women. In their life-time, Latinas will lose $1,000,000 because of the gender wage gap. Black women will lose around $946,120. 

Caylin Yorba-Ruiz
This is a button with Christine Blasey Ford on it. She is most well-known for her testimony against Justice Kavanaugh, accusing him of sexual assault. The button was created by Yorba-Ruiz, specifically for UC Riverside’s “Persist” Conference held by the Women’s Resource Center. The students who attended the event received a pin.

Caylin Yorba-Ruiz states what Women’s History Month means to her and how women and young girls can acknowledge this month, “I think recently, Women’s History Month has been mistranslated to highlight the accomplishments of girl bosses, but Women’s History Month to me means acknowledging the womxn’s [womxn is a term which includes women who are not cisgender] issues that still need to be addressed in 2020, while also highlighting the work womxn are doing to fix these issues worldwide. This means doing your own research, supporting womxn-owned businesses, being an ally for marginalized communities (even communities that are different from your own), and extending kindness to other womxn and girls in the classroom. Adolescence can be a very challenging time for many and for me, it proved to be difficult socially. For any girl and womxn-identifying students at UP, you can make a significant impact on campus just by being kind to one another. Remember, ‘we rise by lifting others.'” On Caylin’s Etsy page, she has phone cases and other accessories that promote women empowering other women and other messages which inspire her audience. Some of her art for Women’s History Month includes: a trio of pins which features Malala Yousafzai and other well-known leading ladies, a print with Frida Kahlo on it, and a print of US Representative Ilhan Omar. 

For any girl and womxn-identifying students at UP, you can make a significant impact on campus just by being kind to one another. Remember, ‘we rise by lifting others.’”

— Caylin Yorba-Ruiz


In addition to empowering women, Yorba-Ruiz also considers psychological well-being as a fundamental part of her artistic and activist journey; she sells stickers that promote mental wellness and an anxiety attack kit for those who suffer from panic attacks. She has also created “Note to Self: A Self Love & Care Coloring Book,” in which she uplifts survivors of sexual assault through her messages of self-acceptance and love, partly inspired by her belief in art therapy. 

Art therapy is a method that therapists utilize so their patients are able to express what they feel without using words. The patients can either draw or create sculptures to help the therapist to visualize the client’s trauma. In the artwork, the client conveys different sides of their personality. If a client creates a sculpture, it can rouse physical feelings that were previously blocked. Instead of the client telling the therapist the troubles they went through, they can use symbolism instead. The usage of symbolism can make therapy more tolerable for the client. Making art can help the client direct all of their anger from the perpetrator toward the art piece instead of to themselves or others. In turn, the emblematized rage from the artwork helps them to accept their experiences. This also helps them release restrained emotions. Caylin received UC Riverside’s Healthy Campus Initiative grant, which enabled her to distribute coloring books to survivors of sexual assault on her campus. Yorba-Ruiz answers how art therapy can help those who have been sexually assaulted, “Trauma can be incredibly difficult to process and can be held physiologically in the body, meaning it can affect both your mental and physical health. There is no one-size-fits-all magic path towards healing, and each survivor goes through their own healing process for a unique amount of time. That’s where art comes in! Art offers a nontraditional healing modality for survivors throughout various stages of their healing and can actually assist in the processing of traumatic events when words feel difficult to muster.”

Another important topic that Yorba-Ruiz incorporates into her work is intersectionality, which she stresses is an important factor in advocating equality for everyone in feminism. The recent wave of feminism for the 21st century, 4th wave feminism, focuses on intersectionality. Intersectionality is seeing the links of oppression between class, gender, race, ethnicity, sexuality, and other identities. This broadens the horizon of feminism. Instead of just focusing on white, western women, intersectionality gives a voice to the problems that women of different races, ethnicities, ages, sexualities, disabilities, and so on, face in society. Yorba-Ruiz answers what she thinks about intersectionality in the 4th wave feminist movement and how other feminist movements have paved the way for 4th wave feminism,

Popular culture and media often represent 4th wave feminism with pink cat beanies and women at rallies, but it’s not always representative of the majority of girls/womxn that are putting in the work behind the scenes. Intersectionality is vital to the 4th wave in that womxn’s experiences differ based on race, class, and gender and each of the inequities experienced can be represented and advocated for within the feminist movement. Ultimately, there is still so much work to be done to support womxn, specifically trans women and women of color. Current (and all-inclusive) feminism advocates for everybody of every identity across the realms of politics, healthcare, education, and finances.”

Yoba-Ruiz suggests that people who want to continue any interest in feminism and intersectionality explore Bell Hooks’ and Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw’s texts; Tani Ikeda’s, Ana Mendieta’s, Judithe Hernandez’s, Carrie Mae Weems’, and Kara Walker’s art; and Greta Thunberg’s, Wangari Maathai’s, and Mary Maddingly’s work towards sustainability.

Representation in media for women of different backgrounds is another issue Yorba-Ruiz is passionate about. Research shows that women who are “white, blonde, and skinny” represent ideal, beautiful women and women of minority groups are reflected negatively in the media; this can make women of color want to change the way they look in order to be considered beautiful in their society’s eyes.  However, there has been an increase of advertisements and media coverage which show women of minority groups as successful and powerful. Regarding on how girls of different backgrounds respond to seeing themselves in the media and how she wants her art and her career to impact the next generation of girls, Yorba-Ruiz responded, “One of my favorite quotes is from Nina Simone, where she says, ‘How can you be an artist and not reflect the times?’ For anyone that has a passion for the arts or media, I think it is vital for us to share our experience through art in an accessible way. For me, survivor advocacy, mental health, and womxn empowerment can be seen throughout my work because I belong to these communities and I have been able to hear the needs of these communities. Media representation (whether in art, music, literature, film, or social media) in the areas of mental wellness and survivor advocacy can help break the stigma surrounding violence, illness, and can even bring someone courage to reach out for resources.”