When a blinding white bolt of lightning streaks the sky, you know a cloud has burst to send its electric charge to the earth. You don’t expect the bolt to turn a fiery red – famously used by the Nazis - and end up a pictograph for women’s rights in Poland. (More about the SS insignia in a moment).

Female power

ArtNet reports that the electric symbol stands for female power against the Polish government’s proposal to outlaw abortion – even in extreme cases when the fetus suffers a severe birth defect. The artist who came up with the pictograph, Ola Jasionowska, is an art director for cultural campaigns at Warsaw City Hall.

Poster art

Jasionowska is also known for creating posters for museums and theaters. What you see in her activist poster is a lightning bolt of a woman’s silhouetted face segmented by a lightning bolt. The image is so popular, it shows up in handmade signs at protest marches throughout Europe.

Male emblem

Of course, a thunderbolt isn’t new in the world of emblems. A coin from Epirus in 234 BC bearing the head of Zeus comes with a lightning strike. It’s also used in modern times. The hard rock band AC/DC and the comic Book action figure Captain Marvel comes to mind. Harry Potter also sports a thunderbolt in a scar on his forehead. The list is long for those using the emblem. But here’s the thing.

It’s usually seen in association with men, not women.

Stabbed in the face

When ArtNet asked Jasionowska how she came up with the idea for the design, she seemed to misunderstand the question, and instead state her aim: “to create a symbol of woman’s power.” Odd that she would think that a woman’s face fractured by a lightning bolt is a sign of female power.

Sign of the times

But the image seems to have taken off. The Art Newspaper reported a pro-choice march of 430,000 last weekend hoisting Jasionowska’s poster art with the Polish words that mean "Women’s Strike."

International insignia

Reportedly, the thunderbolt insignia has become synonymous with the International Women’s Strike movement.

Protest groups in other countries have adopted the logo, including the U.S. which depicts a black woman.

Logo lore

Which means that Jasionowska got her wish. As she told The Art Newspaper, she created the image so it could be instantly recognized. The result exceeded her expectations. She voiced surprised to see numerous protestors inserting the logo on t-shirts and even embroideries.

Hitler in the news

But wait, there’s more to the poster than solidarity. It’s also meant as a warning: “Be careful,” Jasionowska says, “we warn you. We don't agree with women being deprived of their basic human rights.” This is why this group of female activists has been compared to the Nazi youth group. Hitler’s party used a red bolt of lightning as a symbol of might.

We’re not like that

Jasionowska says there’s no comparison: “It was created for the Polish women’s strike whose views are extremely opposed to any fascist behavior.”

Moral of the story. When you’re designing a pictograph, make sure it’s unexampled.