This week, we are returning to the A floor of the Rock to the same stall we looked at last week. From there, we’ll progress up two floors to Level 2.
Around a jotting that may look familiar from two weeks ago are two new additions. Both have a decidedly political leaning. “Industrial civilization is incompatible with a healthy planet” seems to be a comment on environmental issues, and “Don’t let the man hold you down. Keep writing!” is a rallying cry to potential graffiti-ists. It references the ongoing interactions between students and Facilities employees, where the stalls undergo a reoccurring cycle of graffiti-ing and whitewashing. The traces of this cycle remain around the starkly blue-penned slogan—faded, partially legible jottings emerging out of and fading into the white paint. This graffiti indicates the importance ascribed (literally) to this forum by some of Brown’s women, but it is significant that it is “the man” keeping us down. This is a common turn of phrase to be sure, but one that points to larger cultural structures where women remain in an inferior position is defined by their non-male status, despite a seeming equality because of our right to vote, laws to prevent employment discrimination, and so on. And maybe we should ask, who is the man? After all, he is not the female employees at Facilities who actually do the whitewashing.
One swift elevator ride away and we are at the second floor women’s bathroom. It’s individual place, with its own aura quite distinct from that of the other bathrooms around. The bathroom stalls here are made from an entirely different material (in a rather fetching shade of green) that does not allow for graffiti. But on the back of one stall there are the remains of a sticker, partially torn off, which has been eagerly claimed as a writable, graffiti-able surface. It may or may not have been the students who attempted to tear the sticker off. The bounded, almost orderly, square of the stall door that serves as a writer’s canvass contrasts with the casual, subversive nature of graffiti that is usually unbounded and scrawled in ways that pushes the boundaries of accepted use. This stall provides us with another experience of graffiti, carefully framed, limited by the properties of the materials, with each jotting jostling with its neighbours for space in a close-cornered dialogue.