Grafitti sparks dialogue to empower

Su Jin Nam

Posters of students and faculty imitating the Wonder Woman pose with an encouraging word they chose were hung on the quad and displayed on TV screens around campus in reaction to the “lipstick graffiti” found in the girl’s restroom in Seaver Academic Center.

Assistant Director of Communications Shauna Altieri organized the project as a response to the closing of the girls’ restroom on the first floor of the Seaver Academic Center on Feb. 23 after it was vandalized with purple lipstick. The graffiti spread messages of female empowerment such as “Please, love your body. It has the power to create life. How amazing is that?!? You are stunning & sexy & smart. Love yourself. —M”

“I felt our students needed an outlet for positive messaging to one another,” Altieri said. “The lipstick graffiti made me realize that the students were looking for an outlet for positive support of one another. It certainly got me thinking creatively. What could we do that was within the rules of the school?”

Students believe that the photo shoot, which ends March 20, is a worthy cause and promotes good values.

“As a community, I think we can learn to have a more optimistic attitude,” Mei Mei Tercek ’16 said. “All of the photos on display are very empowering and personal. They remind everyone of their strengths. Especially at our school, it’s easy to lose our sense of positivity and confidence, and this project does a good job of reminding us to think more optimistically.”

The biggest benefits are positivity and unity which are promoted just by holding this campaign, Shelby Weiss ’16 said.

“I hope that we will do more projects like this, to continue fostering such sentiments,” Weiss said.

Other students have responded to the lipstick graffiti removal by putting up new posters and using social media to promote women’s empowerment around campus.

“By definition, the writing on the stall was vandalism, but the point of writing that message wasn’t to vandalize the school, it was to spread appreciation and respect for ourselves, and we, as teenage girls in today’s society, need to learn that lesson,” Grace Gerber ’15 said.

Gerber helped start an Instagram trend where she posted a photo of the restroom’s message.

“It was a quick and efficient way to spread awareness about what happened,” Gerber said. “And a way to spread the actual message that was written.”

Another student, who asked to remain anonymous, said that she was frustrated by the closing of the restroom, not because it was an inconvenience, but because of the school’s response to the message.

“I understand why the school and administration would feel disrespected due to the medium of the message,” she said. “But the message itself was a positive one and an important one at that.”

The new posters placed in restrooms read, “This is a movement. You cannot stop the people who fight for love. And in this case, it’s self-love…Love yourself, please, because you are brilliant and funny and the world is lucky to have you.”

Assistant to the Head of Upper School Michelle Bracken said that with the exception of head prefect Sarah Winshel ’15 and Chronicle reporters, there have been no students coming to talk to her about the incident.

“The very next day after the online article came out, my son called me from college to talk to me about it,” Bracken said. “So then I started hearing and seeing what was actually written on there so I said I’d love to have a conversation with these kids.”

Although Bracken agreed with the idea and theme of the written message, she suggested finding an alternative method to spread the word.

“I agree 100 percent with empowering women and the message,” Bracken said. “However, you can’t just go around writing things in lipstick, where other people have to clean up. That sometimes takes away from your message.”

A sign has been posted inside the Seaver restroom reading, “We support your right to express yourself… There are many other ways in which to communicate your thoughts and values, and there are other, more appropriate, spaces in which to write them.”