Writing on the Wall: Female Graffiti Artists Changing the Game

Graffiti, street art, vandalism. Call it what you will, but historically it’s been a male-dominated field. Up until recently, women writers have emerged and taken to the streets to express their opinions through paint.

But why are female graffiti artists only joining the game now?

In an industry based on clandestine and illegal activity, it can be unsafe. It’s also an activity that’s based on respect, and in the past, female writers were not seen as equal to men. The disrespect went as far as to assume that a female graffiti artist would be sleeping around if she was writing in the same circles as male artists. These days, things have changed. Just like how Emma Watson spoke out about feminism and the roles of gender equality, many female graffiti artists are also activists, humanists, and feminists. They choose graffiti as a medium to get their message across. We believe these female graffiti artists are helping to change the street art dialogue with their thought-provoking murals.

Shamsia Hassani, Afghanistan

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As Afghanistan’s leading graffiti artist, Shamsia Hassani hopes to change the cultural perspective on art and women. Unlike North America, Afghanistan is lacking art galleries and museums. Graffiti is being embraced as a form of free expression in Afghanistan, as there are many blank walls and streets to fill with paint. Shamsia creates 3D street art to colour over the bad memories of war torn Afghanistan. She demonstrate the power of art and challenges the traditional role and place of an Afghan woman – to be in the home. Being a female artist as well as choosing to paint women as her subject matter encourages the public to view her gender differently.

Tatyana Fazlalizadeh, Brooklyn, NY

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Tatyana is an Iranian and African-American artist who created the street art project Stop Telling Women to Smile, which addresses gender based street harassment. This is an issue that many females face – whether they are tormented by catcalling or by being approached or followed by a man. Tatyana spoke with women who have experienced street harassment and created wheat-paste portraits that contain text inspired by their stories. Originally, this project appeared on the streets of Brooklyn, but it ignited conversation and has expanded to other US cities. Tatyana believes that these portraits give women a voice in a space where they can often feel unsafe or uncomfortable.

Lady Pink, born in Ecuador, based in New York City

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Known as the first female graffiti artist, Lady Pink has been in the industry for over 30 years. She has been labelled as a feminist as much of her work features women. However, in an interview she asserted that this is just a stylistic preference and that she doesn’t consider herself a feminist “per se.” She speaks to women’s issues and sexism because it is something she’s experienced in her career and life. In our opinion, this is what makes her a role model for women. Her public work celebrates women with bold colours and expressive female forms.

Feeling Inspired?

These three women are a small sample of female writers who are painting to get their message across. Graffiti is a very public form of art and self-expression and it is a great place to get the word on the street. Standing for something you believe in is the purpose of graffiti and women are appropriately using this medium to raise awareness of gender equality.

Do you believe in the message these female graffiti artists are promoting with their art?

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