Supportive Vandalism?

What is scribed in bathroom stalls, however arbitrary or unsavory, is valuable. Seen only by male or female students and janitors, these messages may tell us more about our school community that we think. From the smallest drawing to a written paragraph, graffiti communicates a message. Regardless of our opinion towards the message, liberating or oppressive, benign or charged, it communicates a message.

Critical Conceptions of Graffiti in Schools by Naushaad Suliman is a master’s degree thesis written at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education. He stated: Graffiti “can be the marker of a good school or a less than desirable school…If students (and possibly teachers) are writing graffiti in schools, it may be an indication that they do not feel they have a voice to express their thoughts in an open forum.”

Teacher appreciation whiteboards and student forums are examples of our school the encourage public sharing of opinion. However, the personal nature that graffiti embodies cannot be replicated by a school approved message board.

In order to preserve the integrity and the graffiti itself, I will not share any pictures or accounts of bathroom vandalism.

Except for this one.

I have been at SAS for 6 years and have had the pleasure to see this wall develop. Like a message board, and littered with words of various motivations, these people have left their mark. Disclaimer: as a female, I cannot speak for the males or about the condition of male bathrooms, but I am thoroughly impressed by these girls. Have a look for yourself…

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“Sometimes even if I am in a crowded room full of people, I feel alone because no one seems to care”
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“It’s ok. I’m here for whoever needs it. Call 1234 5678 for a deep talk. You can count on me xoxo #LGBTQ support”
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“People do care! Just find the right friends. We’re still here for you”

With the strength of invisibility and freedom to express, these messages truly do convey the importance of graffiti. It is a discussion. Whether it is a discussion that would or would not happen in a classroom, it is happening nonetheless.

The cries for help are met with messages of empowerment.

By erasing this type of harmless vandalism, it removes the ever small yet important power that students possess: the power to capture the attention of those who sit on that toilet. To make girls read, smile, and think.

Graffiti can tell a school an abundant amount of information regarding the well being of a school community. For me, seeing this (almost) every day makes me smile. While it is assumed that bathroom walls will depict violet graffiti, whomever these people may be, they have chosen to write messages of hope. It reassures me that there are people out there who would take the time to comfort and help others.

If by the next time I decide to enter that stall and the graffiti is gone– the permanent marker scrubbed with chemicals, out of existence– I will remember whoever it was that scribed “People do care!”.

And mourn the fact that no one else’s bathroom experience will be enhanced as mine was.

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Author: Aoife Haakenson

Aoife is a Junior at SAS and this is her first year as a reporter for The Eye. She is an avid listener of podcasts; All Songs Considered, S*** Town, and What’s The Tee to name a few. In her free time, Aoife enjoys baking, Earth Wind & Fire, being a theater nerd, RuPaul's Drag Race, salted caramel ice cream, and hoodies. She can be contacted at haakenson44633@sas.edu.sg

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