chapter  6
14 Pages

Ways of being seen: gender and the writing on the wall

ByJessica N. Pabón

Be it a wheat-pasted character complimented by a confrontational political message, an indecipherable name spray-painted in 3D puzzle-piece letters, or a stenciled silhouette of a familiar pop culture icon – without an explicit identifier, the “writing on the wall” is assumed to be the work of an unfailingly gendered, raced, and classed subject. The process of a viewer’s visual and cognitive perception replaces anonymity with biases and stereotypes of the subject held responsible and/or given credit for the public act. This subject is likely assumed to be urban, economically disenfranchised, and a racial or ethnic minority. Moreover, the writer/artist is invariably assumed to be male. Under the conditions of this particular gaze, girls and women who write graffiti or make street art are not visible.