Update: ‘Grrrl Army’ causing a stir in Seattle with pink paint

Oct 18, 2012

What appears to have started as a battle over wall space for posters on Seattle’s Capitol Hill has morphed into an increasingly high-profile call to action against patriarchy, “rape culture,” sexism and, well, “inequality and oppression.”

A call to action that the group Seattle Grrrl Army announces in bright bold pink.

UPDATE: Members of the Grrrl Army explain their tactics

In September, The Capitol Hill Times (a neighborhood blog) described the crux of the battle between the Seattle promotion company posterGIANT and Grrrl Army this way:

In response to posterGIANT’s tactics, the Seattle Grrrl Army has been covering over the company’s ad campaigns with its own work over the last two weeks. One of the art installations featured bloody coat hangers and statements about illegal abortions. Other slogans have been put up ranting against rape culture and the “war on women” that is being waged by far-right conservatives. One poster showed posterGIANT owner Cox with a digitally inserted penis in his hand. But, every time the Grrrl Army puts up work, posterGIANT workers tear it down and replace their posters.

More than a battle over wall space

However, Seattle Grrrl Army explains on their Tumblr page that they’re not just in a fight with posterGIANT over its tactic of plastering walls with posters in violation of street poster ethics.

“We got bigger fish to fry,” the group says.

Its murals display a variety of messages such as “Help fight rape culture” and “Consent is sexy,” as well as the self-empowerment message in the photo below:

A part of the Grrrl Army mural on Capitol Hill.
A part of the Grrrl Army mural on Capitol Hill.
Credit Evan Hoover / KPLU

The group also explained it used pink paint at first because somehow that was the only color they had for their first action. But response to the color led them to embrace it more fully.

“Some people HATE HATE HATE pink in a way that’s different than hating most colors. I mean- it’s a COLOR. CHILL. Maybe it has to do with the color’s current cultural significance (fun fact: pink has only been a symbol of the feminine since around WWI.) But whatever it is that make people so uncomfortable with the color- it’s catchy as hell,” the group wrote on its Tumblr page.

Part of the Grrrl Army mural on Capitol Hill in Seattle.
Part of the Grrrl Army mural on Capitol Hill in Seattle.
Credit Evan Hoover / KPLU

In its article on the feminist group, The Stranger pointed out that city officials are less than pleased with the Grrrl Army tactics:

"It's vandalism; it's graffiti," says Seattle City Council member Tom Rasmussen. "Regardless of whether it's a gang sign or political messaging, people shouldn't be allowed to paint on other people's buildings without permission."

"As a father of three women, I understand the importance of these messages," says Council Member Tim Burgess, and while he admits that Grrrl Army's messaging is "a good thing," he adds, "Ideally, these messages will be posted on property with permission of the property owner."

Nevertheless, the group says what it does is legal and not vandalism.

And … the movement is spreading, they say, with groups already formed in Boston and New York City.

UPDATE 10/18/12: Q&A with Grrrl Army members

What/where was your first mural?

SGA started doing anti-oppression street art in 2008. For the first few years we did primarily stickers, flyers and smaller installations. The first BIG thing we did was in august at the wall on 11th and pine. It had absolutely nothing to do with poster giant.

Roughly, how many people participate in these actions?

There's a real large body of people that participate in the actions specifically. but SGA is a larger network of activists who work for social justice in ways that can't always be painted up on some building. There are thousands of like-minded individuals that all contribute to SGA installations.

Your messages is pretty clear, but is there something you’d like to add (we don’t print cuss words)?

Thanks for clarifying about the cuss words cuz it probably woulda happened otherwise! We wanna see safety in the streets and at home. We wanna see all the people that support equality actually doing something about it.

We wanna see everyone check themselves for the ways that WE ALL perpetuate sexism/racism/homophobia/transphobia/ablism/agism/etc. and on less related note- we're doing this work because someone has to. Not as a reaction to any kind of marketing company.

Our actions have very little to do with poster giant. Much of our publicity has really played that beef up but that’s because people need conflict to sell stories. our conflict is with oppression- isn't that enough?

Does the group plan to paint more walls? 

Definitely. Keep an eye out and you'll see something in the next couple weeks.