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True Wallflowers: A Look into Bathroom Wall Graffiti

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Tufts chapter.

Chinese proverbs, a list of catchy songs, and a drawing of a potato.  There’s only one place where these seemingly unrelated ideas collide, and it’s not in an art class.  It’s on a bathroom wall.

As Tufts students, we are perpetually searching for another outlet for self-expression.  It may sound strange, but a bathroom wall is the ideal place for that unbridled creativity.  It’s a familiar mix of PostSecret and CollegeACB that, like fewer and fewer things these days, doesn’t require an Internet connection.  It is unorganized, spontaneous, and anonymous.  In a society that puts so much pressure on us to be controlled and prepared, something as simple as writing on a bathroom wall can be the release that so many of us need.  It is an act that crosses age, gender, and cultural boundaries.  While I don’t condone the damage of Tufts property, I must say that bathroom graffiti is something to be admired.
When I entered the downstairs Women’s Bathroom of Tisch, I knew what I was going to photograph- and that I’d look pretty bizarre doing it.  Still, no matter how prepared I might have been, I will never forget the look on that student’s face when she saw me taking a camera into the bathroom.  I must admit that there was something a bit off about photographing the walls and pulling their personalities into a public forum.  They had always been secrets meant only for the person in the stall, but now they were being taken out of that context and captured in my antiquated camera.  My justification is that this is graffiti, and by definition it was created to be observed and appreciated.
I had seen it all before, but there’s a big difference between scanning the walls and actually pondering their content.  Because it’s completely anonymous, the walls can truly reflect the uncensored mentality of women at Tufts.  Sometimes it’s silly, sometimes it’s miserable, and sometimes it’s incredibly poignant.  As one mysterious woman wrote, “When you feel down and out, tired, or stressed out, go to the library roof and allow the view to give perspective.”  Another writes in hot pink, “Try to make someone smile today.”
There are incredible conversations occurring amongst strangers, and some have taken to using arrows to connect the comments.  One quotes 50 Cent stating, “Ayo, I’m tired of using technology.”  The conversation continues as someone writes, “Hear, hear!  I want to chuck my laptop out the window more and more each day.”  Others chime in, saying, “Computers eat lives” and that “technology has stunted my intellectual development.”  Another conversation asks women what songs they have stuck in their heads at that very moment while one chart opens up the debate for women’s thoughts on Tufts hook-up culture.
I encourage you to not only peruse the gallery of photographs, but also to look a little more closely at the walls around campus on your own.  To quote an anonymous wall-writer, “Since it is done neither for money nor critical acclaim, bathroom graffiti is the truest form of art.”

Danielle Carbonneau is a senior at Tufts University double majoring in English and Spanish with a minor in Communications and Media Studies. She is very interested in advertising and has been the editor-in-chief of a creative writing publication on campus. Danielle loves chocolate chip pancakes, horror stories, and her family. She has a crush on HerCampus and all the amazing contributing writers.