If I say "street artist" you awnser "Banksy, JR, Kobra,... ». All these names have the commonality of being those of men. What about the women in all this? Indeed, women are still too little represented in this movement. There is a disparity between men and women in street art (quantity, recognition, ...). For instance, 80% of the artists exhibited in the galleries are men and have a better visibility in exhibitions, in the press, etc.
But then why are women less present in the world of street art? Who are these female artists?
The beginning of street art was a movement that was carried mostly by men. The street art movement is, at its genesis, a protest movement that consists of appropriating a public place. Protest practices are more associated with men than with women. In addition, the street is a more related to a masculine place in collective spirits.
Faced with this unequal relationship between men and women in the galleries, the street appears as a way to make itself known more easily. This is the option chosen by Baubô, a street artist. She tried to integrate galleries to publicize her work. Having no answer, she decided to exhibit in the street. Then, the galleries began to be interested in her work. The street here becomes a medium to gain recognition and a way to have a first confrontation with the public. This committed artist has made a habit of inserting the figure of the uterus into these works as a highlight of the feminine to counterbalance with the excess of the masculine.
What are the themes of these women?
Many themes are covered by female street artists. However, a guideline seems to be emerging. Indeed there is a certain recurrence on the theme of the female symbol like in the works of Miss.Tic, Lady Pink, Baubô, Kashink,… Through these feminine symbols, there is a desire to assert herself as a woman in a predominantly male environment. It is a question of showing through its symbols a powerful image of the woman. Through their work, these women seek to claim their place in street art compared to disparities with men.
The street then appears as an ideal place for his claims. Indeed, the street would be a place more invested by men, a dangerous place for women, a place of insecurity in mentalities. Occupying a male-dominated space is a motivation for these women. According to Baubô, she was conditioned to this pejorative image of the street. Exhibiting in the street was for her a means of expression of claiming to go beyond her conditioning.
Another example of street art as a mean of claiming women's rights is in Egypt. During the Arab Revolutions in 2012, women used graffiti as a mean of protest. The aim here was to use street art to reclaim the public space as a sign of protest against the established order. During these revolts, art had political power and the goal of these women was to assert their rights and their emancipation. As an emblem, the Cairotes chose to adorn the city walls with a blue bra, which became a symbol of protest following the assault of a young Egyptian woman by policemen. Another figure in this contest was a woman depicted as a comic book superhero: "Supergirl Tawra"
Street art is a means of affirming a gender identity and challenging a hierarchy between the masculine and the feminine and to restore the place of the feminine in the public space.
In contrast to producing works that highlight the feminine, some artists like Kashink, make the choice to reverse the balance of power between men and women by showing the vulnerability of the masculine in the street. There is the will to challenge male hegemony. Furthermore, this artist used to wear the mustache to "play with the female representation".
So today there are still disparities between men and women in the world of street art may due to market dynamics, "established standards." Today, many female artists are committed women and use street art as a means of emancipation and protest in the face of these inequalities. They all use a wide variety of styles, from collage to graffiti, stencil and engraving. This is the case, for example, of Btoy, a female artist exhibited at the Street Art Musuem Amsterdam, which produces works about female symbols such as Evelyn Nesbit or Gloria Swanson, who are influential women of their time.
Also, a window of improvement can be hoped. Attitudes are gradually changing even if there are still too few women in the artistic field. Male artists also defend the emancipation of women like JR with a series of photos entitled "Women are heroes" to make men and women a little more equal.
Inspired by the article Genre et "street art" by Romain Talamoni
Genin Christophe, 2013, Le Street Art au tournant : Reconnaissances d’un genre, Bruxelles, Les Impressions Nouvelles Editions.
Genin Christophe, 2008, Miss.Tic : Femme de l’être, Brussels?, Les Impressions nouvelles.
Lieber Marylène, 2008, Genre, violences et espaces publics, La vulnérabilité des femmes en question, Les Presses de Sciences Po. Paris.
Nicoarea Georgiana, 2012, « Cairo’s new colors: rethinking identity in the graffiti of the egyptian revolution »,. Center for Arab Studies, p. pp 247‑272.
Ripoll Fabrice et Veschambre Vincent, 2005, « L’appropriation de l’espace comme problématique »,. Norois. Environnement, aménagement, société, vol. , n° 195, p. 7‑15.
Veschambre Vincent, 2004, « Appropriation et marquage symbolique de l’espace : quelques éléments de réflexion »,. Université d’Angers, ESO, p. 73‑77.