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"We Are/We Have Always Been"

A Multi-Linear History of LGBT Experiences at Bryn Mawr College, 1970-2000

Brenna Levitin, Author
Chronological Path, page 14 of 26

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Bathroom Graffiti [1988]

In the fall of 1988, tensions with lesbian and feminist communities came to a head, resulting in heightened incidences of harassment, sexual harassment, graffiti, and vandalism. Individual students were harassed because of their sexual orientation, Gay People's Alliance flyers were torn down, and overall tensions were expressed with competing homophobic and homophile graffiti in the last stall of the Campus Center women's bathroom. These actions, including and especially the harmful graffiti, were largely ignored by the administration.

One night, a group of students decided to take the matter into their own hands, covering the entire Campus Center women's bathroom in pro-lesbian and -feminist graffiti. Where the graffiti was previously limited to one wall of one stall in the bathroom, this new graffiti covered the entire bathroom. Swept up in the moment, the students repeated the treatment in the Campus Center men's bathroom and the Thomas Hall women's bathroom.

"It really spoke to the mood on campus, that there was that much tension and anger that it just exploded," said Deb Rowan, Class of 1990, in an interview.

The college administration reacted by painting over the graffiti in the dead of night. The painters included President Mary Patterson McPherson, Dean Karen Tidmarsh, and SGA President (and out lesbian) Linda Friedrich. Friedrich struck a deal with the administration; she would help paint if they would document and archive the graffiti and hold a town hall meeting to discuss the situation which had precipitated thusly.

The resulting community uproar is discussed further on the Town Hall Meeting page.

I was unable to find any photographs of the graffiti in the Bryn Mawr College archives. The photographs accompanying this page were donated by an alumna, and depict plans for the graffiti and some of the actual graffiti.
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Discussion of "Bathroom Graffiti [1988]"

Town Hall Meeting about Graffiti [1988]

At Bryn Mawr, town hall meetings are often held after large, intense actions relating to issues of diversity. Town halls offer a campus-wide space in which to discuss the problematic occurrences, to process as a community, and to create tangible goals for the future.

In December 1988, directly following the graffiti wars, a town hall was held to discuss the problematic graffiti and its furtive but complete erasure. SGA President and out lesbian Linda Friedrich agreed to help paint over the homophobic and homophile graffiti on two conditions: one, that the college administration document and archive the graffiti; and two, that they hold an open forum to discuss the climate that allowed such actions to percolate.

One alumna recalls that everyone was mad about the pro-lesbian graffiti because it was big and queer, even though the homophobic graffiti was not small. Other students were upset by the administration’s act to paint over the yonic art. The town hall became a heated conversation about the presence of lesbians at Bryn Mawr.

Posted on 15 September 2014, 7:14 am by Brenna Levitin  |  Permalink

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