Artists in NYC are fighting the establishment with phone booths (image via Huffington Post)

Get Some Quarters Ready, ‘Resistance Is Female’ Is Making Phone Booths Relevant Again

How a group of Feminist artists are fighting the Trump administration with phone booth graffiti.

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How a group of Feminist artists are fighting the Trump administration with phone booth graffiti.

New York City is filled with unexpected and beautiful art. From street performers dancing for audiences to the man playing drums on buckets for change to the intricate graffiti sprayed in alleyways, various forms of art are rampant through the streets. Recently, New York has seen a rise in a particularly strange art form: phone booth graffiti. 

In the Resistance is Female art movement, female artists and their allies are taking over the New York phone booths, particularly their advertising spaces. Instead of PSAs or movie posters, phone booths all over New York display art that celebrates women of all shapes, sizes, races and backgrounds. The movement aims to empower all women and to combat the sexism that is ever prevalent in today’s society. 

Resistance is Female began as a response to the Trump Administration. Artists in the campaign promote women’s rights, from health care to employment, housing to personal identity.  Founding artists were also inspired by the Women’s March, Together We Rise, to jumpstart into action. 

The Resistance is Female movement desires to give a voice to women who are looking for one and give a platform to those who need to be heard. A few of the founding artists include Maha Alasaker, Gigi Chen, and Abe Lincoln Jr. These pioneers inspired other artists to band together to form this Resistance.

Some of the artists behind these works are seasoned street artists; however, most were amateurs searching for a platform where they could express their beliefs. Nevertheless, each of these artists is making their mark on the streets of New York City and the world of art.

Telephone booth advertisement space has become the social and political platform for the Resistance is Female movement. Artist Gigi Chen says, “Artists are always the ones to really start a dialogue publicly. Feminism as a concept was debated so much in the follow up to the election.

“That term ‘Feminism’ is something I have lately had to rethink and rediscover. This project Resistance is Female is part of that visual movement. If just taking a glance of a poster can start a debate, then indeed this ‘Feminist’ art project is ‘Political.’ 

Maha Alasaker, another founding artist of the movement, also weighed in on the objective of this platform. She urges all women to fight for themselves and not let society silence them. She says, “Resistance is Female is my voice to all young girls to be themselves and stand up for their rights. Art is my way to scream saying we are there, and no one can tell us what to do.” 

Artwork posted on these telephone booths can stay there for anywhere from a few hours to several weeks. The Resistance is Female embodies the campaign slogan “keep fighting, keep speaking up, persevere” pushing the message to women everywhere to stand up for themselves and each other. 

Possibly the most subversive part of the movement, though, is how the artists display their work on the street where anyone can see it. Women in New York are constantly beset with sexist advertisements; they also face frequent harassment in the crowded streets of the city.

Advertisement spaces for various hair products and fashion for all seasons are rampant throughout the city, displaying women who conform perfectly to societal beauty standards. However, in the Resistance is Female movement, artists are hijacking those spaces and reinventing them.

Artist Abe Lincoln Jr. says in an interview with Huffington Post, “This is a direct message to women (anyone who self identifies as female) and their allies to keep fighting,” he says. “It’s a general message of encouragement to resist the current ‘status quo’ of intolerance. Whatever your battle is, do it! We want to support you in persevering, speaking up and fighting.” 

The movement is more than a challenge to the issues that women still face, however; it also creates a stepping stone for female artists to receive more recognition in the art world. Throughout history, female artist have faced discrimination and struggled to gain recognition.

In 1989, Guerrilla Girls published a campaign about the percentages of Modern Art sections in museums. “Do women have to be naked to get into the Met Museum?” one display says. “Less than 5 percent of the artists in the Modern Art Sections are women, but 85 percent of the nudes are female.”

Artist Gigi Chen reflected on her own artwork for the movement. “My own poster is composed of a decorative pattern I designed with breasts as a motif. It’s supposed to be playful and suggestive and I have also noticed that the men I show it to almost immediately recognizes the anatomy.

“Then of course, I wanted a bright pink to stand out against the black background, with a font that almost looks like lipstick. To me, feminism can be feminine.”

While the theme of the artwork remains to be female strength and empowerment, each artist has complete control over their own motifs and creative style. They could create whatever masterpiece they desired to in their media of choice, including photography, paintings or sketching. 

The feminist movement has been on the rise in the past few years. Women are fighting back against social and political issues that have long stood. By taking the battle to the world of art, the Resistance is Female campaign gives a voice to any and all women not just on the streets of New York City. 

Women take a stand against being sexualized in advertisements and the media, being catcalled as they walk by a man, making less than equal pay and being dismissed in political conversations. 

And there’s no better place for them to fight back than the Big Apple. New York City has a population of approximately 12 million people. Most of these people will walk past at least one of the pieces of art on a daily basis, reaching a broad and diverse audience with just one phone booth as opposed to several. 

One woman can make a diverse with a movement of this caliber and all she has to do is resist and stand up. She must stand up for herself and other women.

The Resistance is Female movement is just around the corner. It’s on the walk to work from the subway. It’s next to the hotdog stand. The art is everywhere, you just have to walk down the street to witness the resistance.

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Megan Batt

SUNY Cortland
Professional Writing

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