These Walls Are My Only Safe Spaces

Jocelyn Hayden and Jocelyn Hayden

Real queens fix each other’s crowns. Be happy. Be you bravely. You are still loved, even if you can’t love yourself right now. These are just a few of the quotes that have been written on the walls of a women’s bathroom located on the first floor of Charter Hall (CH).  

Vandalism is a common crime to happen on college campuses. While there have been other reports of vandalism at SMSU, this case stood out to Mike Munford, Director of University Public Safety. “This vandalism was repeated several times with the same theme,” he said. “It wasn’t hate-filled, but it is still vandalism. There have been several reports of vandalism that are under investigation since last semester.”

“I think it’s empowering, and I’m not saying that I encourage it, but I appreciate the people who are strategically ‘breaking the law’ so that others can be inspired,” said a student who wished to remain anonymous. When asked why they thought people chose this bathroom specifically, they said, “I think that there’s less chance of people seeing them write in it because it’s a single stall bathroom. The added anonymity makes it a more enticing option than bathrooms on campus with multiple stalls.” 

The same source mentioned how they feel as if SMSU fails to create a safe space for women to share their feelings. “This is evident when looking at the number of resources allocated towards spaces like the women’s center and the feminist club,” they said. “This isn’t a new concept, and SMSU shouldn’t be surprised that it’s happening. Instead of reprimanding something that is promoting positivity, maybe they should instead encourage the dialogue to be continued through legal mediums.”

An Instagram page, @socialjusticebathroomgraffiti,  first started posting pictures of the writing on the bathroom walls and stalls on May 1st, 2019. This page has documented the cycles of writing and when they have been painted over, which has happened multiple times over the past eight months. This Instagram page has 75 followers and a total of sixty-four posts, which have since stopped as of Nov. 20th, 2019. The account creator is unknown. 

Christopher Wersal, a freshman at SMSU has seen the bathroom graffiti posts on Instagram. “I first heard about the bathroom graffiti during a class I took, which then led me to find the Instagram page for it,” he said. “ I thought what was written on the walls was positive for women to read and to vent. I understand where the campus is coming from having it under investigation for vandalism; however, I feel an area like the bathroom was, for many women, a safe space, which has now been taken away from them.” 

On Sept. 17, 2019, the Instagram account posted a photo of a camera in a vent and it was captioned, “There’s been a camera installed across from the doorway to the bathroom.” This caused many followers of the bathroom graffiti account to be upset. Munford stated that the camera was, “A part of Public Safety’s doing.” Munford also said that tension was caused because of misinformation.

“ I feel there was misinformation there. The camera was not aimed at the bathroom. Rather, it was aimed at the hallway to try and see who was in the area,” he said. Many believed the camera was focused directly into the women’s bathroom, therefore taking away privacy rights to those utilizing the space. Though Munford says this is untrue, many are unsure of whether to trust this information or not.

Cases of vandalism have not happened in months, but as one of the past writings on the wall stated, “You can paint over us, but we will still be here.”