Many days I’ve walked through Boston in a huff of negative emotion; fuming about the man who kindly complimented my leggings, then yelled “Nice ass!” when I walked away; beating myself up about not doing enough to advocate for the safety of my friends of color, my queer friends, my trans friends; frustrated and scared about the interest growing on both my undergrad and grad school loans. But then I see text out of the corner of my eye and I’m taken out of my own thought-spirals back to the present, back to the street. I have to stop and read it; I’m a text junkie. I love studying how artists use public space to display attention-grabbing words and phrases that provoke contemplation, questioning, and new understandings from passersby like myself. What follows are three images that exemplify this type of text, as well as my meditations on them.
Since November 8th, there has been a lot of hatred boiling inside of me. I’ve let thoughts of hate distract me from my schoolwork and discussions of hate take time away from showing my close friends I love them. Seeing this phrase on my walk to work was a reminder to focus on persevering and making the world somewhere I want to live. The “#MorLiving” line inspires the reader to be more present (as it had for me); it also functions to promote the Boston-based artist MorShabazz, which I discovered from searching the hastag on Instagram. The “MorLiving” hashtag revealed about 300 pictures around in the Boston area, the majority showcasing the same lines of text framed by a constellation of dashes. According to his Instagram bio and personal website, MorShabazz is a musician and artist committed to more living and less hating, a message I can get behind—a message that helped me, and hopefully other Bostonians, to adjust our thinking to a more positive place.
If seeing this sticker won’t get your attention, I don’t know what will. With controversial text imposed over an American flag, it immediately conjures American circumcision practices—a hotly debated topic among medical professionals, parents, and many others. The ethics of circumcision are not something I often think about, but this sticker spawned a lot of Googling and discussion with friends—what I believe the sticker’s creator hoped to happen. As many injustices as I’ve experienced in my cisgender female, white, and middle-class life, there are so many I can’t begin to fathom, which this sticker hints at. The sticker opened a new topic of research so I could form my own opinions on circumcision, while also reminding me of my own privilege.
Fuck is a word that almost always makes me want to read more. In this context, “fuck with” means to engage with, or get involved with—in this case—love. If anyone were looking for a sign that it was time to make an OKCupid account, or ask that cute barista on a date, this could be it. In fact, after I took this picture, I sent a friend a flirty text I’d been thinking about typing for days. It has since blossomed into a very fulfilling relationship, which, as with most relationships, has had a series of ups and downs. At times, fucking with love means the scary tasks of being vulnerable and dealing with the difficulties of communication. But in the end, I’ve learned that making the effort to fuck with love, even if it ends in heartache, almost always leads to feeling closer to myself and being more aware of what I want in future relationships. I would posit the artist had a similar idea in mind when they wrote this; they hoped to inspire people to take a leap of faith into love.