Despite having a female president and some remarkably liberal legislature regarding gender and sexuality (same sex marriage is legal for instance), “machismo” still manifests itself through both formal and informal social relationships in Argentina. Perhaps unsurprisingly, male street artists far outnumber the women that are active in this art world. However, more and more women have been taking their work to the street, and some Argentine women like Hyuro, Pum Pum, and Georgina Ciotti have attracted international attention. There are also many active female graffiti writers like Shine and Mickey despite the male-dominated image of graffiti (generated through the risk, illegality, physicality, and brave recklessness associated with graff). Street art is undeniably labor intensive, and a large piece might require days of work and hours of painting, climbing up and down ladders, etc. Even the use of aerosol requires physical work and maneuvering.
In an interview with Carolina Cuore, she expressed her frustration with the projection of gender expectations even in the supposedly free world of street art. She has heard other female artists express fear of vertigo, and aversion to the general intensive nature of the work. In her interest of breaking these stereotypes, Cuore plans on starting a regimen of physical training to prepare her body for a long future of street work. Women seem to be more cautious in approaching street art and are more likely to take the workshops on urban art or stencil making (Indeed I noticed the “Aerosol Urbano” workshop was at least 80% composed of women). All of the female street artists I had interviewed in Buenos Aires also had a background in fine art—none of them were self-trained or taught themselves through the practice of graffiti.
All of that being said, women have had an undeniable (and underrated) presence in the movements of street art, graffiti, and activist art in Buenos Aires. It was first of all the Madres de la Plaza de Mayo that truly started to reclaim public space during the end of the last brutal dictatorship in the early 1980s. Then the Grupo de Art Callejero (GAC), as an all female group of young art students, helped pioneer the explosion of activist art in the late 1990s. Pum Pum is another female street artist/graphic designer that has been around since the first explosion of aesthetic street art post 2001. As street art continues to be normalized in Buenos Aires, I have a feeling that the number of female artists will continue to increase—and it will be a refreshing voice for the city.