A group of masked feminist campaigners in Paris is taking direct action in protest against sexist advertising. Brigade Antisexiste is an anonymous collective of activists who meet regularly in order to graffiti and undermine billboards and other printed adverts that are considered demeaning.
"Have you ever been annoyed by the sexist posters that cover the walls of buses, trams, subways and shop fronts?" their Facebook group information asks. "Have you ever wanted to take out your marker and register your protest?"
Upon encountering an advert that you find demeaning to your gender, the group encourages you to deface it using a sticker, photograph it, and share it using the hashtag #sexiste. Stickers are available to buy through their Facebook page.
The group has been meeting in Paris every week for the last 18 months, defacing billboards and other adverts across the city. As they walk through the streets, they discuss each instance of sexism, debating its influence on society's perception of women and its presence in public space. As one participant notes, “We have a debate, everyone gives their opinions, which you may or may not agree with, and we’re able to move forward and fight sexism at all levels.”
With its white text on a red background, the text is slightly reminiscent of Shepard Fairey's OBEY graffiti, and the professional quality of the stickers themselves give the critique of advertising a bit more weight than hand-scrawled graffiti. Once branded with the sticker, it often takes a moment to realize that the advert has been defaced, playing with the viewer's understanding of what is real and what is not, tactics used in brandalism (to which Paris is no stranger) and subvertising.
Since it was founded in 2016, the organization has spread to 27 cities, some outside of France. The campaign has already been seen to have had an effect through the Council of Paris's ban on sexist and discriminatory adverts, a step already taken by authorities in London and Geneva.
Lead image composited by the author using creative commons image and Photoshop imitation of 'sexiste' sticker.