The Bettie Page house, a decadelong fixture for Seattle commuters on I-5, was splattered with gray paint by a group that signed a note as only “some feminists.”
The gray paint splattered on the side of Jessica Baxter’s house already had dried by the time she learned of the vandalism to her family’s mural of Bettie Page.
She had seen the same paint on her car days earlier but didn’t think much of it. It wasn’t until her husband, Chris Brugos, saw it on their home in Seattle from the bus last Friday that they discovered paint over the 10-year-old mural of the 1950s pinup model Bettie Page, visible to drivers on I-5 as they approach the Ravenna neighborhood.
“Stop exploiting women’s bodies,” the vandals wrote, signing their work, “some feminists.”
The first thing Baxter, a 37-year-old mother of two, did was cover their message with one of her own, reading “autonomous sexuality is empowerment. Telling a woman to cover up is oppression.”
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“I knew it was going to be a while before we could actually do anything about it and I didn’t want to leave the message up there,” Baxter said. “I felt so strongly that they misinterpreted Bettie or possibly didn’t know who she was, so I wanted to put a counter statement over their message.”
The mural was painted by Brugos and a friend in 2006. Their work took about three days, according to Baxter, who was dating Brugos at the time but had not yet moved in.
The couple saw Page as in charge of her own image, and as Baxter put it, a pioneer “well ahead of her time.”
To restore the mural, Baxter said they plan to strip the paint from the entire side of the house, replace it and go through the process of projecting the image onto the side of the house at night and hiring a friend to paint over the projection.
Baxter said it could be a while, but they will do everything in their power to make the new Bettie look like the old Bettie.
As for the vandals, Baxter doesn’t think their actions perpetuated feminism at all.
“I feel like the feminists who were slut-shaming Bettie were perpetuating the rape culture,” Baxter said. “[I’d tell them] to do their homework. I don’t understand how they can feel having a woman express her sexuality isn’t feminism. Especially with today’s rape culture.”
Other than a small complaint filed in 2006 to the state, Baxter said the mural hasn’t ruffled any feathers in her community, and several neighbors were disappointed to hear the mural had been defaced.
“I thought it was kind of fun, having that painting there, myself,” said 92-year-old Nadine Ped, who has been in the neighborhood since 1976.
She doesn’t drive anymore, but “I used to come home on the freeway and I’d see the picture.”
Baxter said she has received a handful of notes asking to donate for the restoration of the Seattle landmark, but she has turned them down.
“In lieu of donations for Bettie, I would like to draw people’s attentions to the Rape Abuse and Incest National Network. … Donate at Rainn.org.”