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ISSUE 117 VOL 14 PUBLISHED 3/19/2004

Knee Jerk reaction

By Executive Editors
Executive Editor

Friday, March 19, 2004

Chocolate vaginas, cunt pins and a man dressed in a vagina suit, all in Buntrock Commons. How ironic, that just a week after the temporary liberation of Vagina Week, provocative photos featuring female nudity in a senior womens art exhibit were taken down. The exhibit  which was intended to celebrate female bodies, not objectify them  has instead done exactly the opposite with the removal of the controversial pieces. The Administation justified its decision by deeming the hallway, which has a high traffic flow of students, faculty and visitors, an innappropriate venue for such art. This decision, however, goes against the nature of a liberal arts college that should be seeking to stretch students minds and create dialogue. The exhibit was designed for the wider student population to become aware of the issues of the objectification of women and sexism. Instead, based on a piddling five complaints in one half-hour, the photographs, one of which depicted an artists mothers breasts, were taken down and labeled pornographic. Within the morning, the photographs were re-posted by the artists, but this time bearing Censored signs over the female breasts, pubic hair and rear-ends.

Modeled after the famed Guerilla Girls, who are known for their provocative art, the group of 12 senior artists has chosen pseudonyms to hide their identities. They choose to remain anonymous to emphasize that their work represents all women, not just themselves. The Administration and art department officials applauding of the resulting dialogue, in an attempt to appease the artists and the people who complained, is unfounded. While a dialogue over censorship has begun, the actual intent of the piece has been diminished. The conversation is no longer directed at the artwork or the intended meaning to celebrate, reclaim, and make public the parts of our bodies that are too often sexualized, belittled, hidden or misunderstood, as the artist statement posted by the exhibit states. Instead the discussion revolves around the titillation of female body parts and their appropriate placement. The art department should take a public stand against the hypocritical censorship inflicted on the female portraits. They should pay the same respect to sexually sensitive art issues as the large anti-war replica of Picassos Guernica depicting violence that currently hangs in Buntrock. When did violence become more acceptable than sexuality? We applaud the senior womens art exhibit for portraying a controversial topic with maturity and sensitivity. They have truly surpassed the Administrations ability to deal with delicate subject matter in a responsible fashion. We challenge the artists and the St. Olaf community to raise the bar and to promote the discussion of controversial topics beyond Vagina Week, when it was politically correct to embrace sexuality and gender issues. Acceptance isnt necessary, but respect is. Keep the dialogue. Lose the ignorance.

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