Backdrop on the above (click to enlarge) from the Boston Globe, February 5:
A realistic-looking statue of a man sleepwalking in his underwear near the center of Wellesley College has created a stir among the women on campus, especially as more than 100 students at the all-women’s college signed a petition asking administrators to remove it.
The statue, called Sleepwalker, is part of an art exhibit featuring sculptor Tony Matelli….
“[T]his highly lifelike sculpture has, within just a few hours of its outdoor installation, become a source of apprehension, fear, and triggering thoughts regarding sexual assault for many members of our campus community,” says the petition…. “[I]t has already become a source of undue stress for many Wellesley College students, the majority of whom live, study, and work in this space.”
Explained Amanda Marcotte on Slate, “College is a time for taking everything too far.” Certainly Sleepwalker is that.
Added Jill Filipovic at The Guardian:
At the heart of the debate is the question of what a college should be. Is it preparation for the real world? …
College is supposed to be physically safe. But it’s not supposed to be intellectually safe. Shielding students from uncomfortable moments does them no favors.
Sexual assault is a serious offense from which many women suffer major physical and psychological trauma, including post-traumatic stress reactions that may be triggered by particular sights, sounds or events. When Wellesley students say the statue is “triggering,” that’s what they mean. Those feelings are valid and those reactions are real.
But here is the sad truth: the world is not a particularly safe place for women. It should be, but it’s not. Everyone has a right to physical safety. Emotional and psychological safety, though, isn’t quite as simple a calculus…. Do women have the right to live free of the intentional infliction of emotional and psychological violence? Yes. Do we have the right to move through public space without being harassed or assaulted? Yes. Do we have the right to move through public space without having our PTSD triggered by a source with no intention of triggering us? No, we don’t. That’s an impossible standard, and a dangerous one….
Our schools would be poorer if all potentially triggering material – hell, if all offensive, sexist, blatantly feminist unapproved material – were removed from them, and if students could not engage with troubling material.
I wonder when Marcotte and Filipovic will take up the cause of Bama Students for Life regarding what the two would surely consider “blatantly feminist unapproved material” that the University of Alabama recently removed. Click to enlarge…
School officials deemed the group’s pro-life display, which included pictures of three mothers who died from abortions and two photos of young abortion victims, “offensive” and “graphic,” according to administrator Donna Lake, who added in a secretly recorded video, “We have to keep it happy for everybody.”
The display was removed on February 6, just
one day 48 hours short of its reserved run from January 8 through February 7.
“You guys were lucky to get it up there as long as you did,” said Lake on the video.
Actually, school administrators were unlucky and unsmart not simply to grit their intolerant teeth for just a few more hours. The information about abortion they intended to suppress has now exploded onto the national public scene and mushroomed into a PR nightmare for them.
They also picked the wrong group to mess with. Only three weeks ago Bama Students for Life won Students for Life of America’s Group of the Year award, so these kids are not ones to walk away from this injustice.
The group has retained Alliance Defending Freedom as legal counsel, sent the university a formal letter of complaint requesting an apology and another display opportunity, and scheduled two days of public events on February 19 and 20 to spotlight the school’s denial of their First Amendment rights.
They have already won.