« capturing the moment | Main | buddy holly? »

the he-womyn's men hater's club (Vassar Campus)

Doctor Grosz has the sentence of the day:

Honestly, the only difference between the Religious Right and the (Post) Modern Liberal is a pair of clunky black shoes, a Wilco record and the support of Michael Moore (which, in this day and age, is a mixed-blessing for either side).

What has the good Doctor in such a state? He's been censored.

My latest painting to be installed in the Vassar College Media Cloisters was removed with extreme prejudice under the pressure of the Women's Studies Department. Now, if you haven't seen the painting yet, or if you're simply a Vassar student who has learned how to use The Internet to explore the World Wide (Oppression Free) Web, I would encourage you to view the piece as seen here and here.

He never even heard directly from the Women's Studies Department. He just found out by word of mouth that, in so many words, as a white man, he is a dominating force in the art world and therefore guilty of providing the world with mis-interpretations of the female form.

I'd write to the Women's Studies Department and complain, but then they would just accuse me of being a traitor to womenhood or something. Hey, how come it's not the Womyn's Studies Department?

And Doc is absolutely spot on. Though the reasons for wanting such a painting taken down is different for each side, both the far right and the far left would find the painting offensive. Frankly, I find hardline feminists and those who make up the moral patrol offensive. Which is probably why I hate people in general.

[ed note: this post has been edited for accuracy]

Comments

Lately, i'm totally confounded by just about everything that goes on in the world. Ok this kind of thing doesn't make it any easier.

It reminds me of farts- the one who smelt it, dealt it. The one who yells about censorship is the first to practice it.

Wow a Women's Studies dept. and John Ashcroft as bedfellows?

When boobies are censored, the terrorists have won.

"Honestly, the only difference between the Religious Right and the (Post) Modern Liberal is a pair of clunky black shoes, a Wilco record and the support of Michael Moore (which, in this day and age, is a mixed-blessing for either side)."

What a bunch of crap. My grandfather took a bullet in the sholder fighting Nazis in 1945 and it is an insult to him and to me to call american democrats "Fascists".

Quick trip to dictionary.com --

FASCIST: A reactionary or dictatorial person

(also FASCISM: Oppressive, dictatorial control)

...sounds like it was used in context to me...

"What a bunch of crap. My grandfather took a bullet in the sholder fighting Nazis in 1945 and it is an insult to him and to me to call american democrats "Fascists"."

Except she didn't call American Democrats fascist and neither did the Dr. To deny that the hard ideologues wish to impose their ideology on all others is to bury one's head in the sand. The commentary is pointing out that far left and far right actually meet on some level or at least share totalitarian desires. Curious the designation of American before Democrats as if one reading this blog would assume you were speaking of the Social Democrats in Europe.

Just what your Grandfather, both of my grandfathers, 3 great uncles and many others fought for....the right to be offended even when nothing was offensive.

Yeah, I don't recall a constitutionally-protected right of freedom FROM speech.

I don't recall anyone guarenteeing the right to be unoffended, either.

Very often, art is intended to be a slap in the face, or to promote a particular view of a particular thing.

Now, I'm patriarchally inclined and I think women are, generally speaking, more beautiful than men. I also feel that women look better with less clothing. (Women often agree in theory and disagree personally, which makes it all the more amusing and indearing.)

Most men... well, a figleaf is an asthetic compromise, not censorship. (Especially if working with fragile materials...)

Anyway - if THAT was offensive, well, here's what I do. :>

...and of course, the most offensive, to some...

...particularly so here...

I feel that art should be a useful provocation... :>

Ashcroft never ordered the boobies covered - that was an urban legend. The reason the new blue curtains were put up is some image consultant thought it looked better on TV. The boobies were never an issue.

These two groups share a common wet-dream of gaining totalitarian control over our lives.

My dream is that we can eventually develop the technology to ship them all off to Mars so they can offend each other to their heart's delight and leave the rest of us in peace.

I have a hard time believing that Ashcroft was not the reason behind the blue curtains (if you can find a link which proves you claim that it is urban legend - please provide here).

As far as the Doc's artwork . . . I thought it was a beautiful display of the human form that has its place in a museum or art gallery. For the Wom[y]n's Studies Dept. to decide that only women can only produce a true representation of the female form is preposterous.

Free the Boobies!

More information on "Drapegate" can be found at the Urban Legends Reference Pages.

It's no secret that these statues have been used for years by photographers as a way of making a derogatory statement about the speaker (most often a Republican) by controlling the angle at which the picture was taken...something the article points out. National Review print edition also did a piece on the debacle.

Ashcroft is not the religious prude that everyone makes him out to be.

http://www.ucomics.com/nonsequitur/ this pretty much sums up both sides!!

"Ashcroft never ordered the boobies covered - that was an urban legend. The reason the new blue curtains were put up is some image consultant thought it looked better on TV. The boobies were never an issue."

Checked snopes and that appears to be the case.

Looks pretty tastefully done to me...

Ummmm... so I guess the Venus diMilo ALSO does not deserve to be displayed because it is a female form created by a MAN??!! Sounds like some people at Vassar need to loosen up and GET A LIFE!!

Honestly, I used to identify myself as a feminist, but these days I don't want anything to do with them, cause they have turned the Women's Movement into a Haven for Wackos and Malcontents

I must disagree.

This is erotica, and I wouldn't want it permanently installed in a serious public space either. I don't object to it per se. I am not shocked by it. I don't feel demeaned in any way. I wouldn't bat an eye if I saw it hanging on a calendar in someone's office (in fact, I have science fiction calendars with similar images). I just don't think it's appropriate for a public space. It's not the nudity, it's the attitude. It's not the woman's boobies, it's the way she wears them.

Grosz says, in his post, "God forbid art be personal to the artist...There's the personal agenda of the critic to be considered." Great, if it's personal to the artist, he can take it home and hang it with pride in his den. This is a public space. All things are not equally appropriate everywhere.

(I also detect a little bit of the agenda of the artist at work. I think it's ugly, myself. It's erotic, but its odd coloration saps much of the overt eroticism from it. When I look at this painting, it says to me: "I'd be in a girlie calendar except for this weird paint job. That's how you know I'm Art, rather than pornography. You can't object to me now! Ha ha ha ha ha!")

He says "I had to rely on the grapevine to determine that as a white man, I am a dominating force in the art world and therefore guilty of providing the world with mis-interpretations of the female form. Or something like that." Is this something someone actually said to him, or is this hyperbole on his part? Surely not the latter. I mean, it's not like he suggested that the removal of his painting from a public space was the first step on the road to genocide. (There, at the very end of his post, was where he didn't suggest that.)

Freedom of speech does not demand that all artwork be provided a venue.

(And this is totally beside his assertion that the looney left and the rabid right are merging into one, which does seem to be the case.)

Now, where do I go to get fitted for my jackboots?

I second what Angie said!
In fact, I can't believe it took until the 11th post to say it.
Who decides what Art is? A minority? A plurality? A majority?
In many workspaces (including the military), it doesn't matter how tasteful or artistic the image of a woman's body is, if one person complains, it's got to go.
And it really seemed to be more photographic than interpretive; even the pose was more erotic than...evocative? non-erotic?
I wouldn't have had a problem with it staying up, but I don't have a problem with it being taken down, either. Not everything is done for political reasons.

I didn't find it erotic, but then again, I don't particularly care for skinny chicks.

.
.
.
.
.
.
.
what?

"In many workspaces (including the military), it doesn't matter how tasteful or artistic the image of a woman's body is, if one person complains, it's got to go."

So, by that definition, nathan and angie, we should put away any piece of art that offends at all, yes?

Certainly Guernica must go, because of the suffering that it does to the German people, having to face the faces of those that they bombed.

Certainly every nude, seminude, mapplethorpe, monet, manet, and van gogh have to go.

And frankly, the bible offends me, so any reference to it in art must go.

And the Koran? That one REALLY offends me. Gone. Anything with arab lettering? Gotta go.

And frankly, I'm a colorful person, so anything with black in it has to go. Only colors!

And so as not to be racist, we can't have white without black, so anything with white in it, has to go.

And what're we left with?

Motel 6 art. McDonalds art.

Funny, I thought college was a time when you are supposed to be exposed to things that may make you uncomfortable so that you can address them and grow. Not sheltered from things that a tyrannic majority wants to hide you from.

Otherwise, good grief, we're letting a group of kids grow up with no exposure to things that might differ from what they're used to.

Sounds more like Hitler youth, or Roman indoctrination, or a Madrassa, than the fostering of fresh ideas.

Who says what art is? The curator. Disagree? Hire a different curator or change where you go.

Um... Yeah, Angie, I thought that was a rather hot painting myself. But then I thought it was just me. Phew.

Of course, if they had simply said "This is erotica, not art, and we're not interested in having a life-size painting of a Playmate in our school" it would have been a bit simpler.

Swerdloff, college is a time when children get to pretend to be grownups for four years, mimicking the world outside. Nobody really expects to be exposed to things that make them uncomfortable. The only people who say that are the people who generally aren't offended by whatever it is people are complaining about.

Stop and think about it: How many college professors did you have that could be said to have truly made you think? Most of mine simply presented information to me that was meant to be thought about a little bit, maybe, but mostly regurgitated in the form of tests. After my freshman year, I learned to ask around for the best professors. By "best" I meant most interesting, the ones who wouldn't cause me to fall asleep in class. The ones who would challenge my intellect--but not the ones who would make me uncomfortable. Those freaked me out.

College students aren't independent, and the administrations don't want them to be. They're kept on a leash. And most of them don't mind. People are, by nature, followers. They don't like sticking out.

Okay, some of us did. I was a rebel. But it was fun.

Hey, now! Lookie at all this talkin' over here...

There's been so much being said that I couldn't possibly begin to weigh in on all of it (and I believe I should speak up about something, seeing as how I'm the obnoxious ass in question).

Erotica. Is it erotica? Well, that all depends on one thing: was the work intended to arouse anyone sexually? I didn't intend to get anyone hot and bothered and I think there's a difference between thinking "that's a beautiful woman" and thinking "holy shit, I gotta hump something right quick."

Personally, I try not to determine, "what is art?" The question is as old as the heavens and I've wasted several weeks of my life in symposiums and lecture halls attempting to reach a conclusion. I just ask, "does it stink?" If I think it stinks, you can call it whatever you want...I simply ain't paying for it.

Jake of 8bit...I'm not calling American Democrats fascists. In fact, I never mentioned (d/D)emocrats or Republicans in the entire post.

Angie...Actually, what I've included about my inherent White Maledness IS the gist of the complaint (it is no longer quoted in the original post because it isn't a direct quote). This concept is also the subject of a performance piece by the Guerilla Girls that was on campus just a week before I installed Venus. It seems like matter of convenience (and personal agenda) that soon after the Women's Studies department hosts an event which analyzes the role of the White Male as artist, I get hung out to dry. It's almost like you can hear someone saying, "Ooh ooh ooh! We just learned about this. THIS is WRONG!"

Whether you like the painting or not is irrelevant; I like it and could give fuck all about your opinion.

Whatever the painting meant to me is also irrelevant. At the very least, it appears that way—not a single person has asked me my opinions on the piece itself and, at this point, I can't imagine I'd answer.

What truly bothers me is that every single Vassar student or Alum that I've explained this to has rolled their eyes said the same thing, "Typical." One even went so far as to say, "No wonder there aren't any Democrats left."

This is the ultimate example of shoddy liberal thinking: "it offends me so it must be eliminated" (and THAT is why I use the example of Genocide and, honestly, I think it's appropriate).

As a student, I went to Vassar College because I thought it would be a place that was open for discourse and the exploration of both new and controversial ideas. I soon realized that it was simply a place for whiny kids to get nose rings and discover a minority that they could identify with.

Welcome to the Safe Space...you can't do that here.

Actually, I think all public art should be by Rothko. That Mondrian is just too spicy.

Nathan writes:
In many workspaces...if one person complains, it's got to go."

To which Swerdloff replies:
So, by that definition, nathan and angie, we should put away any piece of art that offends at all, yes?

Well, I think "one complaint" is a ridiculous standard, but don't let me keep you from beating the stuffing out of your straw man, if it pleases you. I could as easily ask if you mean there should be NO standards, whatsoever, artistic or otherwise.

Perhaps some (maybe me) are confused about the nature of the venue the painting hangs in. It's a media center, a bunch of conference/classrooms. It's not an art gallery (the painting would be unexceptionable in an art gallery).

Nathan made my point rather more clearly than I did, in saying Not everything is done for political reasons. For me, the painting is not a symbol for something else. It is not a stand-in for the FILTHY UNCHRISTIAN SEX that permeates our sick society today, until young men and women are so overstimulated that they are RUTTING IN THE VERY STREETS which is an OFFENSE TO GOD and will cause this nation to PERISH IN FIRE.

Nor is it a product of the HEGEMONIC PATRIARCHY which seeks to demean women in order to keep them in SEXUAL SLAVERY to satisfy the BRUTISH DESIRES of the phallocracy.

The painting stands for itself. It's just an artwork that I believe is inappropriate for the venue. There would be a lot of artworks which would come under that heading, including, say, a giant Hello Kitty. That would be equally inappropriate in a serious research or teaching venue.

Furthermore, Swerdloff says:
I thought college was a time when you are supposed to be exposed to things that may make you uncomfortable...

This is foolish. College is a time when you are learning new things. The "discomfort" level, per se, is not an indicator of how much you are benefitting.

The "discomfort" level, per se, is not an acurate barometer, Angie. I think that's why he says "MAY make you uncomfortable" (emphasis mine). However, I believe that if you've seen enough of the world, you've seen a decent amount of stuff to make you queasy and uneasy.

The problem is the double-edged nature of the alleged complaint. If, at any point during my time at Vassar, had I complained that a work of art made me uncomfortable—and this would include crude day-glo acrylic paintings of engorged vulvas, "therapeutic" murals depicting rape/incest and the assorted smattering of Cause-Heads yelling at me as I pay for my morning coffee—I would have been told to sit the fuck down and shut the fuck up.

I certainly respect your desire to examine the painting in terms of merit and geographical placement....I just don't think that that's what we're really dealing with here.

After all, if the head of the Geology department came by and requested that the painting be removed, this would be an entirely different issue, wouldn't it?

Let's see if I have this straight. Jake thinks the religious right are fascists. Doc Grosz compares the religious right to the liberal left, so Jake gets offended that Doc Grosz called Jake's grandfather a fascist. Makes sense to me.

Oh, and Jake - any chance some of the soldiers fighting Nazis alongside your grandfather may have held strong religious beliefs? I wonder what percentage of Allied soldiers in WWII may have been "fascists" under your definition. You don't seem too concerned about insulting them.

(I admit that I am having a difficult time separating sincerity from parody in blog comments these days. If Jake only meant to give the illusion that he had his head up his ass for comedic effect, then I apologize for implying that he's a bit of a fucktard.)

Meryl - Stop and think about it: How many college professors did you have that could be said to have truly made you think?

I had a lot, actually. I went to Vassar. I had people trying to cram Feminist theory down my throat, and trying to tell me that I was automatically a rapist for being a man. That's the theory. Made me uncomfortable. I actually brought that up. I was told that it was part of the curriculum, and that I was supposed to examine it and myself. So I did. I heckled Derrida (who I would later see giving a lecture arguing (with a smirk, I think) that animals can't have rights because they have no responsibilities, but we have responsibilities towards animals but no rights).

Which is to say - I was on the other side of the coin - approving of Doc's art, and disapproving what the teachers wanted me to swallow. I didn't complain about it much, although, if you were there, you know I heckled it a lot.

When Doc says "As a student, I went to Vassar College because I thought it would be a place that was open for discourse and the exploration of both new and controversial ideas. I soon realized that it was simply a place for whiny kids to get nose rings and discover a minority that they could identify with." I totally agree. That's why I went, too. Well, that, and the topless woman I saw while I was on my tour.

Now, Angie, you say in one breath "This is erotica, and I wouldn't want it permanently installed in a serious public space either. " and then in another attack me for attacking a straw man of putting away art that's uncomfortable. So, on the one hand, put it away because of your definition of it (erotica) but don't complain about your definition about it, because that's a straw man? The leap from "we shouldn't view erotica" to "we shouldn't view what makes us uncomfortable" is only in who is curating.

And then when you say ". It's just an artwork that I believe is inappropriate for the venue. There would be a lot of artworks which would come under that heading, including, say, a giant Hello Kitty. That would be equally inappropriate in a serious research or teaching venue." you make me think that my point isn't that far off.

First - if you've been to Vassar, you know it's not that serious. I went there. Doc went there. Look how we turned out.

Second - if you've seen the other art that gets hung there (Doc's Giant Vulva painting for example (where'd I hear of that one before, Doc? ;) ) then you can imagine why I'd say that there's an agenda about what's acceptable vs. what's not.

And my point, with the black and white color, that is indeed NOT a straw man, is that you come out blithely saying "this and this? not appropriate. That and that? Appropriate." I'm not sure, exactly, who made you the moral arbiter for the arts at Vassar. I'm not sure, exactly, what position gives you, or anyone else, the right to force someone's painting out of the public view. All you've said is that you think it's inappropriate. My examples, the black and white and mapplethorpe are all examples of things that could be deemed "inappropriate for a research or teaching facility."

How is it a straw man when you argue that the administration should do precisely what I've said they would, when I was exaggerating? Namely - dumb down the art to "acceptable levels" set by someone random so as not to offend?

Again, you end up with the Teletubbies as the only acceptable art.

I was made uncomfortable by the Black and Latino Students Association holding a rally to shut down my organization, and calling us racial epithets that i won't repeat here. I probably should have been able to stop that rally because it threatened me, and wasn't suitable for a teaching or research establishment. Except that I couldn't.

I was made uncomfortable by the Take Back The Night organizations claims that every man was a potential rapist. I probably should have been able to stop those rallies because they made me uncomfortable and I felt threatened, and it wasn't suitable for a teaching or research establishment. Except that I couldn't.

I was made uncomfortable by the crappy poetry about incest read at the Cafe each open mike night. I probably should have been able to stop those poems because they made me uncomfortable, and it wasn't suitable for a teaching or research establishment. Except that I couldn't.

So why should a picture of a woman, and a sexy one at that, which may make some people uncomfortable, and others aroused, and others curious, be taken down? If it offends and makes someone uncomfortable isn't the standard, obviously. If it offends a certain group and makes that group uncomfortable is the standard. And that's the bitch for our dear Brewers.

Doc Grosz says:
I certainly respect your desire to examine the painting in terms of merit and geographical placement....I just don't think that that's what we're really dealing with here.

You may be right. I'm not on the scene, so I don't know. I was just reacting to other commenters who seemed to believe that only rabid, social-engineering authoritarians could possibly object to the placement of the painting.

Swerdloff: Read the above reply to Grosz. Again, I was not "offended", as such. You were referring to Nathan's reported "one complaint" standard, and I said that was ridiculous, which it is. There is a rather large gray area between "anything which offends anybody must go", and "everything is permitted". We can argue where that gray area is, but I am not necessarily a religio-femmofascist because I insist that somewhere there's a line that should not be crossed.

Now, both of you have claimed that there are far more controversial works in that same venue. I wondered about that. If there was an "installation" there depicting a woman with a scythe gleefully mowing down a field of penises, then, hell, apparently anything goes. But the presence of other objectionable things doesn't mean Venus is OK. It may mean that Vassar regards research and teaching as a lesser part of their mission than social engineering. Glad I got my ejumacashun cheap at Earl's Univeristy and Bait Barn.

Seriously, I kept wondering what it would be like to give a press conference in that room. "Now imagine that Venus's nipples are the two hydrogen nuclei..."

The reason the painting "Guernica" needs to be moved into the background (its value as an aesthetic image not withstanding) is that it is a falsehood, a work of political propaganda.

Guernica was an industrial city. The target of the bombing was weapons factory.

Gee, it didn't offend me and I am a prude. Don't like boobies...stay out of the third world.

Jesus Doc, you went to Vassar and still never learned to have an argument above that of a high school debater? Demand a refund! Pity your poor cause. I'll toss some scraps to tbe birds and say a sweet song for your loss.