Wake up and smell the vagina, University of Cincinnatti. On Thursday, two student groups displayed “Re-envisioning The Female Body,” a temporary art show of 12 billboard-sized photographs of vulvas, on the campus commons. A student photographer photographed the images [NSFW], which are displayed on campus alongside quotes about sexuality, health, and reproductive choice. The show followed a panel discussion on campus from a local Planned Parenthood.
Not surprisingly, the campus Students For Life group — known for posting explicit, bloody photographs on campus which purport to be of aborted fetuses — are steamed.
Annmarie Condit, vice president for Students For Life on the UC campus, said the exhibit objectifies women. “All this display was going to do is promote a rape culture on campus These pictures look at women the way a rapist would look at them,” Condit told news station WCPO.
The exhibition’s creators disagree their art show while cause a campus rape spree. Instead, they say the photos of vaginas are a direct response to the aborted fetus photos posted on campus by anti-abortion groups and are intended to depict respect for the female body . Quoth their Facebook page:
The idea and focus of this demonstration formed in response to the gruesome images brought to UC’s campus by the Genocide Awareness Project. Their billboard sized photographs equated mutilated fetuses with genocide victims in an effort to shame women, comparing reproductive choice to holocaust. Our demonstration serves to call attention to the vagina as a site of conflict in medical, legislative, domestic, and representational arenas. Its purpose is to incite conversation about the objectification, exploitation, and discrimination of women’s bodies in advertising, health care, reproductive rights, and queer identities. It points to the negative disposition our society holds toward the vagina, its representation and its claim in the public domain, while broadly calling to question our perceptions of what constitutes art, what constitutes obscenity, and what images our culture and our government deem worthy enough to enter visibility in shared and domestic spaces.
Students For Life isn’t having it. Their lawyer sent a letter to both the president of UC and the Hamilton County prosecutor, where the college is based, alleging the exhibit is a “clear violation” of the state’s felony obscenity law. UC’s president responded on Wednesday with a statement refusing to ban the show. Wrote President Santa J. Ono:
[A]s the Ohio Attorney General has reiterated, we are a public institution obligated to protect the First Amendment, even—perhaps especially—when that protection results in disagreement.
Instead, the university said it would post signage around campus to warn people of the graphic imagery ahead. I hope they read “WARNING! VAGINAS AHEAD!”
In the mean time, better make sure these Students For Life kids don’t hear about the work of artist and labial enthusiast Georgia O’Keefe. Minds will be blown.
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