Kiersten Meyers’ “Vulvarium” is essentially a cinder block tower of vulvas. The piece is a stark juxtaposition of the harsh, erect, cold, entombing concrete circling around the smooth silk that forms into the familiar shape of female genitalia. This contrast is intended by Meyers to represent the manifesting rigidity of patriarchy that attempts to suppress femininity throughout the social and cultural realm. No matter how high you climb, it is still very much a straight cisgendered white man’s world. So of course the vagina tower made some people uncomfortable to the point where it was requested that it be taken down.
In defense of her work, Meyers’ temporarily covered her work with a large plastic bag, leaving a sign before it that read, “Facilities has requested this piece be removed due to content.” This caused passing viewers to inquire underneath. Eventually someone liberated it and Meyers’ again covered it. Later receiving word that it could be uncovered because of a high volume of distress regarding its censorship, the piece was open for public viewing until the end of spring quarter (though not without more bickering regarding its breaking of nonexistent nudity policies or its hazard to safety).
The aftermath of this dispute has caused stirrings of new restrictions regarding nudity on our campus, all because a few tulle vulvas made someone uncomfortable.
My question is: Why? Why does the sight of the female body make people uncomfortable? Why do we attach so many negative connotations onto bodies when they are such a central part of all of our lives? Guess what, Facilities? You likely came into this world from a vagina. A large amount of people on this campus actually have vaginas! They aren’t some real life fleshlight or foreign sexual objects; these are parts of people. Though sex may be a large bonus in having a vagina (or not) it is a part of a person and it isn’t something to be commodified and made out to be something lewd. A vagina is more than a place where men get off.
Beyond the issue of bodies beyond commodified, apparently by faculty, it is incredibly troublesome that there is even a cause for controversy. I take out good student loans to attend this university, as I’m sure many others do, and it is outrageous that so much money is going into an academic system that is so juvenile as to freak out over lady parts. Immaturity aside, the unprofessional conduct surrounding this controversy is irrefutable. Someone was made uncomfortable by this art so they threw a fit, plain and simple. It may have been more appropriate for Meyers’ to cover the vulvas with fig leaves, since this is apparently the Vatican. At a public institution our personal bias need to be left at the door, especially by those tasked with instructing us and providing structure. To do otherwise is not only distasteful but unethical.
As students who see this injustice in censorship it is our duty to remove the garbage bag and to stand up for our beliefs. If not you, then who? Broaden your ideologies, and fight for what you believe in. Save the vaginas through social change and mutual respect for one another!