A hyper-realistic statue of a sleepwalking man in his underwear on display at Wellesley College has students demanding its removal, saying it serves as a trigger for victims of sexual assault:
Although the artwork would not likely be legally considered indecent, let alone obscene, student Zoe Magid is less interested in talking about it and more interested in removing it. She believes that, “while it may appear humorous, or thought provoking to some,” such qualities are invalidated by others’ readings of it. Magid asserts that the inanimate object is “a source of apprehension, fear, and triggering thoughts regarding sexual assault for some members of our campus community.” So, she started a petition demanding the university stick Sleepwalker inside the museum, away from the public eye. 722 people, about one-third the school’s student population, have signed.
Charlotte Atler urges the Wellesley women to chill:
There’s something spoiled about our knee-jerk reaction to abolish anything that could be considered even remotely insensitive. The message is, “it’s possible that someone somewhere might feel momentarily bad because of this, so get rid of it right this second! And by the way, you’re an asshole if you don’t agree.”
Marcotte offers a qualified defense of the over-the-top reaction:
I’m sure this story is on its way to a conservative media outlet near you, where some white, privileged man in tighty-whities will roll his eyes about the hysterical feminists, which, in this case, well—good call. Still, one thing I’ve been trying to keep in mind is that the women getting wound up about the statue are really young and just starting to explore the identity of “feminist.” College is a time for taking everything too far, from drinking beer to sports fandom to sexual drama to using your fancy new vocabulary words picked up in women’s studies courses. Which doesn’t mean that one should refrain from having a laugh over this, of course. Let’s hope Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein are taking careful notes for the next season of Portlandia.
Update from a reader:
Interesting post. While I sincerely sympathize with anyone who may consider this statue upsetting as a trigger from sexual assault, my first reaction to it was completely different. When I look at it, I see a confused, elderly man suffering from dementia or Alzheimer’s. My father has Alzheimer’s, and is increasingly confused and sometimes wanders off. Our family fears he may wander off and get lost someday, and who knows, it could be in the middle of his night, when he’s in his underwear. Just another way to view it …
(Photo: An onlooker views a sculpture entitled ‘Sleepwalker’ on the campus of Wellesley College on February 6, 2014 in Wellesley, Massachusetts. The sculpture is part of an exhibit by artist Tony Matelli at the college’s Davis Museum. By Darren McCollester/Getty Images)