Walking around campus, you may be shocked to see a professor whose class you “accidentally” slipped out on, or that couple who won’t stop the PDA, even in front of the much-crowded science building but how would you react to a series of photographs depicting vaginas hung up around your campus?
This past Thursday, students at the University of Cincinnati took the issues of female reproductive health and sexuality and presented a project that they hoped would increase awareness and discussion on campus. The photos, in the project named, “Re-envisioning the Female Body,” have been enlarged to be placed on 12 poster boards the size of billboards.
The photos have definitely succeeded in promoting discussion on campus. Controversial among the students and student groups, the temporary exhibition has even inspired one group, Students for Life, to find a lawyer. But Student For Life is not new to the concept of shocking photos on campus. The group has been known to show graphic pictures of aborted fetuses, disturbing many passers-by.
Being debated right now is the concept of whether or not the photos promote rape culture on campus. The two student groups responsible for the photos argue that the photos are being displayed to promote the integrity of the female body and respect for it. Students For Life is arguing that the photos objectify women, looking at them through the eyes of a rapist. The Vice President of Students For Life told news station WCPO that “all this display was going to do is promote a rape culture on campus.”
There has even been a Facebook page dedicated to those wishing to share their negative opinions on the project, called “Feminists at UC against ‘Reenvisioning the Female Body.’” The description reads, “We reject the essentializing feminism that reduces women to their vaginas. We consider this move a perpetuation of the violent dismemberment of women’s bodies in popular media,” asking members to post a photo opposing the display.
However, the groups who have set up the photos are standing their ground. A statement on their Facebook page reads,
“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.”
The President of UC, Santa J. Ono, said that she will not have the photos be removed. She wrote, “[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.” See the NSFW images here.
What do you think? Should the photos be taken down as too obscene or kept up as reminder of women’s rights? Let us know what you think in the comments below!