Where’s the best place to erect an incredibly lifelike statue of a man in his underwear that could easily be confused for a dangerous intruder? Probably not the courtyard of an all women’s college campus. Probably not.
As part of a new art exhibit for Wellesley College, sculptor Tony Matelli crafted this very realistic, life-size piece of a mostly naked middle-aged man, called The Sleepwalker, who appears to be wandering aimlessly through the snow. While some students have deemed him harmless and started posing for selfies with him (because, like, of course), others have suggested that the image is not only freaking creepy, but potentially triggering for sexual assault survivors. Junior Zoe Magid started an online petition to have The Sleepwalker moved to inside the school’s museum, where he can be obviously identified as an inanimate art piece. Magid writes,
The statue of the nearly naked man on the Wellesley College campus is an entirely inappropriate and potentially harmful addition to our community that we, as members of the student body, would like removed immediately. While it appears that this statue of a nearly naked, older white man with outstretched arms is an art installation, it does not provide our community with any of the value that art is traditionally intended to add. On contrary, this highly lifelike sculpture has, within just a few hours of its outdoor installation, become a source of apprehension, fear, and triggering thoughts regarding sexual assault for many members of our campus community. While it may appear humorous, or thought-provoking to some, it has already become a source of undue stress for many Wellesley College students, the majority of whom live, study, and work in this space.
Um, that seems pretty damn reasonable. Not only should all schools do everything within their power to ensure that students can go about their lives without fearing sexual assault, but that should be an even higher priority when the entire student body is made up of young women. Duh.
Unfortunately, because this world is sometimes a nonsensical pile of bullshit, many people are refusing to take Magid’s plea seriously. The museum director, Lisa Fischman, has released this disappointing statement:
The very best works of art have the power to stimulate deeply personal emotions and to provoke unexpected new ideas, and this sculpture is no exception. [The sculpture] has started an impassioned conversation about art, gender, sexuality and individual experience, both on campus and on social media.
Yeah, that’s called MISSING THE POINT. A safe space for young women is not the appropriate place to “stimulate deeply personal emotions” about rape. If the sculpture were to live inside the school’s museum, where students would know for certain that it was a piece of art, okay. But students have the right to walk around campus without feeling afraid or triggered. The people behind this decision need to step up, and fast.