* Author’s Note: The image above shows Bloomsburg University student and artist Kasey Halbleib setting up her exhibit at the Greenly Center in March. Credit: Gallery Facebook page at Greenly Center. The opinions expressed in this piece are my own and I strongly support them.
BLOOMSBURG, Pa .– A student art exhibit of a bleeding uterus has caused a stain on the large community of Bloomsburg for the past two weeks. I repeat, a bleeding uterus. Yes, a bleeding womb has sparked more public discourse and outrage than decidedly more offensive incidents of racism, anti-LGBT hatred and xenophobia in recent years.
Art and its response
Bloomsburg University junior art major Kasey Halbleib was the first student to exhibit her work at the annual Greenly Center’s Student Selected Show, with her exhibition scheduled from March 12 to April 13. Only part of his show, titled “Societal Structures-the 21st century experience” reached the promised end date.
The withdrawn piece is aptly titled “not yours – get uncomfortable”. It represents a bleeding uterus, with a tampon coming out of it, in the foreground of the Greek symbol of the feminine gender, ♀. See for yourself below:
Is this “raw” work, as LL Long, who wrote to Press-Enterprise complaining, called it?
Or is it an artistic representation of a female reproductive organ?
I say it’s the latter.
Simply put, it is the female reproductive system. Quite frankly, if this offends you, I suggest that you re-evaluate your priorities and certainly don’t even think about taking an anatomy and physiology class.
Late Thursday morning, BU Provost and Senior Vice President Academic Affairs Dr. Diana Rogers-Adkinson emailed faculty and staff explaining the university’s decision to remove the coin from its display on Main. Street.
“Following a complaint, we conceded to replace the work, because in a traditional show, this performance work of art would have been presented in a space offering the viewer the choice of interacting with the ‘art or not,’ wrote Dr Rogers-Adkinson. She then references the First Amendment rights and informs the community that the coin will instead be displayed at a virtual event next month.
What strikes me as bizarre is that the university official is trying to ease the situation by appearing to comply with the First Amendment, citing the student’s cooperation in removing the piece. But make no mistake about it. It was censorship.
Halbleib’s program aimed to make people uncomfortable with social issues; in the case of “not yours – be uncomfortable” the goal has been met, perhaps excessively, and proves that people cannot rest well with the concept of menstruation. So much so that they complain to the board of the BU and demand that the room be removed from the window.
Dr. Rogers-Adkinson sends a mixed message when she writes: “As a university, we remain committed to upholding the rights of our students to be heard, especially in areas that may cause us or us. others, mental or emotional discomfort. “
To concede to remove a work of art because of the discomfort surrounding the female reproductive system is not to “defend… the right of students to be heard”. It is weighing the outdated views of one or more people as more important than the rights of students to be heard. Ironically, in doing so, the university has drawn much more attention to the matter.
The Provost’s penultimate line reads: “It is important that all voices are heard, even those with which we may not agree. Yet the voice of the student artist was tempted to be muffled by the disagreement of the townspeople. When you say “all voices,” Dr. Rogers-Adkinson, are you only hearing the safe and uncontroversial voices? By removing the play, how did you allow “all the voices to be heard? “
Attitudes around menstruation
It’s no secret that our society doesn’t like to talk about menstruation. In UC Berkeley’s online publication, public health lawyer, Jill Litman explains:
“Menstruation is an experience shared by all women… And yet menstruation is also a widely stigmatized problem. This is a topic that people are generally uncomfortable talking about, and it’s usually a topic that is only discussed behind closed doors. ”
Even the women themselves contribute to the stigma. As printed in Press-Enterprise, Long, the self-righteous woman who submitted her take on Halbleib’s work, explains “all the men I have known, regardless of their skin color, do have nothing to do with a woman’s menstrual cycle, let alone being aware of removing a tampon.
Long also said the piece “shouldn’t have been part of a public art exhibit.”
His reasoning? “Children and others should not have been exposed to this explicit piece. The rights of one should not infringe on the other.
Long clearly portrays how pronounced menstrual stigma is in our society, even in 2021. She’s a woman who, presumably, is so uncomfortable with her own anatomy that she writes dramatically for the local newspaper, boldly implying a comparison between the artist and Hitler.
Seriously, she goes into a rant about her idea of morality, claiming, “There is no such thing as ‘your own truth’. If we all acted on what we just believed to be right, rather than what is right, we would be in a world of problems.
Prepare for the Hitler party. She continues: “Once upon a time there was this charismatic leader who acted what he thought was right – his name was Hitler…”
Long’s letter to the editor is laughable at best, and grotesquely absurd at worst. She and others who have complained to the Trustees have a distorted view of reality. It’s anatomy.
Ask yourself, would you have the same reaction to the penis sketches that adorn the desks of literally every college? Why is it when there are demonstrations of male anatomy they are accepted as mundane and ignored, when when it comes to female anatomy everyone’s panties pile up? Did my mention of “panties” offend you as well?
Long closed his tirade, in part, by stating, “We women need to understand our points and back them up with clear facts.” I enclose a clear fact. Trigger Warning: This is an anatomically correct diagram of a uterus from MedlinePlus, a government information service.
It’s 2021, not 1950. It’s time to accept female anatomy and menstruation for what it is: natural.
By continuing the narrative that women’s bodies and functions should be kept quiet, we teach our young girls to be ashamed of their bodies. We teach them to be shy when they have their period. We teach them to conform to the status quo. We teach them to silence their voice.
Yet we live in a culture where seven year olds already know what Viagra is and what it does. Meanwhile, men gag in front of Tampax and Always commercials.
Bloomsburg is no stranger to hate incidents targeting minority communities, both on campus and in town. In the past few years alone, Bloomsburg has witnessed several questionable events:
- – In 2015, a BU student tweeted a misogynistic take on Little League World Series female athlete, Mo’ne Davis.
- – In 2016, a Bloomsburg Fair salesperson, who had previously been arrested for child pornography, was sell swastika flags and was eventually asked to leave due to “threats against him, among the” many “complaints on social media.”
These are just a few of the most publicized examples. Minority students, especially those of color, regularly experience uncomfortable feelings of hatred. There is a disconnect between the townspeople and the diverse student body.
Most recently, a vocal religious group took to campus to preach horrific opinions. The students of the BU experience this type of group visits to the campus at least once a year, if not every semester, and it always causes a scene. However, the last time was on March 11, 2021, during the pandemic. None of the demonstrators wore a mask.
The protesters’ categorical refusal to wear masks should have been enough to expel the group from campus, not to mention the obscene messages they shouted and adorned on placards.
No student who ran into the rude protesters necessarily chose to see the group. Did they choose to engage with them? Yes. But they had no choice, in their comings and goings in class, to see and hear or not religious extremists.
Despite the incredibly offensive account coming from the group, BU did not order them to leave.
An email message to the BU community that day, sent by the Marketing and Communications BU, said:
“The University has learned that there is a group of people who are planning to visit campus today to use our campus location to exercise their constitutional rights of assembly and freedom of expression. As a public institution on public land, our campus is open to all people of diverse beliefs… Free and open speech is the hallmark of a comprehensive educational experience. As such, everyone should be given the opportunity to speak, listen, challenge, and learn from a variety of perspectives in a respectful manner.
Virtually no action was taken against the group to remove them. First Amendment rights for racist, homophobic, sexist, xenophobic extremists? Allowed.
The university passively tolerated this direct display:
… and actively condemned this art showcase:
I ask this question: are your priorities in the right place? Are you outraged by the messages that truly afflict our community, alienate our people and strain relationships with the city, or are you offended by an accurate portrayal of a body part?
To those who complained about the Halbleib article – you could have missed it, just as you quickly walk past your neighbors’ hate protests every day.