Dear Art Professor Pete Smith,
Obviously, you are a better judge of silly than I am, because, well, you are an Art Professor. Moreover, you are the art professor overseeing the studio where the silliness pictured here passes as art and apparently earns credit toward an art degree of some sort at the Ontario College of Art and Design.
I have to admit, I didn’t know who Olivia Benson was. At least your student who created this work is aware of her misandry, but I am not sure why she seems so proud of it. So, when you comment on my blog post about the things I saw in the window of your studio and wrote my arguments of as silly, I guess I am going to have to acquiesce to your authority, somewhat. It’s true, I didn’t spell stencil right and I guess that was silly. My only excuse is that I was a little tired when I posted. Well, that and the blogger spell check is kind of a joke. That is two excuses. Well also, I haven’t owned a stencil set since grade 8 when I dropped visual art, but I digress.
I don’t think rape, sexual assault, aggravated assault and genital mutilation are silly topics. I also don’t think it is silly to incite violence upon a person or group of people. It is not silly to paint certain groups in a bad light because of their sex. That is just wrong. You shouldn’t say that “nice guys” steal or “nice guys” murder or “nice guys” assault people or commit any other crimes. That is simply not true and it is also stereotyping.
In reality, “nice guys” don’t do those things because they are not nice things. Bad people do bad things. Nice people who turn around and do bad things stop being nice, by definition. All of society is hurt when you denigrate a certain group of society like nice guys. It can make that group feel as though they are unwanted by society and lower their self-esteem. This has the terrible affect making them dislike society and drop out or even act out against it. They might stop being nice and that is not silly at all.
So, you must understand that when I walked by the window of the OCAD studio that you oversee at 205 Richmond Street and saw one of your student’s works stating, “CAT CALLING IS PERMISSION FOR ME TO RIP OF YOUR DICK AND FEED IT TO YOU. OPEN WIDE ?.” I certainly did not think that it was silly. I did not really know what to make of it. Was it a bad joke?
I did not even realize that this studio was part of a school. I thought it might be a private art studio. I tried to figure what kind of person would create such a display. I tried to give the person every benefit of the doubt and imagine a way that a good-hearted person could post this sign.
What if people were cat-calling her (assuming it is a she) from the window? I could imagine that happening and it would be rather upsetting to most people. But, looking at the posters on the wall, I felt that it could only be the work of an activist. Regardless of the bad feelings it can cause, I really don’t think that a cat-call warrants sexual mutilation. I mean, ripping someone’s penis off could very well leave him bleeding to death. That’s some severe punishment for what amounts to a display of public rudeness.
The “Kill Your Rapist” poster was a little offside. I mean, rapists of both sexes are bad people and deserve to be punished, but your poster seems to implies that everyone has a rapist or should go get raped so they can kill him. I admit, I don’t think I understand how it is supposed to prevent rape. It seems rather shocking at first – I feel that getting attention is the primary goal – but it kind of seems like an empty threat in the end. Do I have to apply and pay tuition to learn this or is there an essay available to explain the deep meaning behind this message?
Then, the next day a different poster appeared. It said “Nice Guys Rape”. I wondered what that could mean, especially when it was displayed next to the “Kill Your Rapist” poster. I don’t think that nice guys rape, as I explained earlier, because rape is not a nice thing. To call nice guys rapists is not only an oxymoron; it points to a deep seated hatred and animosity toward men in general.
At this point, I began to suspect that your student was using one of the conflated definitions of rape so common in feminist circles. I have often read feminist rants that speak about sexual assault and rape as if they are the same thing. They also use exaggerated statistics to make it seem as though rape is more common than it really is. Also, since this person seems to think that a man should have his genitalia mutilated for saying something wrong, I wonder what line she thinks needs to be crossed to justify murder. I feel like men are being unjustifiably backed into a corner.
I cannot stress enough how badly I feel for victims of rape. It is sad that human nature allows such sick things to take place. It is also sad that some people get away with it. Therefore, it is sadder still, in a way, when other people lie about it.
For activists to further their cause there is always a temptation to embellish. This ambiguous incentive is one of the reasons I have avoided calling myself an activist until now. You see, these posters compelled me to take action. Therefore thanks to your student, I have now become an activist. So, as a fellow activist, I’d like to discuss this calmly and openly.
I think that the enduring pain of rape can become overwhelming for the victims’ lives. But, that rage is not the reality for the majority of society. It could very well be that the author or artists or whoever the persons who wrote these messages calls herself, identifies as a victim and projects her anger outward towards society.
This is not healthy.
If indeed she is a victim of rape, it is not due to some rape culture or patriarchy imposing its power over her. All I can say is that I hope she finds an outlet to channel her anger and pain in a way that leads to healing. If these posters are that outlet, then I say fine, let’s just say that the cat calling poster was just pushing the boundaries a little too far.
Testing the boundaries is necessary in order to learn where the boundaries are. This is a good learning experience and I hope the feedback helps. Frankly, I do not think that one person’s internal pain gives one license to hurt or call for violence upon other people indiscriminately, even if feels cathartic.
Some of the other posters I mentioned are borderline hateful. At the very least, they suggest that a very dark, angry heart is behind them. I hope, gradually, the artist can move to a more positive space one day, whatever has caused her to be so angry.
The problem I see is one of scrutiny. You see, feminism, as a movement has a lot of good will from people supporting it. Females, in general, are looked upon in a positive light within our species and I find that it is more difficult to criticize a woman and, by extension, feminism. To be a girl or a woman is to enjoy a certain amount of protection from life’s harsher realities.
Feminism has enjoyed a lot of shielding from critics because of political correctness, allowing the more outrageous ideas, arguments that would not survive serious criticism, to thrive. Any healthy philosophy has to welcome criticism to better shape its tenants. However, feminism has been protected by identity politics.
Whenever someone criticizes feminism, they are accused of hating women. Whenever someone criticizes theory about rape culture, they are accused of hating and hurting rape victims or being rape apologists. It was clear to me as soon as I saw the posters that the author has suffered from a lack of scrutiny. Your comments make it clear that you did not expect anyone to challenge them. It is just not acceptable to incite violence, regardless of our bad feelings or their cause.
Free from scrutiny, feminists are emboldened into thinking that their beliefs are unquestionable. This is why I believe that your student, and yourself since you supervise the studio, may have believed that the posters were not offensive and could be posted in public view. This is why I had to post the pictures of the display on my blog. See, most people don’t understand the context of the messages and would have written them off as just another nutty radical and walked by. But, I am the Cul-de-sac Hero. I have the power of scrutiny.
When I use the Internet, that power is magnified indefinitely. I posted the pictures so that these messages could be scrutinized by a wide audience. This is how you found my post and commented that I was being silly. See, I welcome criticism. I was hoping for a little bit better criticism than you and your friends provided. But, I’ll take what I get, even if it sounds like Graham Chapman from Monty Python. The “bat-shit crazy” part, is that your student’s window display justifies the whole men’s rights movement and shows that more work is needed to fight marginalization and demonization of men in our society.
If you continue to be an Art Professor and an arbiter of silly, I suggest that you steer your students toward the silly subjects. Puppies are silly. So are monkeys. I don’t have any more suggestions, but of course, I am not an Art Professor of the silly studio at 205 Richmond Street in Toronto. If, on the other hand, you want the studio to be taken seriously outside the cushy environment of academia, I hope you begin to teach your students that words are serious and to use them with care.
The Cul-De-Sac Hero
P.S. Before I go, I would like to offer some positive criticism, if I could. I like the poster that says “How Do You Protect Yourself At Night?” I get it now that I see it combined with the glittery baseball bat. I find this message empowering. It gives women control of their own safety**.
This is a vast improvement over the standard message from feminists that “men can prevent rape.” While I have thought about it, there is not much I can do to stop other men from raping. Of course, all of my friends know that raping is not allowed under any circumstances. No one I know has ever been in a position to prevent a rape because none of my friends would ever rape. But, we can’t follow all women around to make sure that no men are raping them. It is just not feasible and, frankly, unsafe.
**Mind you, I wouldn’t suggest arming yourself with a bat to feel safe. Walking through dangerous neighborhoods is rather dangerous, even when armed. Weapons like baseball bats can be taken away and used against you. It is still risky; however, any self-defense is better than no self-defense.