Why I Plastered The Campus With A Recumbent Naked Woman
(And Why I'm Not Sorry)
by Wade Stuckwisch
(reprinted from the Hampshire College Omen, vol. 14 #4 (March 11, 2000))

See The Poster | See the Second Follow-Up

When I created the recent controversial Omen poster back in mid-February (yes,
Isaac, it was on paper long before the All-Community meeting on the 25th, and I have
lots of witnesses), I was suspicious it might cause somewhat of a stir. I never in a million
years expected that I would be threatened with lynching, a Community Review Board
hearing and The Omen losing its funding, simply for expressing myself. After that, for
several days I was constantly nervous, angry, paranoid, unable to sleep soundly, and sick
to my stomach from the stress of worrying about being misinterpreted, misquoted, and
plotted against. If you think offensive images of women hurt people, you should know
that censorship and repression do too.
 Perhaps I should start by explaining my position. As a Division III film student, I
am not insensitive to issues involving images of women in media. In fact, I am quite
concerned about these issues. In this case, I am very concerned about recent action that
has taken place against community members who have produced controversial images of
women and/or women of color. My intent in producing The Omen's recent poster was not
malicious--in other words, it was not purely to cause mental anguish to any member of
the community. (I had been accused of doing this by members of the community, notably
Isaac Curtis in the Daily Jolt, and Community Council.) For those of you who were
seriously affected emotionally by my representation of women and sexuality, I am
sincerely very sorry that you have suffered. I honestly wish that no one ever had to feel
pain because of their identity. On the other hand, I don't regret producing the poster, and I
maintain that it is an artistic expression, it is not sexist, racist, or demeaning, and it
positively contributes to debates about the representation of women.
 My intent for the poster was to suggest in a witty manner that The Omen was
attempting to "seduce" community members into writing for it. For the purpose of this
artistic and comedic pursuit I attempted to give The Omen a sexually forward feminine
voice. I felt that this was the best voice to utilize, as it led to a number of witty, if risque,
sexual allusions, and I felt that the campus would be much more uncomfortable with the
implications of a sexually forward male voice. I in no way wanted to suggest that women
should be submissive to men or their sexual advances, nor do I feel that should be the
case. If anything, I feel I was trying to replicate the oft-maligned voice of a forward and
liberated female sexuality. Many of you feel that you are hurt by sexualized images of
women, seeing them as demaning. I would argue that many other women are hurt by
people misunderstanding  their attempt to take control of thier own sexuality. If the text
of the poster did not communicate that, I would argue that I made an unfortunate but
honest misjudgement. The terms "just submit" and "you know you want to," as well as all
the sexual imagery, were all directed at a reader meant to be attracted to the consentual
female voice of The Omen. It was definitely not meant to be interpreted as requesting
women to be submissive to men, and it was not meant to portry all women as having
similar sexual desires. I simply think that people express their sexualities in many
different ways, and one should be careful before he or she characterizes one as
"demeaning". I firmly believe that the context of the poster makes this obvious enough
that other readings should be categorized as misinterpretations. No artist or writer should
be held accountable for every possible misreading of their work, and at any rate none
should be expected to endure the treatment myself and The Omen have been held to by
some members of the community for misjudging how the community would interpret our
 As for Jacob's artwork, certain students have insinuated that the roughly
manga/hentai style of the artwork is dememaning or insulting to people of Japanese
descent or origin. I do not believe that appropriating a style of drawing from another
culture, even if it is a relatively perverse one, should necessarily express any kind of
negative conotation about that culture. I also do not believe this style suggests the woman
represented necessarily belongs to any specific ethnicity. In fact, I would argue that any
such construct would have to be made by the viewer, assuming ethnicity and suggesting
that a style produced and enjoyed by one small part of a culture reflects on the entire
culture. In my mind that is hardly a fair judgement.
 There has been much debate within discussions of feminism and images of
women over the objectifying nature of pornography. I am familliar with many of these
discussions, and, to be frank, I also disagree with many of them. A big part of my
representation was an attempt to argue against certain schools of femminist thought on
sexual representation, like the MacKinnonite school of thought on pornography and
objectification. I do not believe that representing a woman sexually necessarily demeans
her, or contributes to rape, or encourages all men to objectify women, and I believe that
such an attitude restricts all sorts of positive images of sexuality. Whether the recent
Omen poster was a positive representation is debatable, but you can't debate an image
when you are not allowed to display it. I also intended the poster to be a parody of the use
of sex in advertising--thus the final line, "The Omen--'Cuz What You Really Want Is
Sex." Once again, this statement was not aimed to suggest that women should be subject
to aggressive male sexuality. If it was misread as such, once again I must claim that I
cannot be held to this level of accountability for a simple misreading.
 If an artist or writer produces work in disagreement with a common viewpoint,
one must expect that someone will be offended by his or her views. I hope that concerned
students can now see in this context that the sole object of the poster was not simply to
offend the community. Many people outside Hampshire (and perhaps some within) are
offended by images of homosexuality, or interracial relationships, or even women in
nontraditional roles. I'm sure almost all of you can agree that an artist or writer should not
be held resposible for offending these sensibilities... or possibly even have a duty to
offend them. Yes, this case is different, but the point is that a community is resposible to
allow all beneficial free speech for a free exchange of ideas, even if community members
are offended by ideas they do not agree with.
 My main problem with this issue has never been the community's understadably
emotional reaction. What bothers me the most has been the way this issue has been
handled by members of the community, especially those in positions of power. We
initially hung the posters around campus on the afternoon of Sunday the 27th. On the
morning of the 28th we discovered that all these posters had been anonymously removed,
without comment, across campus (with the exception of the Prescott mods). That evening
we replaced as many as we could, believing that they had been removed by a single
irritated purpetrator. Tuesday morning many had once again been removed; some had
been postered over, especially by the discussion group on the media's obsession with
thinness. We replaced missing posters once again, and politely repositioned posters
obviously placed to cover our own. The rumor that The Omen deliberately covered
the posters of grops and events dealing with gender and race issues is a vicious lie
and is completely untrue. I personally hung almost every single poster, and in the
process I was extremely careful to avoid obscuring any current posters for other groups
and events. I especially explicitly avoided covering posters for any group or event
dicussing gender or race issues, bacuse I knew that it would be percieved as an attempt to
belittle their views. My main concern is promoting freedom of speech and a free
discussion of these issues, not silencing any community member who might disagree
with me. Their viewpoint is one side of the argument; I argue that my poster was simply
an attempt to present another side of the issue and create a dialogue. I was disappointed
that other people seemed dismissive of my views when they covered our posters with
their own. I am extremely suspicious that the rumor of other posters being covered by
Omen posters was maliciously fabricated by those offended by our work. If any of it is
true, which I sincerely doubt, the only way it could have possibly happened is if some
person not connected to The Omen moved them after I placed them.
 I am saddened that any member of the community felt they had the right to rip
down our posters across the entire campus, especially without first presenting their
concerns to any member of The Omen staff. Even when Jesse Helms attacked Robert
Maplethorpe's artwork, he never presumed to enter a museum and destroy his prints. This
kind of behavior is symptomatic of a very big problem which exists on this campus.
Many recent events suggest that a large number of students lack the common respect to
actually address the people who have offended them with their concerns, other than
anonymously or threateningly or both. This criticism applies with equal force to those
who ripped down our posters and, for example, those who anonymously defaced the
Women's Center. As an insititution of learning, Hampshire should recognize that an open
dialogue is necessary for progress to take place in discussing an issue. When the people
who hold one viewpoint decide to silence another person's expression because it is
"offensive," and refuse to engage in any form of dialogue, no one involved has gained
anything other than a lingering animosity.
 I am even more concerned about how this situation has been handled by those in
positions of power at Hampshire, especially members of Community Council and
specifically Commmunity Council chair Isaac Curtis. Anonymously tearing down our
posters was disrespectful, but Commmunity Council's treatment has been shameful. Isaac
has claimed publically in the Daily Jolt that The Omen continued to hang the
controversial poster after we had already been told that the poster was "maliciously"
offensive to the community. This is the first of many outright lies issued by Isaac and
Community Council. No posters were rehung in any widespread manner any later than
the afternoon of the 29th. Isaac easliy could have verified this by speaking with the Omen
staff, but he failed to. In fact, no signer, editor, or staff member of The Omen recieved
any official complaint from Isaac or Commmunity Council until the morning of March
1st--AFTER the March 1st all-community meeting had already been scheduled by
Community Council! Omen signers or editors were also never officially invited to the
Community Council meeting on the afternoon of the 29th, where the issue was discussed
and action against the Omen was voted on. I was informed unofficially by one Council
member that the poster might be discussed, and attended the beginning of the meeting,
but had to leave to go to work before discussion of the poster commenced. That evening
Council members telephoned all the mods on campus to stir up dissent against The
Omen. Initial anouncements of a "speak-out" on issues surrounding gender and race
representation, as well as a mock poll posted outside the library, were very obviously
slanted to stir up those who were offended, and did not identify themselves as coming
from Community Council. If this kind of conspiratorial slanted smear campaign isn't an
abuse of Community Council power, then I don't know what is.
 Isaac has accused The Omen and myself of producing the poster as a malicious
reaction to the All-Community Meeting held on February 25th, which I did indeed attend.
(Isaac should remember it, since I helped dispell his propaganda about the situation with
financial aid at that discussion group.) For one, the poster existed in a draft form weeks
before the meeting. Second, if an issue is being discussed in all-community meetings,
doesn't it make sense that a student might want to produce something at that time that
could add to the discussion? I felt that censorship was happeneing and something drastic
needed to be done to bring it to the community's attention. Students should be allowed to
express their opinions in any reasonable manner without fearing reprocussions from
student governemt, especially reprocussions prior to being conversed with or even
informed of the discussion.
 The Omen's treatment in this situation is just one example of the current
Community Council's irresponsible response to many campus issues. Requests from
Council for students to respond to community issues have been obviously slanted and
designed to arouse ignorant student anger with vague allusions to injustices which are
never fully explained. The Feb. 25th meeting was an embarrassing example of this, as
several issues raised by Council were immediately dispelled as soon as administrators
were allowed to explain the reality of the situation.
 I think the one most unfortunate byproduct of this entire incident is that, in the
wake of the backlash against the percieved censorship, many offended or hurt students
who were concerned about the representations presented no longer feel like thier voices
are being heard, much like those who felt censored. I believe the next challenge facing
the community is negotiating a way for all members of the community to become more
aware of all our concerns and feelings, especailly for the many students of color who are
sorely underrepresented and may feel isolated or silenced by the rest of the student body.
I think if Community Council had taken a stronger mediating role earlier in the conflict,
instead of encouraging students to take sides, this situation might have been avoided.
 Community Council's attittude has only served to divide, confuse, and anger
Hampshire's student body. Student opinions unpopular with Council have been repressed,
and Council seems to have let their own emotions get in the way of trying to mediate a
fair solution. In short, Council has failed to respond to the concerns of all the students it
represents. I would especially question the ethics behind Isaac's responses in the Daily
Jolt, which helped to spread any of a number of distortions of the truth which arose from
the Omen poster issue. As a responsible leader of Community Council, he should have at
least contacted Omen staff in order to check his facts.
 I would suggest that if the Community Council members involved, and especially
Council chair Isaac, want to continue as the head of Community Council, they should pay
more attention to the needs of the entire community and should learn to behave more
 For those of you offended by my poster, I do not suggest that you need to grow
up, or that you are hypersensitive, or that your opinions and feelings are completely
invalid. I just want you to think about why you believe what you do, where you draw the
line, and how you should react when someone disagrees with you. I encourage the
community to discuss important issues on an equal footing, without malice, name-
calling, or administrative intervention, so that maybe in the end we'll all take something
positive away from experiences such as these. Conflict is bound to happen within any
community of individuals; it is how we handle that conflict together as a student body
that is most important.