The Davis Museum at Wellesley College is holding an exhibit of the work of sculptorTony Matelli, and to help advertise the exhibit, the museum placed one of Matelli's statues outside. Titled The Sleepwalker, the realistic-looking statue shows a bald man in his tighty-whities lumbering forward with his arms outstretched, his eyes closed, and his head lolling around in deep sleep. It's funny and is, unsurprisingly, a big hit on Instagram. It's also creating controversy, as reported by the Boston Globe, as many students object to the statue on the grounds that it's scary. Zoe Magid, a junior at the university, started a Change.org petition demanding that the statue be moved inside the museum. "Within just a few hours of its outdoor installation, the highly lifelike sculpture by Tony Matelli, entitled 'Sleepwalker,' has become a source of apprehension, fear, and triggering thoughts regarding sexual assault for some members of our campus community," she writes, adding variations of the wordtrigger two more times.
The museum director Lisa Fischman responded to the petition in an email that highlights how much the statue does not resemble a rapist who is coming to get you: "Arms outstretched, eyes closed, he appears vulnerable and unaware against the snowy backdrop of the space around him. He is not naked. He is profoundly passive. He is inert, as sculpture."
This email did not placate the critics of the statue, who left dozens of comments, mostly written in feminist jargon. "Your claim that Sleepwalker is passive is spoken in privilege and without regard to the many students on this campus who have faced and survived assault, racism, and many other forms of violent oppression," writes one commenter. Another likens the statue to real-life sexual assailants and harassers: "You claim that Sleepwalker is inert, passive - free of action or blame. Funny, so do his real-life counterparts." One woman gets a wee bit excited with, "He 'appears' like a creepy pervert! There are so many talented artists who create BEAUTY! This is not art! It's a sexual assault!" Notably, no self-identified rape survivors piped in to say that the statue reminded them of their own experiences, but that didn't hold back the tide of speculation that it might traumatize them.
It's hard to pick the "best" comment, but here's one of my favorites:
Matelli's statue does not speak to the power of art to inspire dialogue but rather to the power of the nearly nude, white, male body to disturb and discomfit. Even unconscious and vulnerable, he is threatening. "Arms outstretched, eyes closed," he lumbers forward, quite literally unable to acknowledge the presence of his (in this context) largely female spectators. What a perfect representation of the world outside of Wellesley, where women and people identifying as women are often subject to a similar ambivalence. "I'm not even conscious that I'm wandering through your lady landscape," the statue says. "I do not have to experience you. I feel about you the same way I feel about the snow. But you have to experience me, and I don't care."
What does this statue do if not remind us of the fact of male privilege every single time we pass it, every single time we think about it, every single time we are forced to acknowledge its presence. As if we need any more reminders.
To be clear, there are as many, if not more, voices supporting the statue. Sadly, none of the defenders mentioned the selfie possibilities in their largely high-minded arguments about freedom of expression.
I'm sure this story is on its way to a conservative media outlet near you, where some white, privileged man in tighty-whities will roll his eyes about the hysterical feminists, which, in this case, well—good call. Still, one thing I've been trying to keep in mind is that the women getting wound up about the statue are really young and just starting to explore the identity of "feminist." College is a time for taking everything too far, from drinking beer to sports fandom to sexual drama to using your fancy new vocabulary words picked up in women's studies courses. Which doesn't mean that one should refrain from having a laugh over this, of course. Let's hope Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein are taking careful notes for the next season of Portlandia.
By DENISE GRADY JAN. 30, 2014
Daniel Davidson, in a system to help him use his laptop, had an appointment to treat his pelvic pain canceled because of a ban. Rajah Bose for The New York Times
After months of protest from doctors and patients, a professional group that certifies obstetrician-gynecologists has lifted a ban it imposed in September and now says its members are free to treat men.
The decision, announced Thursday by the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology, was a reversal of its September directive, and followed partial concessions the group had made in November and December in an effort to mollify critics.
Board members refused to be interviewed, butissued a statement in which the executive director, Dr. Larry C. Gilstrap, said: “This change recognizes that in a few rare instances board certified diplomates were being called upon to treat men for certain conditions and to participate in research. This issue became a distraction from our mission to ensure that women receive high-quality and safe health care from certified obstetricians and gynecologists.”
The uproar began last fall soon after the board, based in Dallas, posted on its website what it called “a more expanded version of the definition of an obstetrician-gynecologist.” A notice in a red box near the top of its home page stated that members were “expected to practice consistent with this definition,” and warned, “Failure to do so may result in loss of certification.”
The directive prohibited treating male patients, except in certain circumstances like circumcising newborns, treating transgender people or helping couples with infertility or genetic problems. The board also said members had to devote at least 75 percent of their practice to obstetrics and gynecology.
Doctors take such requirements seriously. Although board certification is voluntary and not required by law, doctors need it to work because most hospitals and insurers insist on it, as do many patients.
In an interview in November, Dr. Gilstrap said the board’s action in September was meant to protect patients and the integrity of the specialty because some gynecologists were practicing other types of medicine, like treating men for low testosterone or performing liposuction and other cosmetic procedures on women and men. And some, he said, ran ads offering those services and describing themselves as board certified, without specifying that their certification was in obstetrics and gynecology, an omission that could mislead patients into thinking they were certified in plastic surgery or some other specialty.
The first reaction against the September directive came from gynecologists who were screening men at high risk for anal cancer, using techniques similar to those used to detect cervical cancer in women. Few doctors had expertise in screening men for anal cancer, those gynecologists said, and they feared the ban would interrupt patient care and interfere with a major government-funded study aimed at finding out whether screening for precancerous growths can prevent the cancer.
The board initially refused to change its position, but in November, it relented on that point and gave members permission to continue screening men for the cancer.
More protests erupted. Doctors, patients and physical therapists implored the board to make another exception, this time for gynecologists who had expertise in treating men for chronic pelvic pain, a poorly understood condition that can be severe enough to leave patients unable to work.
RECENT COMMENTSJHL 23 hours agoAs a practicing Gyn who also performs other services, I applaud ABOG's decision to reverse its policy on not treating men. I am...
Ian Sankey 23 hours agoI actually know 2 Gynecologists and I can say for a fact they'll never treat other men, we've joked about this many times while discussing...
Bill 23 hours agoThey should move the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology out of Texas. Texans have crazy notions about women, sex and reproductive...
At first, the board denied the requests. Then, in December, it saidgynecologists could continue to treat men already in their care for pelvic pain, but they were not allowed to take on new cases.
The board’s troubles were still not over. On Jan. 10, a lawyer wrote, threatening to sue unless the prohibition against treating men was withdrawn. The lawyer, Tom Curtis of Nossaman LLP, based in Irvine, Calif., suggested that the ban violated antitrust laws. His client was Dr. David Matlock, an obstetrician-gynecologist in Los Angeles who performs a variety of cosmetic vaginal operations and also does liposuction on men and women. In an interview, Dr. Matlock said 4.7 percent of his patients were men.
A lawyer for the board replied to Mr. Curtis on Jan. 21, stating that the group was considering another revised definition — one that would delete the prohibition on treating men. The lawyer, Stephen L. Tatum, of Cantey Hanger LLP in Fort Worth, asked that Mr. Curtis “consider the revised definition before taking any further legal action.” Mr. Curtis provided copies of the correspondence to The New York Times.
On Thursday, the board announced its decision. The ban on treating men is gone, as is the requirement that members devote at least 75 percent of their practice to obstetrics and gynecology. Now, the board says members must devote “a majority” of their practice to the specialty.
David Margulies, the head of a public relations firm and a spokesman for the board, said in an email that the threat of a lawsuit had nothing to do with the board’s decision, and that “the changes were in the works prior to correspondence from Mr. Curtis.” Mr. Margulies said the board had begun considering the issue in November, after a New York Times article described doctors’ worries about patients at risk for anal cancer.
Stephanie Prendergast, a physical therapist in San Francisco and a past president of the International Pelvic Pain Society, a professional association, said by email that the ban on treating men had interrupted treatment plans for men with pelvic pain, and that Thursday’s decision was “a victory for patients.”
Christina Hoff Sommers is author of the new edition of the The War Against Boys: How Misguided Policies Are Harming Our Young Men. You can hear Sommers Thursday night in Washington, D.C., during adebate hashing out whether there is a war on women ongoing or if it’s really on men. The debate will be moderated by Jonah Goldberg and include Fox News contributor Kirsten Powers. Sommers talks with National Review Online’s Kathryn Jean Lopez.
KATHRYN JEAN LOPEZ: What’s the war on boys?
CHRISTINA HOFF SOMMERS: It’s more like a war of attrition. No one wakes up in the morning thinking, “What horrible thing can I do to boys today?” But boys and young men have been massively neglected. Women in the U.S. today earn 62 percent of associate’s degrees, 57 percent of bachelor’s degrees, 60 percent of master’s degrees, and 52 percent of doctorates. When an education-policy analyst looked at current trends in higher education he quipped, only half in jest, “The last male will graduate from college in 2068.”
There was an immense and much-celebrated effort to strengthen girls in areas where they languished behind boys. The Title IX anti-discrimination law has been used to close the sports gap. In the mid-Nineties, Congress passed the Gender Equity Act, categorizing girls as an “under-served population” on par with other discriminated-against minorities. Hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent to improve girls’ achievement in sports, math, and science. Today, it is boys who need help. But so far Congress and the Department of Education have looked the other way.
LOPEZ: This has been a theme of yours for a while. Has it gotten better or worse?
SOMMERS: Simon & Schuster asked me to update and revise the 2000 edition of The War Against Boys precisely because the plight of boys is worsening. A recentworking paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research documents a remarkable trend among high-achieving students: In the 1980s, nearly the same number of top male and female high-school students said they planned to pursue a postgraduate degree. By the 2000s, 27 percent of girls expressed that ambition, compared with 16 percent of boys. But it’s the declining social and educational prospects of working-class and poor white, Latino, and African-American young men that is most dismaying. A 2011 Brookings Institution study describes how millions of poorly educated young men have been “unhitched from the engine of growth.” As the United States moves toward a knowledge-based economy, school achievement has become the cornerstone of lifelong success. Young women are adapting; young men are not.
LOPEZ: Why is it so much more of a challenge to educate boys than girls? What are we doing wrong?
SOMMERS: Let’s face it, boys are different from girls. As a group, boys are noisy, rowdy, and hard to manage. Many are messy and disorganized, and won’t sit still. They tend to like action, risk, and competition. When researchers asked a sample of boys why they did not spend a lot of time talking about their problems, most of them said it was “weird” and a waste of time.
Today’s classrooms tend to be feelings-centered, risk-averse, competition-free, and sedentary. As early as pre-school and kindergarten, boys can be punished for behaving like boys. The characteristic play of young males is “rough-and-tumble” play. There is no known society where little boys fail to evince this behavior (girls do it too, but far less). In many schools, rough –and-tumble play is no longer tolerated. Well-meaning but intolerant adults are insisting “tug of war” be changed to “tug of peace”; games such as tag are being replaced with “circle of friends” — in which no one is ever out. Boys as young as five or six can be suspended for playing cops and robbers. Our schools have become hostile environments for most boys.
LOPEZ: What is the solution to the boy gap, and why aren’t our schools addressing it?
SOMMERS: For one thing, we can follow the example of the British, the Canadians, and the Australians. They have openly addressed the problem of male underachievement. They are experimenting with programs to help them become more organized, focused, and engaged. These include more boy-friendly reading assignments (science fiction, fantasy, sports, espionage, battles); more recess time (where boys can engage in rough-and-tumble play as a respite from classroom routine); campaigns to encourage male literacy; more single-sex classes; and more male teachers (and female teachers interested in the pedagogical challenges boys pose). A few years ago, the Australian government launched a campaign called “Success for Boys.” This program provided grants to 1,600 schools to incorporate boy-friendly methods into their daily practice.
A “Success for Boys” campaign would face furious opposition in the U.S. Congress. Legislators would receive an avalanche of protesting faxes, e-mails, petitions, and phone calls from women’s groups accusing them of taking part in a “backlash” maneuver against women and girls. In the U.S., a network of women’s groups works ceaselessly to protect and promote what it sees as female interests. But there is no counterpart working for boys — they are on their own.
LOPEZ: What are the political implications of the current plight of boys?
SOMMERS: In light of the boy crisis, both liberals and conservatives may have to reconsider some prized assumptions about the source of our national woes. Liberals routinely lament “the feminization of poverty” and look to the government for more generous polices to help millions of struggling single mothers. Conservatives deplore the decline of the family and point to the need to restore basic values. But, as a growing body of evidence makes clear, both female poverty and family decline are directly connected to the falling fortunes of young men.
— Christina Hoff Sommers is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. A revised and updated edition of her bestselling book, The War Against Boys: How Misguided Polices Are Harming Our Young Men, has just been published. Follow her @CHSommers.