Giant posters depicting female genitals go on display at Ohio college in response to pro-life exhibit showing gory fetuses and comparing abortion to the Holocaust
By Daily Mail Reporter
PUBLISHED: 13:08 EST, 8 March 2013 | UPDATED: 17:12 EST, 8 March 2013
The University of Cincinnati has given the green light to a pro-choice group to put on an outdoor display of female genitalia posters on campus amid vocal opposition from anti-abortion activists.
The college’s LGBTQ Alliance and UC Feminists say the 12 photos of vaginas are meant to cause discussion aimed at discrimination and exploitation of women’s bodies.
The project called Re-envisioning the Female Body also wants to counter a pro-life demonstration on campus last year that featured giant posters of aborted fetuses.
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Controversial: Twelve billboard-sized photographs of vaginas have been placed outside McMicken Hall on the University of Cincinnati campus as part of a pro-choice exhibit
On full display: The 4-by-6-foot images of some female students' genitals displayed with the legs spread
Visual activism: The UC LGBTQ Alliance and UC Feminists are responsible for putting together the two-day exhibit
Critics of the temporary display held Thursday and Friday have complained that is pandering obscenity, which is a felony, and could be viewed by young children.
University President Santa Ono called the event a ‘teachable moment,’ saying in a statement that UC is an academic community where ideas and images are analyzed and debated, however controversial and complex they might be.
He also says the school is a public institution obligated to protect the right to free speech under the First Amendment.
The controversial exhibit includes a dozen 4-by-6-foot images of some female students' genitals displayed from an 'ironically medical perspective,' with the legs fully spread as if during a gynecological checkup.
The posters are accompanied by quotes from the models regarding women's health care, abortion and their personal gripes with matters of sexual identity.
Battlefield: Organizers wrote in their manifesto that the aim of Re-visiting the Female Body project is to call attention to the vagina 'as a site of conflict'
Free art: On Thursday and Friday, students roamed the grounds outside the university building, looking at the billboards set up on snow-covered ground
Split opinions: The exhibit has drawn many reactions from some students, but critics slammed it as free pornography
Sarah Coressel, one of the students who posed for the exhibit, told Cincinnati.com that she was nervous before the project got under way, but felt empowered and proud in the end.
'I’ve never really been comfortable with myself, and this is kind of me taking my body into my own hands and saying, "This is what I can do and I can do it if I want to,"' Coressel said.
In their Facebook manifesto laying out the ideas behind the project, the organizers said that the display is in response to the gruesome images of fetuses brought to UC's campus by the pro-life Genocide Awareness Project.
'Their billboard sized photographs equated mutilated fetuses with genocide victims in an effort to shame women, comparing reproductive choice to holocaust,' the statement read.
Artistic retaliation: The vagina display was put on in response to the gruesome images of fetuses brought to UC's campus by the pro-life Genocide Awareness Project last year
Green light: Despite calls to stop the exhibit from opening, the president of the university gave it the go-ahead, saying that as a public college, it must protect free speech
'Our demonstration serves to call attention to the vagina as a site of conflict in medical, legislative, domestic, and representational arenas.
'Its purpose is to incite conversation about the objectification, exploitation, and discrimination of women's bodies in advertising, health care, reproductive rights, and queer identities.'
While many who came out to view the exhibit this week applauded the university for allowing the images of genitalia to be shown in public, The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, a watchdog group that rates the state of free speech in US colleges, gave UC a poor rating in its 2013 report.
On Thursday, representatives from the Collegiate Ministry Association stood outside the display offering to talk to students who may have been upset or offended by the photos.
Big picture: All the images in the exhibit are accompanied by quotes from the models who posed for the project expressing their thoughts on women's health care and abortion
Backlash: Pro-choice activists on campus slammed the outdoor display as pandering obscenity
The UC Students For Life group had tried to clamp down on the display before it went up, saying the billboards have no purpose other than 'shock value.'
'It's just pornographic,' vice president of the anti-abortion group, Annmarie Condit, told WCPO. 'All this display was going to do is promote a rape culture on campus. These pictures look at women the way a rapist would look at them.'
In a letter given to UC President Ono and Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters, an attorney for UC Students For Life wrote, 'the billboards are a clear violation of Ohio law,' according to a press release.
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