In recent days, Wellesley College — an all-women’s college — has been graced with the public, outdoor presence of a hyper-realistic statue of a sleepwalking man in his tighty-whitey underwear. The statue, by Tony Matelli, is meant to market a new exhibit at the campus’s Davis Museum, but for some the statue is much more than an advertisement.
“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,” senior Lauren Walsh — allegedly using another student’s name – wrote in a Change.org petition to remove the statue. “While the sculpture may not trigger, disturb, or bother everyone,” it nevertheless must be moved, Zoe says, because it disturbs some members of the community.
Lisa Fischman, the director of the Davis Museum, wrote a response to the petition. She did not indicate whether or not the statue would be moved, but said she was “enormously glad to have . . .responses” because it meant the “art provoked dialogue, and discourse is the core of education.”
However, many respondents were not satisfied with Davis’s letter and took to the comment section of the petition to express their disgust. Respondents rejected calls for “dialogue” and free expression, many citing their and others’ fears of an inanimate object whose very presence is considered a threat to “public safety,” as one commenter wrote.
“This is a monument to rape culture and it should not even have to be said that it does NOT belong at a woman’s college,” Owen Lloyd writes.
“Some students can find this inappropriate, and we shouldn’t force those students to walk by the statue every day.” Elaine Kim adds.
Another respondent, Magdalena Zebracka, registered her objection with a more academic tone: “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. . . . 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.”
As of this writing, the petition garnered 723 signatures out of its goal of 1,000.
— Alec Torres is a William F. Buckley Fellow at the National Review Institute.