Monika Rostvold, an art student at Texas State University, sparked a frenzy both on campus and online Monday when she sat on the steps of her university’s library wearing nothing but a blindfold, a nude-colored thong, and pasties (see Naked Youths Take to Mexican Streets to Protest Student Killings Documented by Edgar Olguin).
Rostvold enacted the 45-minute demonstration as part of an art project focusing on the objectification of female bodies on campus. She enlisted the help of two classmates to film the reactions of passersby, some of which were less than respectful. Several students taunted, touched, and took pictures of Rostvold, who sat silently throughout the performance, except when campus police arrived and she removed her blindfold and spoke with them. The police allowed the performance to continue.
“I wanted people to view my body as beauty and power and not a sexual object,” she told San Antonio Express-News. Since it’s Sexual Assault Awareness Month, she said, “I wanted to create a piece about the standards that exist in our society. Being a victim and having friends who are victims of sexual assault I wanted to take control of my body by eliminating my presence and exposing myself” (see Women Change the World in Artist’s Tributes to Female Activists Including Emma Sulkowicz).
Students immediately took to social media to document the event, with reactions ranging from congratulatory to mocking.
As Glasstire noted, several “frat lifestyle” websites have chimed in with comments like this one from Total Frat Move: “I get that she has a statement to make—and our awesome country gives her the right to make it publicly. On one hand, she’s definitely getting some attention. People hear ‘titties out in the quad,’ and everyone comes running.”
Of course, it’s this brand of piggish reaction that proves the necessity for brave and thought-provoking projects that call into question the way women are treated and the way their bodies are perceived, especially on college campuses.
Rostvold’s use of performance art to raise awareness about sexual assault is reminiscent of Columbia student Emma Sulkowicz’s Mattress Performance (Carry That Weight), which has continued to make headlines since its inception in September 2014 (see Columbia Student’s Striking Mattress Performance, Columbia Student’s Performance Art Catalyzes a Full-Fledged Protest Movement, and Mattress Artist Emma Sulkowicz to Attend State of the Union).
Sulkowicz is in the news again this week. Her alleged rapist has sued the university for harassment and defamation (see Alleged Rapist Sues Columbia and Artist for Discrimination Over Emma Sulkowicz’s Mattress Performance).
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