Monday, February 2, 2009

SWAS is back

The good ol' Sex Workers' Art Show will be back this year in late March. You probably remember the huge controversy that it sparked last year. Well, many people wanted it back, and our new president, W. Taylor Reveley is reluctantly letting it back on campus. I would definitely recommend that you click above to read his actual statement. He says that the reason he's letting it on is not because he approves of it (neither did Gene Nichol, personally) but that he believes the students should and can decide what to bring onto campus. Which is good. He makes another good point that I fully agree with. Here's what he said:

"Repeated performances by a controversial group like SWAS, year after year, without a robust opportunity for the free play of ideas does not serve the Jeffersonian ideal. Such a pattern is a singularly sterile way to explore ideas of artistic expression and sexual exploitation. The sponsors of SWAS and its performers must do much better on the Jeffersonian front than they have to date. In addition to performing, they need to provide means for a serious discussion about pertinent issues, conducted with the intellectual rigor and civility characteristic of William & Mary. By the same token, those who find SWAS degrading and offensive should show up, prepared to articulate and defend their views."

(via The Flat Hat)

Now, I am personally fully in support of the Sex Workers' Art Show - even just as art itself. You don't have to go if you don't want to, but you can if you think you'll like it (much like I Heart Female Orgasm, and Saturday's Good Vibrations, a sex toy show, which were wholly uncontroversial). But it's true that SWAS is trying to make a point - but they don't allow much discussion of that point. They don't articulate it very well. If the message is the point of the show, this is a necessary addition to SWAS. I know that last year there was a forum about SWAS later in the week - but it would be much better if the forum were at the end, and that people could ask questions to the sex workers themselves.

EDIT: I have been informed that there was room for discussion afterwards, and MORE THAN ONE discussion venue later that week - I wasn't that well informed, even though I went. So in conclusion, Reveley is just trying not to piss off the people who give us money.


Anonymous said...

Hi Rachel,
Actually, there WAS a question and answer period immediately after the show last year, where audience members were able to ask questions directly to the performers. Not ONE PERSON with an opposing viewpoint showed up and asked a single question or made a single comment. All the questions were from people who had enjoyed the show.
This is not something that art shows normally do. You don't go to a gallery and then get to debate with the painter about their work. It was a generous gesture on the part of the performers.
Further, the sponsoring group offered a post-show survey for audience members to voice their feelings about the show.
Taking into account the free speech forum as well, there were clearly many many opportunities fostered before, during, and after this show for the WM community to engage in "Jeffersonian" debate and discussion. Revely is going to have to find some other reason to complain about the show.

Rachel said...

Hey anonymous commenter,

Thanks for the clarification - I am DEFINITELY in favour of SWAS but didn't know about all of the debate opportunities until last night, and now. Will fix my post!