By Aaliyah Murillo, Oct. 5, 2021
As one enters the courtyard of the W. Keith & Janet Kellogg University Art Gallery, they are greeted with an explicit content warning that some of the artwork might not be suitable for a sensitive audience — I enter anyway, and I did not regret it.
“Women’s Rights are Human Rights: International Posters on Gender-based Inequality, Violence and Discrimination” is the theme of this exhibit put together by guest curator, Elizabeth Resnick and Michele Cairella-Fillmore, the curator and gallery director. The approximately 4,000 square feet gallery is filled with artwork and campaigns from various countries; all with messages of how common women from all around world deal with abuse.
The title: “Women’s Rights are Human Rights” originated from Hillary Clinton’s speech at the United Nations Fourth World Conference, “if the term ‘women’s rights’ were to be interchangeable with the term ‘human rights’ the world community would be a better place …”
Each installation greets the visitor with a unique message. The front west gallery included artwork of well-known women activists such as Audre Lorde and the late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, while the front east expressed women being silenced through a series of images covering the mouths of women.
When entering the corridor of the gallery, visitors are welcomed by explicit artworks which showcase sexual, physical and emotional abuse, abortion rights and government involvement of women’s rights.
Yann Legendre’s “Score — Women Are Not a Game” poster mimics the Space Invader video game layout by creating n image through pixels of a woman with her legs open exposing her genitals as the target, with the word “score” in red letters to depict someone won the game.
Although the poster was straightforward in its message that women are not meant for someone’s amusement, at the bottom of the poster in a different text it gave a statistic of, “One of every 10 women in the world has been raped one time in her life.”
The statistic and poster continue to linger in my mind along with Anita Kunz’s “Leave My Body Alone” artwork, which portrays a female body leaning forward with a mouth at the stomach screaming out, “Leave My BODY alone!”
Kunz’s artwork had unintentionally sparked emotions in me I had thought I was finished expressing.
At a young age, I had been exposed to various types of sexual abuse from people much older than I was. I did not know what they were doing or why they were, but I knew it made me uncomfortable. The experiences, and people, would reoccur in my mind the older I became, until I was able to understand what everything meant through resources and experiences from other women.
At the age of 19, I believed my time for these assaults was over. I was naive in thinking the universe would think I had experienced too many assaults and would protect me from more harm. Until one night, on a day meant to celebrate my favorite time of the year, Halloween, I went out to a house party. I was enjoying myself until I began to realize how difficult it was to stand on my own. I only had one drink, which stayed with me the whole night and practically stayed at the same volume from the time I poured it. The next day, I woke up in my bed confused as to how I got there and confused on where some of my clothing items and cellphone were.
The man who took advantage of me returned my phone to me, recapped the night and concluded with, “Oh yeah, we also had sex last night.” I was in disbelief. I thought my time was over. I believed nothing would harm me again, but it did, and it was at my most vulnerable state.
Lunz’s piece expressed how I have felt on the inside. Her art represented how much I wanted to scream and be emotional about the situation but how I couldn’t because I did not want to accept what had happened to me.
I appreciated the “Women’s Rights Are Human Rights: International Posters on Gender-Based Inequality, Violence and Discrimination” exhibit. It left me feeling reassured yet emotional that these are typical situations that women experience worldwide.
Having the exhibit on campus gives each student who visits a perspective of what women encounter and how we can help in preventing these situations from occurring. It also gives people who have encountered similar situations as me, the comfort in knowing that they are not alone, and there are resources available for them.
Featured image courtesy of Aaliyah Murillo.
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