Editor’s note: this letter is in response to the recent exhibition “Texts,” held in the Blue Gallery from February 27 through Spring Break.
Thanks Steph and Lillian for thinking of this idea and to the women who submitted their texts. I left the exhibit confused about the range of texts that made it onto the wall. I’m sure that in the context of larger conversations or relationships these texts warranted the title of sexual harassment. However, reading through these, I saw texts ranging from repulsive solicitations to seemingly innocent invitations to drinks and finally a list of blurred out names alluding to the list of 33 sexual assailants at Middlebury that circulated last December. In including “the list,” which I read as a threat to publish something similar at Bowdoin, within the same 8×8 blue room as texts inviting someone out to drinks, I am concerned that sexual harassment, sexual assault and unwanted invitations were conflated. An exhibit that aims to examine sexual harassment in the digital age and includes references and allusions to sexual assault without greater explanation or attempt to explore the connection between these two terms is dangerous. Many viewers may have, as I did, walked into this exhibit lacking clarity in definitions and ways of thinking about harassment and assault. I worry that this exhibit further confused its audience.
Isabel Udell is a member of the Class of 2019.