IvyGate took a little time off last month as we transitioned from one set of editors to another. Which is too bad, because while we were on recess Dartmouth went halfway to crazy town.
First there was that whole episode with the terrifying, Guns N Roses date-rape medley. Then there was the Keystone “rotunda sculpture.”
Most notable, though, has to be senior Mayuka Kowaguchi’s Orchid Project, a.k.a. THAT WEIRD MIRROR THING.
In Kowaguchi’s own words:
Originally titled “Hey Hey to your Vajayjay”, the Orchid Project was my final project proposal for Sexperts training. (Sexperts is a peer-advising group on campus that promotes and informs on sexual health and pleasure.) Tomorrow [Oct. 18], all the women on campus this term will receive a mirror with a note attached, encouraging them to use the mirror to look “down there.” My hope is that this will provide an opportunity for each woman to become more familiar with her body and in particular, with the female genitalia.
1,796 mirrors in total were distributed, funded by Dartmouth’s Office of Pluralism and Leadership (OPAL), along with a note directing recipients on how to, uhh, use them.
Kowaguchi followed up the stunt with a series of discussions and an op-ed piece in the Dartmouth to further elaborate on the meaning and motivations behind the project.
More than 20 campus organizations supported the project. College president Jim Yong Kim called the initiative “courageous.”
Not unexpectedly, though, backlash ensued. Some, such as a commenter on the Dartmouth website, viewed the project as patronizing, others an in-your-face show of sexual profligacy. Others still were mainly just weirded out.
Columnist Grace D’Arcy called the note disrespectful and offensive to people of faith, pointing out one line from the Orchid Project literature in particular. Kowaguchi used the phrase, “to shift [women’s] perspective from the expectations and limitations of belief patterns, societal cultural or religious conditioning,” when describing her aims for the project.
Quoth D’Arcy: “If the Orchid Project’s main goal was to encourage consideration, what possessed them of the idea that a direct attack on all faiths was the way to do that?”
IvyGate got in touch with Kowaguchi after D’Arcy’s column ran. The Dartmouth senior said the project was not meant to disrespect anyone’s beliefs, nor to advocate an agenda of sexual liberation. Nor, she emphasized, to be indiscriminately mean about religion:
I respect everyone’s personal values and beliefs. But reflecting on my own experience, I have found that sometimes our surrounding social structures have a greater influence on us than we realize. I’d like people to think about why a mirror, an anatomical region of the human body, and the topics of health and pleasure cause so much controversy, causing some to call the project “offensive.”
Speaking for the men in attendance, I’ll just cautiously nod and say “the more power to ya” as I back slowly away from the conversation.