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Grace Dawson: Artist or Pornographer? Mountmonk College has always held very high standards for students and staff. Mountmonk likes to consider themselves better than the other schools at maintaining principles of traditional values as the alumni has done in the past. As the school nears its alumni weekend, we must take into consideration these values, as well as changes in the times as we decide about use of the auditorium for the weekend. Last semester there was an art contest held for the students. All ribbon winning art is scheduled to be displayed in the auditorium during the alumni weekend.
One of our students, Grace Dawson, is a photographer and is planning to show one of her photographs in the auditorium over the weekend. Her photograph is of a naked woman kneeling on the ground with a man in a suit kicking her while a naked man watches. We have objections to the display of her art from both the Womens Center and the Director of Alumni Relations. They feel her art is repugnant due to its explicit sexual content and fear that the alumni may withdraw contributions. Grace Dawson argues in her own defense that her photograph is artwork and should be exhibited. She entered this and several other photographs in the Student Art Contest last semester and won a ribbon for honorable mention.
She feels that her art deserves to be displayed with the rest of the ribbon winners. Grace Dawson has been unfairly singled out. She insists that she has the right to free speech under the First Amendment and her artwork is a form of protected speech. She should not be, and cannot be, denied the right to freedom of expression even if her expressions are Although we can immediately see that some of the alumni might be offended by the nature of the photos, we must look beyond that to the bigger and more important issues. Among these issues is of course her First Amendment right to freedom of expression. In the case of Memoirs versus Massachusetts the court ruled that material utterly without redeeming social value can be prosecuted.
If we decide here today that Grace Dawsons artwork cannot be displayed, then we have also condemned her art as completely valueless for everyone. We all know that this is not true, many people find value in similar art. Some of the most well respected and highest priced paintings, sculptures, and photos in the world are of nude models. In Ginsberg versus New York, the court decided that materials distributed to children may be considered obscene, but here at Mountmonk, we can clearly see that no children will be present for the viewing. The court then goes on to state that the same materials distributed to adults would not be obscene. Grace Dawson has earned the right to display her art by winning a ribbon, taking that away from her would clearly be a flagrant injustice.
I feel we must also analyze why we should ban this photo. Are we banning it because it represents a danger to society? Does it appeal to prurient interests? Or is there a more simplified explanation? Perhaps we want to censor what the alumni see in the interest of keeping their contributions coming in to the college. We can all agree that this college operates on the generous contributions of alumni, but can we sacrifice our integrity to be sure not to offend anybody.
We must ask ourselves also if the offensive materials are really offensive to the alumni. Secondly, we need to consider if the photographs are genuinely offensive enough to the alumni that they will not donate their money to the college. Mountmonk has always held traditional values; values that the alumni of this school look to for generating leaders with high morals and strong ethics for the future. Some people may find that these photos are demoralizing and should not be on display here or anywhere.
Do these pictures have any socially redeeming value, or are they pornography plain and simple? Naked photographs are known all over the world as pornography, why should these be any different? Do they have any socially redeeming qualities? No. Do these photographs represent art to anyone other than prurient interests? This is the reason we must allow the display.
The answer is yes, some people find that these pictures are art and deserve to be shown the same as any other. For this reason, and this reason alone, we must show Grace Dawsons art just as we show any others. We have come to a dilemma now in whether or not to show them. She has earned the right to have them displayed by winning a ribbon. Unfortunately, the display of this particular photo may be detrimental to the future donations to our college. I believe that the only solution to the problem is a postponement of the art exhibition.
By delaying to exhibition of the art we may also have time to address the concerns of the Womens Center. This is the only fair alternative to everyone involved. Grace Dawson cannot be denied her First Amendment right to freedom of expression. Bibliography:
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