Open forum answers questions over rape culture outrage



Jake Dalbey

An open forum Monday planned to address several concerns over a recent rape culture exhibit that took place last week in the College of Design.

Created by Samantha Barbour, a graduate student in graphic design, the exhibit was constructed to generate discussion among students as they passed the various posters.

“The project was originally meant to change a behavior for one of my behavioral change classes, and I wanted it to become real,” Barbour said. “I started off testing how the images would appear to the public, so I took advertisements of women who were in suggestive positions of being raped or molested. I stuck them all over campus all semester and then now created this exhibit.”

Various posters depicting women in positions of harm were shown at the exhibit. Barbour then removed the advertisements from each image, leaving only the woman for the viewer to see.

“I added sticky notes to each poster for people to respond to and what happened was that people didn’t respond, so I didn’t think they were receiving the message,” Barbour said. “So I added back the actual advertisements with them and the victims and then it exploded. Within two hours, I was receiving many emails on the exhibit.”

Audiences not clearly receiving the exhibit’s message was one of the reasons Barbour felt there was a backlash toward the content.

“What happened was that people actually missed the entire message because they were looking at it as wasted resources and cruel advertising, when in reality, it was supposed to be about the victims themselves,” Barbour said. “No one said that is was horrible what happened to the victim, but rather how horrible advertisers were.”

Advertising is one of the main areas Barbour views as a detriment to the modern-day rape culture and the victims it creates.

Ads from American Apparel and various beauty product manufacturers were shown at the exhibit

This was in addition to pop culture images such as photos taken of Rihanna after being assaulted by Chris Brown.

Use of social media in an ever-growing society is a cause for alarm for College of Design administrative specialist Linda Galvin, who attended the forum and is a victim of sexual violence.

“These posters weren’t shocking to me because I’ve seen them before,” Galvin said. “Maybe it’s out there and more visible because back in the ’70s, we didn’t have any social media like we have now. It’s bringing it up again to the forefront and it’s been in our society too long.”

Using the sticky notes provided near the imagery, students engaged in creating a dialogue with one another through anonymous messages left near the section of the poster that highlights the particular offense.

“I received an email stating that I did not start a conversation but instead made student’s minds up for them,” Barbour said. ”But I think people talking to each other on sticky notes saying, ‘daddy issue’ and then someone else says, ‘you’re an idiot’ or even someone calling another ‘a sexist pig’ opened a dialogue.”

Student reaction and response didn’t end with just emails, as some people tore posters or defaced the imagery on the wall, all actions that Barbour believes heighten her exhibit.

“Honestly, I’m almost happy for them, getting more posters is no big deal,” Barbour said. “I’d want to talk with these people and have a conversation because they didn’t just see them and walk by, but got emotionally affected enough to actually take the action of ripping them down.”

According to the 2015 Iowa State sexual assault and misconduct survey, 15.4 percent of students claimed they had witnessed someone acting in a sexually violent way, and almost 20 percent of women undergraduates have experienced a form of sexual misconduct.

Iowa State has put measures, such as counseling services through the Sloss Women’s Center, in place to help students who are currently involved or have recently been involved in a situation of sexual assault, but this may not be enough for students.

“We have training on sexual harassment and alcohol prevention, but we don’t require them to look at anything that will teach them how to take care of their friends at a party,” Barbour said. “Educational programs need to happen on campus. These kids are so young and don’t know how to protect themselves on campus or walking home.”

Barbour hopes that the exhibit, along with other projects of the same vein including a website and online forum, will help acquire new educational opportunities on sexual assault. These would include more counseling services and physical pamphlets that would be given to freshmen with emergency numbers to call if they are in danger.

“Everyone deserves the chance at free counseling with unlimited sessions,” Barbour said. “There may not be enough people in order to meet with students, and sometimes students are judged on whether or not their situation is important enough to be seen again. We need more funding in order to meet more students’ needs.”

Some people, however, are still skeptical of change coming not only to Iowa State but also to the rest of the nation.

“At first, I was hopeful that change was coming but it’s still very much a man’s society and we are always going to be in a man’s society, unless we can start changing some opinions of women,” Galvin said.