One day in my graduate 3D seminar, the professor invited a colleague to give a presentation on a show he’d recently curated. This colleague of his, a former classmate from grad school, was a painting teacher who thought very highly of himself and whose juvenile antics encouraged similar behavior in his students. This man strode into our small room, his tiny ponytail sticking up from his middle-aged scalp and his white lab coat stiffly hanging on his coolly slouching torso. After a loud and too-familiar greeting, he started his slideshow, which cataloged his curating experience with a small NYC show, from inception to opening night. I only listened to about 2/3s of what he said—a lot of it was self-referential—but I focused in when he started to talk about the why and how of pieces he chose. There were a couple of things he chose for some reasons I don’t remember at this point, but then he showed us an image of a picture of a strip of bacon and told us some story of the artist who would take a picture of what he ate everyday and why this mattered for the art show (something about consumption? I don’t remember).
The next image he showed was an image of a nude female crotch, the hairless labia majora visible, the whole thing glistening with a silvery sheen. This image was of a picture created by an artist who did work exploring pornography and feminism and who did installations that integrated sex gadgets (maybe?—I still was only kinda listening) and pornographic imagery. None of this was revelatory for me, or even interesting, but sure, the human body and its possible functions are vital subjects for the arts… The presenter went on about pornographic images and the female body, boring, boring, and then something changed—his voice became low and salacious and insinuating. He said something about the similarity between bacon and the vagina and, I guess because he’d not made the point to his own satisfaction, he urged us to consider again how there were similarities between bacon and vaginas…bacon, vaginas…think about it—they are similar…vaginas, bacon…
At this point, the class had withdrawn into itself and everyone’s polite blank, sleepy gaze had fallen to the table and the silence was absolutely stifling. The visiting professor’s flamboyant performance started to visibly deflate. Even he seemed to understand that he had gone too far into his rote misogyny; he had provided no context for the comparison and had never established his own respect for equality, knowledge or inquiry. He showed no humility in presenting these images and made no effort to explain or ask for our response.
That was the first time I seriously looked into procedures to withdraw from the MFA program. (I didn’t; I would owe the univ. many thousands of $ I simply could not pay, and I couldn’t get out of my lease, either. I was crushed. I absolutely HATED that place for a long time after this.) My voice was simply not heard in the system.
Witless bozo—he thought we’d think it was all cool beans, like his undergrad boys would—“Ooh, you’re so cool, prof, you talk about pussy, ooh, so real and irreverent…ooh, yeah, let’s consume pornography all ironic-like and presume to be superior…”
He hadn’t even considered the people in our small classroom: the seminar consisted of two out-and-loud gay guys, a hardcore Christian boy/man, an un-ironically bearded hillbilly and a highly educated, fairly sophisticated middle-aged woman who’d had DECADES of experience as a female in a man’s world. Dude—know your audience.
And, also, it was his friend’s first semester at this tenure-track job—way to have your bro’s back, man! What a jerk.