Jewish World Review Feb. 26, 2002/ 24 Adar I, 5763

Wesley Pruden

Wes Pruden
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What a cold way to treat a lady | Saddam Hussein only thinks he's clever. His weapons of mass destruction are fearsome enough, but he should have put his money in snow-making machines.

Americans whose daddies and granddaddies didn't flinch from storming Omaha Beach or the sands of Iwo Jima are terrified of falling flakes. Men who ride the snowplows are too frightened even to go on to the side streets in the most fashionable neighborhoods of the nation's capital, where the mayor's secret strategy for clearing the snow is the spring thaw, and where the first flakes send the citizens to the supermarkets in panic.

Those wild and crazy kids at Harvard are at each other's throats over High Art. Harvard's "crew team," a fancy Ivy League term for guys who paddle their own canoes, carved an imaginative piece from the snow that the art critics would delicately call "a Monica Lewinsky presidential retrospective," and a storm dutifully followed.

The sculpture was nine feet tall when it was fully erect, which wasn't for very long. Certain feminists were offended and tore it down. The young ladies argued that the very sight of it was frightening, and "demeaning to women."

"It was offensive because it was pornographic," says a sophomore (naturally) coed who joined the wrecking crew that dismantled the mighty member. "As a feminist, pornography is degrading to women and creates a violent atmosphere." (Can she really mean that "pornography" is a feminist?)

She describes herself as a rape survivor, which makes her a campus celebrity, and her experience with real men makes snowmen difficult for her to deal with. "Men think they have the right to force that on you," she says. "It's a logical extension."

The sensitive soph told the Harvard Crimson, the campus daily, that she and her roommate were "verbally and physically harassed" when they battered the sculpture down with a cardboard tube (fighting a phallus with a phallus) at 1:30 in the morning, when most Harvard coeds are at the dorm desks, cramming for a civics exam.

"A few people came out and crowded me with their bodies and one person shoved me away from the [dreaded offensive object]," she says. "It was gendered violence, because their comments were said in the context of our gender and accompanied by aggressive actions toward us."

That was certainly not nice, but the sculpture is gone. Only the controversy lingers, as nurtured controversies inevitably do in the frozen groves of academe. Professor Diane Rosenfeld, who teaches a course in "women, violence and the law," has called an emergency seminar for tomorrow night to examine feminist perspectives on phalluses in the snow.

"Women do not need to be reminded of the power and symbol of the male genitalia," says professor Rosenfeld. "My guess is that they are reminded of it in daily messages." No doubt. You could consult MTV, the movies or the CD collections in any dorm room.

The snow sculpture, says professor Rosenfeld, is merely the final indignity following a long line of public phallic symbols to oppress women, including ballistic missiles and even the Washington Monument. (The Washington Monument, as anyone who has seen its pointy white head and beady red eyes at night could tell you, is actually a representation of the grand dragon of the Ku Klux Klan.)

The guys who sculpted the Harvard piece say they only did it as a joke. "Once it turns into a huge sexism debate," says one of the merry pranksters, "it was like a giant keg of gunpowder waiting for a spark." Who would have guessed that anyone, even a Harvard lassie, could have found a spark in all that snow?

But it's not just the Harvard lassies who have succumbed to the fever of cabins in the snow. Out in Kent, Ohio, where there are few arguments about modern sculpture, someone called the cops to Crystal Lynn, 35, a housewife who built a snowwoman and gave her, ah, um, breasts. When a cop showed up he took one look at the frosty bust and told Ms. Lynn to cut off the offending appendages. "I said no woman would want to do that." (Nor men, either.) She threw a tablecloth around the snowlady's icy shoulders. "She looked really good, like she was getting ready to go to a party."

A sheepish Kent police captain explained that a prowl car was dispatched only after "an anonymous call" came in from a man - a man - who was offended by "an inappropriate snow figure on First Avenue."

The Kent cops insisted they weren't offended by the sight of a woman with breasts, which are not unknown even in Ohio. "We were treating it almost as a neighborhood domestic complaint." A good thing, too. Domestic abuse of women, even women of ice, is taken very seriously in Ohio. And if you want to abuse Art, go to Harvard Square.

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JWR contributor Wesley Pruden is editor in chief of The Washington Times. Comment by clicking here.

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