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November 06, 1992 - Image 4

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1992-11-06

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Page 4-The Michigan Daily- Friday, November 6, 1992


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420 Maynard Street
Ann Arbor, Michigan 48109

Editor in Chief
Opinion Editors

Edited and Managed
by Students at the
University of Michigan

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Unsigned editorials represent a ajority of the Daily's Editorial Board.
All other cartoons, signed articles, and letters do not necessarily represent the opinion of the Daily.

Freedom from speech

T heMichigan Joumal of Law and Genderforced
Ann Arbor artist Carol Jacobsen to remove an
exhibit featured in the Union in conjunction with
the "Prostitution: from Academia to Activism"
symposium last Sunday. This was a reprehensible
act of censorship by an organization which should
be promoting free speech rather than silencing it.
The exhibit, entitled, "pom'im'age'ry: Pictur-
ing Prostitutes," was supposedly removed be-
cause a number of Journal members claimed that
the piece con- -
tained video
clippings of
commercial por-
nography. Actu-
ally, the initial
push to censor . .
theexhibitcame Q
from a meeting Z ~ s
of Journal mem- z.
bers and key 3 Pr
speakers, in-
cluding Univer- 8
sity Law Professor Catherine MacKinnon.
The exhibit - which consisted of a series of
interviews with prostitutes, business cards from
London prostitutes, photographs and a carpet of
condoms - was funded by the National Endow-
ment for the Arts and Michigan Council for the
Arts. It was featured briefly in the Michigan Union
Gallery, until the exhibit's sponsors told Jacobsen
that certain parts of the exhibit would have to go.
Rather than agreeing to the conditions laid out by
the Journal, Jacobsen opted to take the whole
exhibit down.
Members of the Journal implausibly argued
that the video portion of the exhibit made some of
the speakers and members of the audience fear for
their lives. Laura Berger, a second-year law stu-
GOP gains grp of
While state residents cheered for the sweeping
victory of President-elect Bill Clinton,
Michigan residents voted in a Republican State
House and Senate for the first time in 30 years. In
the final State House district, the Republican chal-
lenger won by only 13 votes, giving the Republi-
cans control of the legislature. Republican control
of both the executive and legislative branches of
state government will surely mean an expedited
implementation of Gov. John Engler's programs
and a firestorm of regressive legislation - some-
thing Michigan residents can do without.
Among the Democratic losers is current Speaker
of the Michigan House of Representatives Lewis
Dodak (D-Birch Run), contributing to the Repub-
lican party's slim margin of 56 to 54. The fact that
Republicans ran unopposed in 13 State House
districts didn't help the Democratic party's pre-
dicament. State Democratic Party Chair Gary
Corbin deserves part of the responsibility by not
actively recruiting candidates for those districts,
preferring to target specific districts. This failure,
combined with a highly financed and well-tar-
geted Republican campaign-including $150,000
into the Speaker's district alone - paved the way
for the Republican's capture of the House. The
Democrats lost six House races by less than 1,000
Already, the Michigan chapter of Right to Life
predicts that the State House will pass several
additional measures restricting abortions. Fore-
most on its agenda is the informed consent pro-
posal, which would mandate the use of graphic
propaganda to deter women from having abor-

dent, claimed that Jacobsen added portions to the
exhibit which were not seen by the members of the
Journal prior to the exhibit's opening.
Consequently, the Journal reviewed the exhibit
again and sided with those who complained. Per-
haps uncoincidentally, many of the symposium's
key speakerssuch as MacKinnon,Andrea Dworkin
and John Stoltenberg, are outspoken advocates of
banning pornography.
The great irony is that an exhibit which was
intended to provide a voice for prostitutes was
censored by a program designed to expose the
exploitative nature of prostitution. In fact, two of
the artists involved in the project were themselves
former prostitutes.
The censorship of Jacobsen's exhibit demon-
strates the danger of banning pornography. The
definition of what constitutes pornography is sub-
jective. And when ideologues like MacKinnon are
allowed to make this determination, truly worth-
while ideas such as the Union exhibit invariably fall
victim. While the basest forms of pornography
certainly lack intellectual merit, it cannot be banned
without endangering truly valuable forms of ex-
This disturbing example also reflects the chill-
ing trend of silencing dissenting voices within a
movement. In this case, a group of powerful femi-
nists saw fit to define the limits of what is accept-
able within the movement. Those feminists, like
Jacobson, who fall subject to this arbitrary deci-
sion, have two choices: conform or get out.
Feminism is not a monolithic ideology. Rather,
it is a movement whose purpose is to empower
women -not just women who think a certain way,
but all women. Censoring the exhibit did not abol-
ish the societal problems which feed the pornogra-
phy industry, nor did the infighting between the
activists involved help the feminist movement.
i State House
tions. This bill, which a handful of Democratic
legislators blocked last year, is expected to come up
for a vote early next year.
In addition, many of Engler's proposals that
have been stymied by the Democratic House will
likely pass. First on the Republican agenda is the
stalled crime bill. Previously held up in the House
Judiciary Committee by outgoing Chair Rep. Perry
Bullard (D-Ann Arbor), this bill may re-emerge as
an even more restrictive bill that would hack away
at civil liberties. Provisions of the new version may
include: increases in mandatory sentencing; a de-
crease in the state's use of parole; and liberalization
of police search procedure that would allow police
to enter private homes without knocking, so long as
they have a warrant, and would limit police liability
for illegal searches, so long as police act in good
With Bullard gone, and with a State House
likely to take a more narrow view of individual
rights, legislation damaging to civil liberties could
well be on the way.
While the voters rejected a cut-and-cap property
tax referendum by a nearly two to one margin,
Republican leaders plan to put a new constitutional
amendment cutting property taxes - the primary
source of school funding--before voters next year.
Likewise, Proposal D, the auto insurance re-
form package that voters rejected Tuesday, is ex-
pected to become law by early next year.
With citizens all over the country voting for
progressive reform, and with Michigan sending a
strong rebuff to the White House - it is ironic that
Michigan is moving backward on the state level.

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Read it, know it, join the debate
Free speech: Where to draw the line
Carol Jacobsen knows the meaning of censorship. Last Sunday, Jacobsen was asked to remove her art
exhibit from the Michigan Union Gallery because people complained that it contained bits of commercial
pornography. Recent years have witnessed an unprecedented crusade against freedom of expression in
America. From magazines to books, theatre to film, television to music, these challenges are mounted under the
banner of a "Cultural War." At the center of this conflict are two competing notions of expression: one that
places a premium on the liberty to express one's views and, therefore, tolerates "unsettling" speech, and a
second that evaluates expressive conduct on the basis of content and seeks to suppress such speech.
In a speech before the National Endowment for the Arts, President Ronald Reagan recognized the impor-
tance of artistic freedom and the role of the artist. "Artists have to be brave: thev live in a realm of ideas and
expression, and their ideas will often be provocative and unusual. Artists stretch the limits of understanding.
They express ideas that are sometimes unpopular. In an atmosphere of liberty, artists and patrons are free to
think the unthinkable and create the audacious. They are free to make both horrendous mistakes and glorious
celebrations. Where there's liberty, art succeeds. In societies that are not free, art dies."
First Amendment rights need to be upheld

by Carol Jacobsen
What kind of First Amendment
Constitutional rights are they teach-
ing at the University of Michigan
Law School?
How could it happen that Law-
student organizers of a three-day sym-
posium on prostitution, held to launch
the new Journal of Gender & Law,
could invite seven artists from across
the United States to exhibit their works
on the subject and then censormthe
exhibition because of vague com-
plaints that "something in the work
was offending someone?"
According to Julia Ernst and Laura
Berger, two of the symposium orga-
nizers, John Stoltenberg, a speaker at
the symposium, had complained to
Catherine MacKinnon that one of the
video works was "pornographic."
Ernst made the decision - prior to the
start of the symposium - to seize the
entire video series, containing the
works of five artists. But why was
there no dialogue about this decision?
As an invited artist and curator of the
exhibit, why wasn't I notified? And
why wasn't the gallery director in-
When I arrived the second day of
the symposium, I discovered the miss-
ing series and replaced it with a back-
up. This was a problem, I was told by
Ernst, and I was requested to an-
Jacobsen is a video artist.
Exhibit caused peop
by Laura Berger
Recently, the Michigan Journal
of Gender & Law sponsored a sym-
posium entitled "Prostitution: From
Academia to Activism." During the
symposium, the Journal members re-
moved a video series compiled by
local artist Carol Jacobsen from the
The reason that the
Journal removed the
video series was that
the invited speakers
expressed fear for
their personal safety.
Michigan Union Gallery.
The Michigan Journal of Gender
& Law is a student publication which
was founded in 1991-1992 to con-
front gender inequalities in the law.
The Journal reflects an active com-
mitment to feminist-legal theory. We
hope to present the views of 4egal
scholars, social scientists, practitio-
ners and others in'the community.
Our first volume for publication will

nounce to the symposium audience
that it was I who had reinstalled the
The ad hoc meeting that occurred
next, I am told, was held by
MacKinnon, Andrea Dworkin,
S toltenberg, Eveline Giobbe and Law
What does it say
about the University of
Michigan when
an overt act of
censorship is
allowed to occur
through an abuse of
power on its campus?
students. Again, why was I not in-
cluded in that dialogue, given that the
decision to close the entire exhibition
was made then? Instead, Law stu-
dents Ernst, Bryan Wells, David Tees,
Susan Toepfer, Ann Kraemer and
Berger communicated that decision
to me, and I was then prohibited from
speaking about it to the audience, out
of fear that I might "ruin Andrea
Dworkin's speech."
What does it say about the Uni-
versity of Michigan when an overt
act of censorship is allowed to occur
through an abuse of power on its
campus? And if it could happen here,
what does it mean in terms of the
condition of academic freedom in
institutions of higher education in
this country?

It certainly tells us something
frightening about the threats to de-
mocracy occurring in the United States
What about the fact that most of
the works in this exhibit were by
women artists dealing with their own
views of their own sexuality and sexual
freedoms, or lack thereof? And what
is the relationship between this inci-
dent and the establishment's ongoing
war on women?
And ultimately, what is the rela-
tionship between censorship in the
arts, anti-abortion legislation, anti-
civil rights rulings, scapegoating of
poor women, prostitute women, sexual
minorities and people with AIDS, and
the labeling of every image of sexual
pleasure for anyone other than straight-
arrow whitemales as "pornographic?"
I list these questions to establish a
dialogue. A dialogue that was killed
last weekend by the shotgun blast of
censorship, even before the sympo-
sium began. The University of Michi-
gan Law School now has an obliga-
tion - and an opportunity - to address
these concerns in a public forum.
I also want a public apology to the
seven censored artists: Paula Allen,
Carol Leigh, Veronica Vera, Susanna
Aiken, Carlos Aparicio, Randy Bar-
bados and myself from theUniversity
of Michigan Law School, The Michi-
gan Journal of Gender & Law and the
individual Law professors and stu-
dents who failed to support our First
Amendment rights.


le to fear for their safety

Stempel fails @.0.'like a rock'

O ne week after General Motors ousted Chair-
man Robert Stempel and several top execu-
tives, the Board of Directors has chosen the re-
placement team. John Smale, formerly of Proctor
& Gamble, will serve as the new chair, replacing
Stempel, with Jack Smith as chief executive. The
two appointees, and the executive team of four
accompanying them, represent the brain trust re-
sponsible for restructuring GM and saving the
monstrous corporation from disaster. Early steps
taken by the Board of Directors and by Smale's
team signify a serious effort, at least in the future,
to streamline GM, slash wasteful spending, and
eliminate useless white collar positions.
The relative hopefulness accompanying the
changing of the guard was signaled by an increase
in GM stock, up $1.12 the day after Stempel's
ouster. With strong effort and wise budget cuts,
perhaps GM can prove that Wall Street did not

sions. That may be the wrong antidote. The plague
ailing the U.S. auto industry isn't just GM's bur-
densome size and bureaucracy. The industry's di-
minishing competitiveness is due primarily to the
lack of incentive to improve automobile technol-
Despite these setbacks, there is some early fa-
vorable news. Smith will move GM's nerve center
from the ivory tower headquarters in New York
City to the Technical Center in Warren.
The move is little more than symbolic, but
indicates a willingness on Smith's behalf to close
the distance between GM executives and GM work-
ers. Moreover, Smith served a tour of duty as head
of GM's European division, which happens to be
the only financial success carrying the GM name-
Smith and Smale's installment is the latest in a
series of confidence-shaking incidents, beginning

sented a view alternative to that which
would be advocated by our speakers
and panelists during the symposium.
Presenting a different viewpoint, al-
beit in the forumof an art exhibit, was
a valuable aspect of the event to the
Journal members.
The exhibit opened nine days prior
to the symposium. On the exhibit's
opening night, Oct. 20, the Journal
sponsored a discussion with the art-
ist. Approximately 40 people attended
he opening, where Jacobsen spoke
about her work and views relating to
Once the symposium itself was
underway, the Journal was faced with
a difficult situation. TheJournal mem-
bers decided to remove a series of
videos from the exhibit. These vid-
eos were not Jacobsen's work, but
rather had been collected by her and
added to the exhibit for the days-
which overlapped with the sympo-
The reason that the Journal re-
moved the video series was that.the
invited speakers expressed fear for
their personal safety. Some speakers
ha a~Ittendn trin,~rnnfeeneec whebre

Jacobsen's exhibit, and therefore takes
no stand regarding its content. Journal
members erred in not contacting
Jacobsen as promptly as possible re-
garding the problems which arose
during the symposium. The sympo-
sium schedule was altered to allow
Jacobsen to comment publicly about
the removal of the video series that
she had collected.
We respect Jacobsen and her work.
We are sorry that the difficulties which
resulted in our decision arose, and
especially sorry that we did not con
The symposium and
surrounding events
were designed to
present University
students, law school
alumnae and commu-
nity members with the
opportunity to learn
about prostitution and
the experiences of


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