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The past few months at Middlebury College have witnessed a growing awareness on campus about issues of gender disparity, sexual assault and the availability — or lack of thereof — of on-and off-campus resources for victims of these social problems. "The Art of Kissing," however, a show sponsored by the Middlebury College Activities Board (MCAB), appeared to run counter to recent passionate discourse and heightened sensitivity generated by a litany of posters and vocal student activists seen in the College community. That such beliefs were made apparent during the show underscores what many deemed inappropriate and offensive material. The performance offended many in the audience and the content was disgusting even those who were not in attendance.
"The Art of Kissing," a show performed at colleges across the country, promised to teach members of the audience the best techniques for kissing, as well as to demonstrate kisses from around the world. But the show itself went far beyond this description, systematically objectifying women in scenarios performed by College students, depicting racial stereotypes about non-Caucasian cultures and making many audience members question the validity of the show itself. "The Art of Kissing" promoted itself as a show to inform others, but instead of offering knowledge it served not even to entertain all viewers, rightly offending many who objected to its content.
The fact that this performance was sanctioned by MCAB, and that most student volunteers who chose to demonstrate the kissing to the audience did not seem to object to the nature of "The Art of Kissing," indicates that despite the increased visibility of gender issues there is still a disappointing lack of consciousness at Middlebury about strictly defined gender roles and the acceptance of a male-dominated society. For many viewers the show differed drastically from the impressions they garnered from the description on its Web site or the informational videos shown at ticket sales in Proctor dining hall, which, as it turned out, in no way revealed the level of crude humor that was presented.
There was a protest to "The Art of Kissing" organized by several Middlebury students. Unfortunately it was neither organized nor effective in communicating a meaningful and cohesive message to the audience at the show. The demonstration did not have a specific agenda and merely sought to create a controversy. Unfortunately, it failed to generate a positive discussion about the negative message that "The Art of Kissing" delivered.
While the offensive nature of the show did stimulate some of the actual protest outside of the performance, and while all students should question the social norms presented in "The Art of Kissing," the protest tactics used last weekend did not promote meaningful dialogue. Rather, they served merely to prompt those who witnessed the protest to chastise those involved for being too aggressive and not thoughtful enough in their actions.
In order to gain respect on campus, any demonstration must be organized, meaningful and grounded in a concrete agenda. The protest outside of "The Art of Kissing" did not contain any of these elements, and any group that demonstrates at Middlebury College in the future must realize that they need to present themselves in the most coherent and thoughtful manner if they seek to have their message taken seriously by the Middlebury College community.
STAFF EDITORIAL Coherence and Consciousness
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