Student Life Column

Germain: Syracuse University students will present messages to Trump on giant vagina sculpture. Here’s why that matters.

Leigh Ann Rodgers | Staff Photographer

The #readmylips campaign, like the Women’s March on Washington, encourages women to voice their political concerns, especially those concerning Trump.

The #readmylips campaign, which seeks to provide women with a space to air their grievances against the Trump administration’s misogynist underpinnings, has made its way to Syracuse University. Although it may seem passé to simply “raise awareness” for women’s issues, the campaign’s art element offers immediacy and physical affirmation of individual women’s personal narratives.

Through the campaign, members of campus communities can post the #readmylips slogan in messages about topics such as sexual assault advocacy and mental health awareness. Mogul, the women’s empowerment start-up in charge of the campaign, will print those messages and display them in a large, ornate sculpture of — what else — a vagina.

The vagina sculpture will be presented at the White House on April 21 to voice personal concerns of how President Donald Trump has both personally and politically demeaned women.

The campaign had grassroots origins on campuses including Brown, Oxford and Yale universities. Through the lens of student activism, the campaign has charged college-aged women to use their own stories to bolster larger systemic online advocacy.

Sohwi Lim, a sophomore communications and rhetorical studies major at SU and president of the university’s Mogul chapter, said the campaign is an effort to make women’s voices heard.

“People are so busy with their own lives that they don’t want to focus on it,” Lim said, adding that now, more than ever, though, people are able to take action.

Lim said she anticipates that campus involvement at SU will go beyond this campaign to include Mogul events and fundraisers in the coming few months.

Mogul, an online aggregated community hub for women, is featured in more than 190 countries around the world, according to its site. Whether it’s through personal stories, advice seeking or job postings, the site prides itself on interactive, stylized ways to spread awareness and stories.

The company, which was named one of Business Insider’s most exciting start-ups in New York City, aims to “democratize information for women worldwide by enabling users to connect, share information, and access knowledge from each other,” according to its message.

Mogul encourages students to make an account on its website to submit stories that will be included on the vagina sculpture. The sculpture, which was commissioned by “Saturday Night Live” prop fabricator Dan Castelli, will be available for viewing in New York City’s Union Square on April 5 from 12 to 5 p.m.

Michelle Wen, the #readmylips campus organizer at Cornell University, told Allure that the statue’s vaginal shape “empowers women to be proud of their sexuality and bodies.”

The campaign is one of a number of outward expressive movements blending art and activism. The Georgia O’Keefe-like sculpture delivers — though seemingly innocuous — a message that awareness spans borders and gender. Even at the more microcosm level of a college campus, the individual messages remain in solidarity when combined with millions of others.

Those who question the effectiveness of the campaign need only to ask themselves why women write these grievances at all. If women don’t speak out for themselves, who will?

Brendan Germain is a senior television, radio and film major and French minor. His column appears weekly. He can be reached at bngermai@syr.edu.

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