I spent the better part of my journalism pondering yesterday processing how I felt about the honi soit cover featuring 18 vaginas.
I like it. It was daring. It was creative. And it sparked discussion about how we view body parts/types and what is truly obscene and what is just what it is. And those are important subjects.
Was there another way to present the coverage? Of course. There always is. Is it better? Not necessarily. And sometimes you SHOULD be made uncomfortable. And, my dear students (and I can’t emphasize this enough), don’t EVER, EVER, EVER in your most insecure moments make a content decision based on how people — even your adviser — might react. That is the edge of the slippery slope to cowardice.
What if my students ran the honi soit cover with the vaginas?
Well, I would have called a good realtor. I would have gone to the liquor store. And I would have called Frank LoMonte and Michael Koretsky and said, “Guys, now I am really fucked.” Because I guarantee I would be fired. And if my students didn’t run it because they worried about those outcomes, they should be fired.
So there. I am good with the vagina cover of this paper. I ain’t a prude and I would sacrifice — and have — my livelihood to defend my students’ right to publish what they wish. That being said, I got to thinking. Could the paper have been provocative in a more subtle way and been as effective?
The answer to that question isn’t simple. It is “yes” in that they could have gotten the attention of their usual audience, and delivered their message effectively. But it is “no” in that it wouldn’t have had the same play on an international scale. It wouldn’t have made College Media Matters and The Huffington Post and blown up on social media. It would have been just another college piece on an edgyish subject.
To illustrate that, I created two alternate covers. Two caveats. First, these were done quickly. I didn’t really take time with the finer points and I am not principally a designer to begin with. So don’t nitpick. Focus on the larger issue of whether tamer is better or not. Second, I promised three. I give you two. I got busy. I got tired. I got drunk. Take your pick. Sue me.
Truth is, I have a fantasy football draft to prepare for. Sad as that is to admit, it is true.
Look at these and see what you think. Personally, I would have gone with the vaginas and not lost any sleep. A job? Yeah. Sleep? No.