Oberlin College prides itself on its support of inclusivity, accessibility, and diversity; this exhibit attempts to contrast those expectations with the realities of how these concepts play out on this campus. These realities include a lack of diversity, the romanticizing of poverty, and appropriation--a form of representing another culture, class, gender, sexuality, racial group, etc. without acknowledging or experiencing the complexities of being in said group. These patterns result in the reinforcement of larger, societal power dynamics, and ironically act in tandem with a dominant student rhetoric about deconstructing said hierarchies. We focus on how visibility of individuals and the spaces they occupy reflect and uphold larger, societal structures. This exploration opens the door to analyze the social-sexual hierarchies on the overwhelmingly politically progressive campus of Oberlin College. How does discourse on campus not align with actual social functioning on campus, in regard to cultural capital, desirability, and sexuality? This is a consideration we’d like for Oberlin College students to have when viewing this exhibit.
We explore these contrasts through various lenses: art and social media, architecture and use of space, and fashion. We look at the campus of present-day Oberlin College, its historical roots, and to the larger social trends and movements that contextualize the atmosphere of present-day Oberlin College. The lack of a sign outside of the women and trans housing facility, the predominance of hipster fashion, and the expressions of sexuality, desirability, and aesthetics on social media are examples that create a discourse around what defines Oberlin and how Oberlin itself may or may not truly fit its own expectations. We hope this exhibit serves to raise the conscious visibility of everyday sights and relations that people may see without noticing.
-Delaviz Eftekhar '17, Mason Boutis '19, Maria Turner '19, Rowyn Peel '20