Ruined Snow Penis Stimulates Debate

Lowell K. Chow

A snow sculpture, iced to prevent shrinking, was built in the Tercentary Theater on the night of Monday, February 10, 2003.

When a few members of the Harvard crew team decided to build a snowy representation of the male anatomy on Feb. 11, they never imagined it would be so hard to keep it up.

The 9-foot snow phallus, constructed in Tercentenary Theater, was torn down just hours after its erection.

But its impression still sparked an intense debate, from dining halls to dorm rooms, over the appropriateness of public displays of genitalia.

Even The Economist magazine weighed in on the discussion, offering the destruction of the sculpture as evidence of American prudishness on its usually staid pages.

But women’s groups on campus have led a chorus of complaints against the snow penis, arguing that such a display is demeaning to women.

“It was offensive because it was pornographic,” said Amy E. Keel ’04, who said she and her roommate “dismantled” the giant snow penis.

“As a feminist, pornography is degrading to women and creates a violent atmosphere,” she said.

Keel said that her personal experience as a rape survivor makes this statue even more uncomfortable to observe.

“Men think they have the right to force that on you,” she said. “It’s a logical extension.”

Furthermore, Keel claims that she and her roommate were verbally and physically harassed by a group of roughly 25 men when they attempted to tear down the statue with a cardboard tube at 1:30 a.m. the morning after it was built.

“A few people came out and crowded me with their bodies and one person shoved me away from the penis,” she said. “It was gendered violence, because [their comments] were said in the context of our gender and accompanied by aggressive actions toward us.”

Though Keel assumed some of her harassers were among the creators of the statue, she said she could not identify any of the men.

And crew team captain Michael J. Skey ’04 denies that he or any of the other makers of the statue had been involved in the incident. According to Spey, the group left the Yard over three hours before Keel and her roommate tried to take down the snow phallus.

“We cleared out by 10:15 p.m.,” Spey said. “We had morning practice, and if guys are out there that late I’d be pissed. That’s why we did it so early.”

But regardless of the alleged circumstances surrounding the snow penis’ downfall, a controversy over the meaning of the statue lingers.

Women’s Studies Lecturer Diane L. Rosenfeld, who teaches Women, Violence and the Law this semester, said that the implications of the snow phallus go beyond the legitimacy of the statue’s presence.