Debate rages over ‘sexist' statue on university campus

Ash Hernandez

SAN ANTONIO, Texas – Ash Hernandez was on her way to take a teacher's certification test on the campus of the University of the Incarnate Word in San Antonio, when she saw something that made her stop in her tracks and stare.

She didn't have her phone with her because she wasn't allowed to bring electronic devices into the testing room, but she decided that it was worthy of a picture. She dashed back to her car, grabbed her phone, snapped a picture and sent it to her friend, Cathy de la Cruz, all before finally heading in to complete her test.

Hernandez's unexpected delay was all caused by a statue on Incarnate Word's campus. The sculpture, titled "Classmates," depicts a man with his leg propped up on a bench while, talking to a woman seated at the opposite end of the bench with her legs crossed and an open book resting on her lap.

So why did Hernandez go so far out of her way to photograph it?

"The sculpture just screamed mansplaining," Hernandez said in an email to Women in the World in association with the New York Times.

Urban Dictionary defines mansplaining as "a word used to describe any explanation from a man deemed to be condescending, no matter how patient or factual it may be. Originally, this term was used to describe boorish men who felt the need to 'correct' what a woman said, even on topics that the man didn't know anything about."

After receiving the picture, Cruz, an aspiring comedian and feminist, tweeted it with the caption "A friend spotted this in Texas: #Mansplaining The Statue."
The statue was given to the university in 1990, but is only now receiving national attention. Cruz's tweet has been retweeted and favorited over 1,000 times by influential Twitter users, including journalist and feminist writer Ann Friedman, who tweeted the photo with a slightly altered version of de la Cruz's headline, and Jerry Saltz, senior art critic for New York magazine, who also tweeted a version of de la Cruz's original post.

A debate is now raging: Is the statue sexist?

The statue's artist, Paul Tadlock, an award-winning sculptor, was unfamiliar with the term mansplaining and doesn't understand how it can be viewed as sexist. He says the statue depicts "two students visiting, talking … implying nothing beyond that … That (sculpture) was (done) in the early 1990s when my daughter was a student at the University of the Incarnate Word. In fact, that's her. I sculpted her."

Carl E. Myers, a social media and communications specialist for UIW, agrees with Tadlock.

"The statue has long-symbolized the friendship and camaraderie that develops among students as they attend UIW," he told Women of the World. "We are deeply saddened that this image of friendship has been misconstrued as a symbol of sexism on social media. Nothing could be further from the truth."

By Rachel Wenzlaff