Tuesday, February 8, 2005
Hall of Oppression shows appreciation for diversity
By Kalee Iacoangeli, OU Student Writer
It was a silent expression of societal issues, a silent demonstration of awareness, a tribute to all those who suffer in silence – and it spoke volumes.
The students and staff of Vandenberg Hall, along with several organizations on campus, worked together to transform the east tower of Vandenberg into a seven-story display for a two-day event, called the Hall of Oppression, to invoke better understanding of topics such as racism, ageism, sexism, sizism, heterosexism and ableism.
“The Hall of Oppression was not meant to change or persuade people’s opinions. It was simply to let them know where they might stand on certain issues,” said Vandenberg Hall Director Jeff Frankowiak. “The setup was derived from the simple fact that all the exhibits represented a cooperation of numerous residents. Each resident brought their own knowledge, opinions and biases into the mix.”
The layout and decoration of each floor allowed viewers to see the several stances that could be taken regarding each issue. The goal was to make the experience individual for each person.
“It’s hard to describe exactly what you thought and felt when you walked through,” said freshman Katie Wilke. “It was probably different for each person, but I’m sure it had some impact on everyone.”
The tours were individual and open to anyone at anytime. Although there was no specific order to the tour, most observers started on the seventh floor and worked their way down.
Beginning on the seventh floor, the issue of sexism was unveiled. Immediately upon entering the floor, women were pointed in one direction, and men in another. Both paths led to the lounge, which was divided and adorned in blue and pink. Each side was covered with facts, quotes, cartoons and statistics with the ironic twist that the pink side was about men, while the blue side was dedicated to women.
One floor down, sizism was the featured topic. The lounge was plastered with examples of society’s portrayal of physical perfection. Among the photos of celebrities and models, pictures of actual Oakland residents provided glimpses of reality. Several mirrors throughout the room also reflected authentic images.
The fifth floor exhibited heterosexism, which is discrimination in favor of heterosexual people and against homosexuals. The walls of the lounge were masked with slang terms and derogatory comments on one side, and on the other side, acceptance and understanding were demonstrated.
Racism was the topic of the fourth floor. Scattered facts and figures clung to the walls while strings connected each statement to its corresponding figure. The web of strings symbolized the confusion that often accompanies issues about race.
On the third floor, ableism was presented, which is defined as practices or beliefs that assign inferior values to those with developmental, emotional, physical or psychiatric disabilities. The exhibit used pointed questions to raise awareness about how life would be with a disability.
The lounge exhibit on the second floor illustrated ageism. From the belief that ageing is a curse to products that are age specific, the display offered examples of numerous restrictions that society places on each person because of age.
The first floor was the last level of the Hall of Oppression. The hallways were lined with tables where various student organizations displayed information. The Vandenberg building lounge also was used for guest speakers on several of the issues.
“The Hall of Oppression was a big collaborative effort from many people,” Frankowiak said. “The work that they put into it exceeded my expectations in every way. Everyone gave it their all.”
Feedback from the tour also was overwhelmingly positive.
“We had people saying how much of an eye-opening experience it was, and how they didn’t realize how much they did and didn’t know about certain things,” said Lauren McIntyre, West Vandenberg resident assistant.
Largely due to its success, the Vandenberg staff hopes to make the Hall of Oppression an annual event.