So far as I am concerned, artists should have complete freedom of expression. If they wish to paint nudes, they are and should be free to do so. There are plenty of places - both public and private - where the display of nudes is entirely acceptable: in art galleries, in people's homes and in any context where the celebration of human sexuality is appropriate. However, the workplace is not such a context. Why not? As I see it, the depiction in the workplace of women in their private roles as sexual beings is inappropriate because it encourages a perception of women as primarily sexual beings, thus undermining their dignity in the workplace and their professional status. In the process, this helps to create an environment in which insensitive and unprofessional attitudes and behaviour towards women are more likely to occur.
Then there is the institutional aspect.The decision to remove the conference room paintings was taken by a majority vote of my faculty colleagues. There are probably as many reasons for voting to remove the paintings as there are voters - my guess is that many of my colleagues will have voted against the paintings simply because they did not like them, rather than because of their subject matter.
This, and not a phoney row about political correctness, is the true issue at stake: shouldn't people be consulted about and shouldn't they have a say in deciding what images are displayed in their workplace? Probably through administrative inertia, we were not consulted about whether the nudes should be hung in the conference room (nor, previously, in the foyer) in the first place.
Now that consultation has taken place, the consensus is that they should go. PC? Seems like democracy to me.
Mire N Bhrolchin,
Senior Lecturer in Population Studies
Department of Social Statistics
University of Southampton