So, there’s been a bit of talk on social media about a BuzzFeed article featuring a recent Oberlin grad and their controversial performance/street art in New York. It’s not a positive article. It looks at the way this person has decided to live their life, decides it’s completely incomprehensible, and so calls it the worst ever. I’m not going to link to the article, because the point I’m trying to make isn’t about the person in question. Although I saw them naked on more than one occasion, I never spoke with them more than two or three times. Sure, existing on the same campus as this person was an Experience and often tried my patience. (Ask me about it now, and I’ll talk about those days with a sense of pride you younger Oberlin students just wouldn’t understand.) But, the point is: I didn’t know this person. I didn’t like their art. I sometimes felt unsafe. I also didn’t try to talk about it, and I passed judgment without using my words.
I’ve seen a lot of comments and posts about the article wanting to distance this person from Oberlin. We used to take pride in graduates like Charles Martin Hall (the inventor of the aluminum reduction process) and John Mercer Langston (one of the first black lawyers in Ohio). What happened, Oberlin? Are you just a bunch of trust fund kids looking for attention from your distant millionaire parents?* Ugh, disgusting. Please, stop associating this person with Oberlin. I’m so sick of our school being a joke!!
Well, those comments got me to thinking. Yes, we’ve put out some awesome grads over the years, but when has Oberlin not been a joke? Would our beloved institution have even survived the first few years if the Internet had existed then? The founders were so into being thrifty that they almost painted every single building in Oberlin red, because that was the cheapest paint. We educated women at a time when most people thought it would render them barren. Our first settler was a guy named Peter Pindar Pease. Our idea of a prank in 1898 was to drag a goddamn boulder from Plum Creek and set it up in Tappan Square. As a response to being one-upped, the senior class threatened to blow the boulder to smithereens with nitroglycerin, so there was an midnight vigil held to protect the boulder. (It’s still standing.) Oberlin, Oberlin, Oberlin…hate to break it to you: people have been shaking their heads at us since 1833.
Anyway, that got me thinking…what if the Internet had been around when Oberlin was first established?
Meet Mrs. Blackwell, She’s Literally The Worst Speaker In The Whole World
“I will everywhere make humanity MORE than sex.”
Thankfully for the rest of us, we’ve found the world’s worst speaker. Her name is Mrs. Lucy Blackwell**, and unsurprisingly, she tours with the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society.
And she travels around in these pantaloons unaccompanied by a strong male arm.
She runs around train stations dressed like some sort of amphibious creature–neither male, nor female.
Sometimes she stands on podiums facing promiscuous audiences.
She describes what she does as: living and loving “all that is loveable, whether in men or women. And I will let them know it too. I will talk with men as well as women, on all subjects, that pertain to the good of the race…I will everywhere, make humanity MORE than sex…”
Pictured below, something about the “elevation” of woman.
Oh, and sometimes she touches you with her sweet voice.
She uses her feminine charms and rosy cheeks to touch your heart.
But you should listen to the words she’s blowing in your face and decide for yourself if they have any merit.
Who does she think she is? William Lloyd Garrison?
(Who, by the way, is also crazy.)
Mrs. Blackwell is a Transcendentalist Unitarian heathen.
She thinks women and black people should vote.
She thinks legal marriage is a crime against her sex.
She didn’t pay her taxes in 1857, because it was “taxation without representation.”
And, guess what: she went to Oberlin.
So, now you know.
This is Mrs. Blackwell.
And she’s the worst.
Top commenters, by the way, would be Marianne Parker Dascomb with this gem: “Ugh, how manly of her. I knew her from around town, and we had such a hard time getting her to wear a bonnet in church.” And let’s not forget Professor John Morgan: “Mrs. Blackwell so corrupted her bosom friend, Antoinette Brown, that the little lady thought she could become a minister and aspired to be the next Charles Finney. Disgraceful.” Speaking of Charles Finney, he’d be in on the action, too: “Truly the daughter of Satan. She is a disgrace to the virtuous name of Oberlin.”
So, what I mean to say is…love or hate what other people choose to do with their lives. I don’t have a stance on this issue because, if I did, it’d be largely uninformed. I don’t get it; I don’t like it; but I haven’t even begun to try to understand it. It’s not my place to comment, but I just wanted to say–be careful who you disassociate from your college. They could be the next century’s hero.
*FYI: This person has clarified that they were not born into money. Their privilege comes from their gender and their race, but not from their social status. So, like them or not, this is not a good argument to make if you’re going to discuss their art.
**Although Lucy Stone did not take her husband, Henry Blackwell’s name, many newspapers continued to call her Mrs. Blackwell.
***Images came from a Google search. “Sorry,” said the guilty historian.