HELEN OF TROY: IS THERE A LACK OF FEMALE REPERSENTATION IN STATUES?
Moss grows in the crevice of her hair, and pieces of her gray face are chipped away. Helen, as she has been affectionally nicknamed by students, is the statue which stands atop the fountain in front of Smith Hall, the English building. At three
feet tall, she is the smallest statue on campus, and she holds a cup and a pitcher from which water flows – when the fountain is turned on. –
Helen does not have an official name, but as one of only two female statues on Troy University’s main campus, many English majors felt she deserved a name. They picked one that referenced Homer’s “The Iliad.”
“She’s like an unofficial greeting committee when you walk into Smith Hall,” said
obile, Alabama m native Sarah Robbins, a junior double majoring in English and Art. “Some people refer to her as Helen because she doesn’t actually have a name plaque on her, so we figured because we’re in Troy, she should be of Troy.” –
Not including Troy’s 200 terra cotta warriors, Troy’s main campus has 10 statues. The other female statue on campus is a drummer created by Dr. Huo Bao Zhu who crafted, and donated, most of the statues on campus. The drummer stands in front of the International Art Center and shares a plaque with a dancing statue that simply reads “The Dancing Emperor,” rendering the drumming woman nameless as well.
Sixty-four percent of students at Troy are female. This is why many feel equitable representation on the main campus is important. Helen, in particular, holds sentimental value to faculty and students alike.
“There’s something about roses and that statue that are magnets for the female soul,” said English professor Theresa Johnson. “We [women] love beautiful flowers, we particularly love roses, and to sit there in the midst of this classical, beautiful piece, and to literally smell the roses – it’s like you’re in a special place.”
Helen lives in a memorial rose garden, purchased with donations and dedicated to the late parents of
irst f ady Janice Hawkins. l
Johnson was once horrified to look out her classroom window and see roses being torn up, particularly the roses planted in memory of former English professor Theron Montgomery’s parents. Johnson rushed out to save the roses, and they are still growing in her yard today.
Dance professor and rose-connoisseur Deborah Hicks used to teach in the English department. She was the one who proposed the idea of the rose garden to Mrs. Hawkins more than 25 years ago by presenting her with a top hat full of roses at an annual interdepartmental meeting (the meeting happened to be hat-themed that year). When the idea was accepted, Hicks helped dig the holes herself.
“I kept wanting to see some display so that as we walked in or out, we just gave a glimpse of beauty and the mythical nature of the rose,” Hicks said.
Both Johnson and Hicks have used Helen and her roses as writing prompts in their English classes.
“Those were the most beautiful writing samples I have ever gotten,” Hicks said. “It’s just the mystery of myth that they absorbed, and they just poured out, and it, it was incredible.”
The Tropolitan surveyed several students who weren’t aware the campus had any female statues at all. And once the disparity was pointed out, they did see the situation as problematic, including Mackenzie Ensley, a sophomore business major from Smith Station, Alabama.
“I don’t like it, but I guess it makes sense because most of the buildings are named after men as well, and their wives,” Ensley said. “I think it would be nice for more notable female figures to have statues because I think there
some really deserving women who should be recognized by the school.” ’s
Dean of the College of Communication and Fine Arts, Michael Thrasher, said representation is found in other places on campus – such as half his departments being led by women. He said many statues represent ideas, not specific people.
As an example, Thrasher referred to Zhu’s “The Student Scholar,” a statue which depicts
a man with s urocentric features and stands in front of the library. Thrasher said the statue represents the spirit of scholarship and not anyone specific. e
However, Thrasher said representation through statues was wort
striving for. hy of
“I think any time we can engage diverse perspectives, new points of view that may
differ from our own or that challenge our preconceived thinking, that’s a good thing,” he said. be
Hicks stressed the importance of representation. “There’s no malicious intent, it’s almost worse – it’s like it’s not a thought, like equity is not a thought” Hicks said. “I think if we had more female statues on campus, we give the female the opportunity to stand tall and feel counted.”