Risque calendar back on shelves at MU bookstore

Friday, November 18, 2005 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 7:33 p.m. CDT, Monday, July 14, 2008

A calendar featuring female MU students in swimsuits is again being sold on University Bookstore shelves after it was moved behind the counter because of complaints about how it portrays women.

Bookstore spokeswoman Michelle Froese said she began receiving complaints via e-mail after the “Girls of M.U.” calendar went on sale. Some offered constructive criticism, but others demanded that the calendar be removed.

“Some people lose a great deal of civility when they’re upset,” she said.

Meredith Fraser, an MU sophomore, and three other students decided to do more than send e-mail. They contacted Froese to organize a meeting.

“Part of the problem I had with the calendar was that at first glance, it seemed that the university was involved with the production,” Fraser said. “The university has lots and lots of values that contradicts that calendar; if it were produced by the university, then those values are compromised.”

The calendar was produced by Tom & Jerry Inc., which is not affiliated with the university.

Fraser said she thinks the calendar objectifies woman and misrepresents female MU students.

At the meeting, the students and bookstore staff decided to put the calendar back on the shelves with a sign saying that is there is no association with MU.

“I don’t think any of the men or women who were offended by the calendar wanted it to go. I think we just wanted an explanation for it and how it got in the store,” Fraser said. “I don’t want to open the door to censorship.”

Froese said she was satisfied with the outcome of the meeting.

“I’m astounded by the degree of maturity and selflessness of these students,” she said. “They very articulately discussed (the calendar) and looked at the bigger picture.”

The bookstore has no plans to advertise the calendar directly or to order any more once the current supply runs out.

Tom Houlehan, one of the owners of Tom & Jerry Inc., came up with the idea of “Girls of M.U.” after he saw the success of a similar calendar at the University of Kansas.

He chose 15 MU students as models out of about 100 who auditioned. Houlehan said he wanted the girls to look “beautiful and sexy, but classy.”

He said he made a professional calendar that both the models and their parents could be proud of.

“To say it’s degrading to be sold in the bookstore is just ridiculous. If someone’s protesting something, they shouldn’t buy it,” he said. “If everyone started protesting products in the bookstore, they would be empty. It’s wrong. It’s censorship.”

Houlehan said he plans to make a similar calendar next year.

Froese said she received some e-mail messages in support of the bookstore’s original decision to sell the calendar.

As long as Froese has been with the bookstore, nothing has been pulled because of customer complaints about content, she said.

“No one wanted to say, ‘We’re here to champion a swimsuit calendar,’ (but when) you are going to determine what is to be sold based on personal taste, (it) is a sticky area,” Froese said. “Walk anywhere in the general books department and you will find something that offends someone on this campus.”

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