Women were in short supply at the Engineering school at the University of Oklahoma, as in most universities in the 1970’s. Before the invention of the term sexual harassment, these times saw ‘Playboy’, the magazine and the lifestyle, approach pinnacle status, most boys and men dreamed of having a key to a bunny loft, or hutch or whatever they called it. Streaking was prevalent on campus. Streaking is the act of running through a public area with your privates showing; naked and free and don’t touch me. The free love of the 1960’s was still in full swing and so were the private parts of the mostly male streakers on public display.
Beth and I became friends when we realized we were the only females in our class in the Aerospace and Mechanical school. We discovered the Engineering club, sponsored by the College of Engineering, our junior year and I’m still not sure why it existed. All I remember is the male members defending the Engineering College honor against the Law School during Engineers’ week. I never understood why the engineers and law students went after each other. Is it that way on other campuses? Is it some kind of OU tradition only? Now that I’ve been out for a while, I still don’t get the engineer/lawyer rivalry. Engineers work as expert witnesses, called into testify at various trials. So you would think the lawyers would appreciate our scientific knowledge to convict the most ardent of white-collar criminals.
I don’t remember attending any member activities that the club sponsored or held. Headquartered in Felgar Hall, one of the oldest buildings on campus and home to the Aerospace and Mechanical engineering schools, the club’s meeting room was tucked away off a hallway that led to one of my classrooms. Felgar Hall, built of brick, mortar, cinderblock and wood floors, reverberated sounds that echoed through the hallway and into the classrooms.
My classmate, Beth, and I decided to check out the engineering club one day. We entered the dimly lit room and stood in shock. There, emblazoned across the wall, hung a framed three by three-foot collage of naked women. Parts of women’s breasts and lower privates along with some faces of blondes with bouffants carefully cut out of magazines and tucked into the framing for public display. It was a real piece of work, that’s for sure.
Appalled that our fellow male classmates, while appearing to accept us as equals in class, had forgotten that women-folk had a growing presence in their ‘fraternity’, we decided we needed to make a statement, a huge statement, about this inappropriate display of chauvinism.
Affirmative action had taken hold and while I never participated in a bra burning ritual, I naively thought that engineering students would be appreciative of their female classmates. What was I thinking?
So Beth showed up at my room awhile later, armed with several magazines, the ‘opposite’ of Playboy, Playgirl. Women in the 1970’s jumped on the magazine as a kind of ‘ah ha, take that, turn about is fair play’ to the males of the world. I delighted, although the Catholic in me did feel some shame and guilt, flipping through the pages as male muscles and genitalia of all shapes, sizes and colors graced the pictures.
“We’re going to make our own collage,” Beth said.
I smiled, “I love it!”
“Then we’ll paste it over the old one.”
We didn’t want to desecrate the framed work of ‘art’ and we didn’t have the extra money to frame our own creation. I didn’t worry about getting caught at that moment, we had such a devilish scheme and I just knew we’d be honored as heroes!
Dutifully, convinced we were on a mission from God, we carefully cut around the family jewels of these anonymous studs. We included, as the boys had, a few faces with dreamy bedroom eyes, six-pack abs and chiseled faces, tanned from what I imagined resulted of months of tanning and working out at the beach. Of course, these guys couldn’t be from Oklahoma, they had to be Californians!
Once we completed our collage, making it large enough by our estimation to cover up that vile work that better belonged in a whore house than in an institution of learning, we planned when to put our art work on display. I happened to be taking a very early class that semester. Typical of most colleges, classes conducted before eight in the morning are not well attended. We agreed to meet prior to this class to do our dirty deed when there would be fewer people to witness our feat.
Armed with a tape dispenser and the masterpiece carefully rolled up for transport, we entered Felgar Hall and the darkened clubroom. Nervously laughing, whispering, scared to death we would be caught, we carefully secured the collage to the frame using an overdose of tape. My heart pounded. For if we had been caught, we would have spent the last year and a half living it down amongst not only our Aerospace and Mechanical classmates and professors, but also the entire engineering college. We didn’t take long to admire our handiwork and failed to capture the moment on film. I went to class just down the hall and Beth returned to her dorm room.
Most of the students were sleepy and fairly quiet and we entered our day with the professor filling our heads with formulas and mumbo-jumbo that failed to make much sense to me. Of course I had other things on my mind that morning. Class was about half over, around eight o’clock, when I heard screaming. Not the kind of ‘I’m getting murdered’ scream, but more of a shock and horror scream. Someone, a male, had found the works of Beth and Conni.
I relaxed and breathed and tried to hide a smile. It was done. Our statement made. We are women; hear us roar! I practically ran to the dormitory after class, anxious to let Beth know our weapon had hit its mark.
Beth and I never mentioned what we had done to another person for a long time. I couldn’t say the same for the boys. Word spread like an Oklahoma wildfire. Soon they had a suspect. A younger female engineering student was in their sights. We didn’t know her very well, but she did tend to pal around with the guys more than we did. We never confessed but we did have front row seats to watching this girl take the blame. So convinced were the guys that they had their woman, they shared their good fortune with us. Never able to keep a straight face, I didn’t talk to them much about it.
And so Beth and I slipped into engineering club history. Silent partners in what had to have been one of the greatest pre-YouTube practical jokes ever. I hope that girl wasn’t negatively impacted. Females in engineering curriculums tend to have a strong personality. Surely she didn’t turn into a serial killer after this experience. Right?