As I was walking past Boone Tavern the other day, I noted that the enormous white pillars around it serve no serious structural purpose. Hence, they must exist for aesthetic reasons. Their lack of material purpose reveals that they fulfil a symbolic one. Harkening back to Classical European civilization, they connect the building to many other great buildings—temples, forums, courthouses, aqueducts, and hippodromes. Buildings that demonstrated the power and ingenuity of their builders, structures that in many cases came to be identified with the society and peoples who built them.
Yet these Classical societies were deeply patriarchal, imperialistic, and relied on forced slave labour to construct their blood-stained colosseums. Their buildings inherently reflected and reinforced power dynamics and inequality in those societies. The pillars of a Roman forum not only held the roof up. They simultaneously demonstrated the power of the state to force slaves to build them, the power of men to exclude women from politics, and the power of the wealthy to determine the lives of the poor. The pillars of Boone Tavern, and all such neo-classical pillars consciously emulating the architecture of ancient Rome, are nothing less than enormous phalluses proclaiming the patriarchal power of their owners.
Boone Tavern’s interior, on the other hand, is made up of what in many ways we would consider traditional feminine spaces. A place where food is cooked and served, a living room full of cozy furniture, bedrooms in which the weary may find rest. Yet, unlike in a traditional home, these spaces are for sale. The home itself is here prostituted to whoever has coin to pay, while it is denied to those who lack it. Feminine space has been conquered, subjected to men’s faces on capitalist dollars. While rich men may no longer be able to control their wives, here in Boone Tavern they may, for a while, fritter away their dividends pretending they are gods.
How telling, then, that this home subjected to the dollar is surrounded by a cage of glistening white phalluses, visibly demonstrating power and toxic masculinity across our supposedly egalitarian and liberated campus.
Of course, I do not expect anyone to tear down these disgusting obscenities, symbols of patriarchy though they be. I wish only that people be aware of the underlying frameworks of domination and control that continue to be symbolically demonstrated in every aspect of our society.