Petition to End the Gore Gallery
For centuries in the West, the “freak show” has objectified persons with non-normative bodies, including many persons with diseases. That is, the freak show has depicted persons with non-normative bodies as mere bodies/diseases rather than as persons. This depiction has titillated spectators but has not promoted the health of persons with non-normative bodies. Unfortunately, the “Gore Gallery”—an annual event sponsored by the Florida Atlantic University (FAU) chapter of the American Medical Student Association (AMSA)—perpetuates the freak show rather than promoting health. Therefore, the Gore Gallery fails to accord with the preamble, purposes, and proposals of the AMSA. This petition outlines selected aspects of the preamble, purposes, and proposals of the AMSA; describes the Gore Gallery; outlines selected aspects of the Gore Gallery’s failure to accord with the preamble, purposes, and proposals of the AMSA; and calls for an end to the Gore Gallery.
I. THE PREAMBLE, PURPOSES, AND PROPOSALS OF THE AMSA
Selected aspects of the preamble, purposes, and proposals of the AMSA include the following:
(1) According to the “Preamble of the AMSA,” “health” is “a positive, dynamic state of physical, mental and environmental well-being.” Therefore, “care should be oriented toward the achievement of health and not solely a treatment of disease.”
(2) According to the “Purposes of the AMSA,” the AMSA should “treat” and “train” students “as individuals interested in health care.” In doing so, the AMSA should ensure that “health care becomes more personal and holistic.”
(3) According to the AMSA’s “Proposed Model Oath for New Physicians,” physicians should make the following oath to their patients: “I will honor your dignity. I will be your zealous advocate, guided by your will, sensate to your feelings, needs and thoughts.”
II. THE GORE GALLERY
In a written announcement posted and distributed on October 26, 2010, Jackie Pruett, president of the FAU chapter of the AMSA, describes the Gore Gallery as follows: “AMSA will be presenting our annual GORE GALLERY, a photo gallery exhibit of rare, shocking diseases. . . . To make this even more exciting, pre-professional, pre-pharmacy, pre-dental, and pre-vet will also be hosting!!! If you like horror movies, those dramatic ER medical shows, or if you liked the BODIES! exhibit, you’ll love this! Come see crazy diseases like leprosy, werewolf syndrome, flesh-eating disease, hundred-pound tumors, human tree, and lots of other graphic stuff! This is not for the faint of heart or weak of stomach so come prepared!!! Also, invite your friends! One night only!”
III. THE GORE GALLERY’S FAILURE TO ACCORD WITH THE PREAMBLE, PURPOSES, AND PROPOSALS OF THE AMSA
The Gore Gallery fails to accord with the preamble, purposes, and proposals of the AMSA. Selected aspects of this failure include the following:
(1) The Gore Gallery is not oriented toward health. Rather, the Gore Gallery is oriented solely toward disease. Therefore, the Gore Gallery fails to accord with the preamble of the AMSA.
(2) The Gore Gallery does not treat and train students as individuals interested in health care. Rather, by depicting persons with diseases as “shocking,” “exciting,” “horror,” “dramatic,” “crazy,” “graphic,” etc., the Gore Gallery treats students as voyeurs and trains students to be titillated by the suffering of their prospective patients. Therefore, the Gore Gallery fails to accord with the purposes of the AMSA.
(3) The Gore Gallery does not honor the dignity of persons with diseases. Rather, the Gore Gallery effaces the will, feelings, needs and thoughts of persons with diseases. Therefore, the Gore Gallery fails to accord the proposals of the AMSA.
IV. OUR DEMAND
On the basis of the above, we, the signers of this petition, call for an end to the Gore Gallery. By this, we mean that the Gore Gallery must be either (1) qualitatively re-envisioned so as to accord with the preamble, purposes, and proposals of the AMSA or (2) disbanded altogether.
In issuing this call, we are mindful of the AMSA’s “Principles Regarding Activism,” according to which the AMSA “SUPPORTS the use of nonviolent direct action as a strategy for activism within the struggle for social change.” In accordance with this principle, we support the use of non-violent direct action to confront—and, if necessary, to publicly shame—the FAU chapter of the AMSA until the Gore Gallery is either qualitatively re-envisioned or disbanded. If this support seems unfitting, we wish to remind the FAU chapter of the AMSA that as a contemporary perpetuation of the freak show, the Gore Gallery publicly shames persons with diseases.