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Poitiers, France

Le Clitoris

This anatomical sculpture raises awareness about violence against women and promotes gender equality. 

Like most universities, France’s University of Poitiers has artwork strewn about its campus. One of its newest additions is a tall pole topped with what seems to be an abstract red and silver shape. Upon closer inspection, the identity of the sculpture’s crowning object becomes clear: It’s a clitoris.

The stainless steel structure was unveiled in November of 2017. A feminist group called Friends of Women and Liberation (LAFL) spurred Le Clitoris’ creation and commissioned British artist Matthew Ellis to create the artwork.

The clitoris sculpture’s purpose is two-fold. LAFL hopes the prominent artwork will prompt a discussion about violence against women to bring issues like forced prostitution and female genital mutilation out of the shadows.

Le Clitoris also promotes gender equality on campus. For the past four decades, the university has been home to a phallic statue dubbed the “Bitard Penis.” A group called the Order of the Venerated Bitard, which was established in the 1920s and named itself after a mythological creature, erected the structure.

Though the organization that oversees the land the Bitard Penis rests atop wouldn’t let LAFL put the clitoris sculpture on the same grounds, its presence on the university campus is still a long-overdue step forward in reaching gender equality.