News & Politics

Elite Women’s College Calls Venus Symbol ‘Offensive, Painful’

A prestigious women’s college in Massachusetts has pulled the plug on a plan to include the Venus symbol, a traditional icon of feminism and women’s empowerment, on its new logo design.

According to a Tuesday press release, Mount Holyoke College recently commissioned an outside firm to design a new logo for the school. On December 14, officials released nine draft logos to the student body and encouraged students to provide their feedback.

While the majority of public comments on the proposed logos urged the school to “keep the old one,” the school marketing office was apparently also deluged with concern about the use of the Venus symbol in the new design.

Just two business days later, MCH officials issued a public apology.

“It is now evident to us that this symbol has a long history of exclusion connected to movements that, while trailblazing for some groups, represents the erasure of others,” wrote Charles L. Green, MCH’s VP of Mmarketing.

“The College cannot move forward with a word mark that references this symbol.… While it is always disappointing to realize that our creative work has not achieved its goals, it is deeply upsetting to realize that the work is seen as offensive and damaging.”

One alumna, Tessa Ann Schwartz, wrote on Twitter that the Venus symbol marginalizes LGBTQ individuals.

“Speaking as one of those trans alums, you all will not be getting my money until this is changed, and I am not alone,” tweeted Schwartz.

Historically, the Venus symbol has been used as shorthand to reference women’s issues, feminism, and female empowerment. While it may seem fine to use at a women’s college, MCH officials remind us that the school is a “gender-diverse women’s college.”

The school now accepts students of all genders, as so long as they are not men who were born men. As such, the school has a sizeable transgender and gender non-binary population, and offers a variety of services to support them.

And, as I recently reported, professors are now warned against calling students “women,” “referencing the two genders,” and saying things like “we’re all women here.” Avoiding these terms and phrases is crucial to avoid perpetuating “various types of disrespect,” according to school officials.

Going forward, MCH officials plan to commission alternative logo designs.

“As we start the new year, we look forward to reconnecting with students who volunteered to continue advising us on this process as well as others who might be interested.… We hope you know that your feedback is vital to us.”

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @Toni_Airaksinen.