Protests Over Giant Marilyn Monroe Statue Because It Forces Museum Guests to 'Upskirt'

Backlash over the giant statue of Marilyn Monroe returning to Palm Springs, California, has resulted in months of debate, protests and an online petition garnering tens of thousands of signatures.

The 26-foot tall "Forever Marilyn" was first displayed in downtown Palm Springs between 2012 and 2014, becoming a major tourist attraction.

The statue captures one of the most iconic movie moments of all time—Monroe on a subway grate as her white dress is blown upwards when a train passes, seen in 1955 movie The Seven Year Itch

For the past few months, Palm Springs Council have set out plans for the statue by artist Seward Johnson to return to the city, placing it outside the local art museum.

However, many have taken issue with the "misogynist" statue, noting that visitors to the Palm Springs Art Museum, including young children, will be able to look directly up the statue's skirt and see Monroe's underwear.

A petition, which has attracted more than 40,000 signatures, said the statue also helps portray Monroe as nothing more than a sex object

"She wanted to be taken seriously as an artist and not just a sexual icon. We join others in asking the City of Palm Springs to venerate-not defile-her memory," the petition states.

"We challenge Palm Springs to find more appropriate ways to honor her memory and the true legacy of Marilyn Monroe."

Elizabeth Armstrong, a spokesperson for the petition, told NPR that the statue is "blatantly sexist," and "forces people almost to upskirt" given its proximity to the entrance.

The act of upskirting—taking a photo of a person's genital area without their knowledge—is a criminal misdemeanor offense in the state of California.

Armstrong was also present at a protest against the "Forever Marilyn" statue at the corner of Belardo Road and Museum Way in Palm Springs in April attended by around 100 people.

"I think that the court of public opinion is saying that [the city] made a mistake, and should admit it. And they still can change it," she told the Desert Sun. "Over 35,000 people have signed our petition, you just don't see that in a city of our size. People love this city and don't want to see it go backwards."

The Palm Springs City Council formally approved the location of Forever Marilyn during a meeting in November 2020.

Tourism group PS Resorts were awarded the contract to give the statue its new home and are hoping it will help give the area's tourism and economy a boost after plummeting amid the COVID-19 outbreak.

Palm Springs City Attorney Jeff Ballinger said the public has had plenty of time to note their objections to the return of the statue.

"Our city publishes our agenda well in advance of the minimum 72 hours required by state law, the agenda was out a week before the November 12 meeting, and the subject of Marilyn coming back has been a topic of discussion as far back as the last State of the City [address] in 2019," Ballinger told the Desert Sun.

"So I don't think it came as a surprise to anybody, and when it did come before the council there was more than adequate opportunities for public comments."

PS Resorts has been contacted for comment.

Forever Marilyn'
People visit and photograph the 'Forever Marilyn' statue of actress Marilyn Monroe in Palm Springs, California, on August 4, 2012, a day ahead of the 50th anniversary of Monroe's mysterious death. FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images