Emma Sulkowicz is walking around Columbia University campus with a mattress on her back. She’s an art student there, and Carry That Weight is a performance piece. What looks, without context, kinda funny (I immediately thought of this guy), is a actually a highly charged protest piece. The mattress carries the extra weight of Sulkowicz’s injustice and suffering.
Emma Sulkowicz says she was raped in her own dorm room bed by a classmate. Since then, she’s spent a substantial amount of time at her University trying to convince staff and peers that it actually happened to her, and that her rapist therefore deserves to be punished for his crime. Instead of expelling the rapist and allowing Sulkowicz to move on her with life the best she can, Columbia University totally ignored Sulkowicz, along with two other students at Columbia University who have reported the same assault. Their claims were swept under the rug and the alleged rapist is still allowed to roam freely on the campus as though nothing ever happened. Columbia University dealt with the allegations so flippantly, that in April Sulkowicz and 22 other students filed a federal Title IX complaint filed against the University for mishandling sexual-assault cases.
In short: Sulkowicz lives in constant fear of harassment, because the man that raped her could be queuing up behind her to buy a can of Coke between classes. He could also walk into her room and rape her again. What’s really problematic – obviously apart from the act of the rape itself, and the high chance that it could happen again – are the lengths that Sulkowicz is now going to, to try bring her rapist to justice. It’s similar to charities having to resort to celebrity-endorsed social media campaigns to raise some money for people of dying of a disease. People are only going to give a shit if it comes up in their news feeds.
Sulkowicz has committed to carrying around a twin-size dorm mattress everywhere she goes on campus, to classes and appointments, for as long as her rapist it allowed to attend Columbia University. “I was raped in my own dorm bed, and since then that space has become fraught for me,” she says in a video about the piece published by the Columbia Spectator. “And I feel like I’ve carried the weight of what happened there with me everywhere since then.”
Women are afraid of speaking out in case nobody believes them. We assure them that if they do, then justice will ensue. Emma Sulkowicz, as well as carrying the burden of being raped, is now carrying a fucking mattress around so that someone will listen to her. What kind of message does this performance deliver to women around the world? This performance should never have to had to happen. Rape victims will keep their mouths shut. They’ll carry the weight on their backs too. Columbia University: Listen to Emma Sulkowicz. Take her allegations seriously. Take that mattress off her back before she cripples under the weight.