Endurance Performance Art To Protest Rape: Carry That Weight

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This article is from our associated project, CreativeResistance.org


No Blurred Lines: Why Columbia Student Emma Sulkowicz Is Our Hero

No one should ever have to be afraid of speaking up.

“There’s a reason survivors choose not to go to the police, and that’s because they’re treated as the criminals … The rapists are innocent until proven guilty but survivors are guilty until proven innocent, at least in the eyes of the police.” — Emma Sulkowicz

In a day and age where respect for women is still lacking, hearing about the shaming and silencing of Columbia University student Emma Sulkowicz is enraging. It says a lot about our society that with every step forward we take in the fight for gender equality and the right to be heard, we immediately take 15 steps back.

Sulkowicz’s interview with the Columbia Spectator on the lack of action taken by the University — especially in having the plain decency of making her feel safe at her own school by not allowing her alleged rapist to basically roam the halls free — shines a spotlight on why blurred lines do not exist. As she carries around a mattress with her everywhere she goes until her attacker is expelled for an art project called “Carry That Weight”, she’s giving a voice to all of the women who’ve been wronged. We shine our own spotlight on the five reasons why Emma Sulkowicz is our hero.

1. She is so brave.
By deciding to file a complaint against Nungesser, who was also accused of rape by two other students, she is not only taking a stand for herself but for all of the other brave women who have ever been brutally assaulted and felt too afraid to speak up about it.

2. Putting her story on the map will give all victims a voice.
Reading that Sulkowicz was at first ashamed of what happened to her to talk to her parents and friends makes my heart break. No one should ever have to bear the burden of this trauma alone. She’s showing every single man or woman who has ever been sexually assaulted that and that it’s okay to talk about it.

3. She’s proving that victim-blaming and shaming is NOT OK.
This shouldn’t have to be said but there is no excuse for rape, period. It doesn’t matter if you’re a man, woman, married, dating, total strangers, nothing you say or do means that you’re “asking for it.”

4. She’s sticking up for herself.
The thought that her alleged rapist would be allowed anywhere near her is just mind-boggling: “Though my rapist wasn’t in my class, he asked permission from his teacher to come and work in the dark room during my class time. I started crying and hyperventilating. As long as he’s on campus with me, he can continue to harass me.”

I’d like to argue that the bigger issue at hand is not that she doesn’t have enough proof for her university to believe her, but the fact that no one is doing anything to protect her in case it IS true. It’s one thing to want to have hard evidence before convicting him, it’s another to completely disregard her right to privacy and safety.

5. She’s proving that you don’t have to back down.
By carrying around the mattress that this violent act was commited on, she’s showing that your space is important and yours alone. No one should have the right to take it away from you. Even though it goes without saying that she shouldn’t have to do this just to make a point, sharing her story will help other victims know that they won’t have to carry that weight alone.