That’s exactly what Emma Sulkowicz did when her complaint for the mishandling of her sexual-assault case fell on her university’s deaf ears. And she caught their attention in a really massive way.
Ever since she started, she has been garnering a lot of attention. It is quite difficult to ignore someone lugging around a long, heavy mattress all around campus, especially if it’s for a significant and powerful cause. Her protest is being noticed not only by people in the university, but by people all around the world. Her performance art made some buzz on social media, and she even landed the cover of New York magazine, with a feature on her story. Her movement is so powerful, that she has become the symbol of the fight against rape culture.
Rape culture is blaming victims for what happened to them. Rape culture is justifying their rape based on what they were wearing, or how they were acting, prior to their rape. Rape culture is calling victims who report their rape “liars,” that they’re “overreacting,” and that they probably deserved what happened to them.
Rape culture is letting rapists run free, with no consequences whatsoever. Rape culture is only 3% of rapists serving a day in jail.
Rape culture is joking and making light of a violent crime. Rape culture is t-shirts and other merchandise with slogans that make rape a joke.
Rape culture is having media, songs, shows, movies, that objectify women, that sexualise them. Rape culture is making men in charge of women’s sexuality instead of having women themselves be in control of their own bodies.
Rape culture is saying that men who are raped shouldn't complain, that they should enjoy it. Rape culture is refusing to acknowledge that anyone can get raped regardless of gender.
Rape culture is the fetishization of minorities: of people of color, of trans people, of non-binary people, of genderfluid people, of non-monosexual people. Rape culture is refusing to kink-shame sexually immoral and illegal acts like pedophilia.
Rape culture is pornography that is easily accessible, pornography that always depicts sexual violence and dominance towards women. Rape culture is sex workers who are dehumanized constantly.
Rape culture is saying that rape is just “kinky” sex, when it is in fact an act of violence. Rape culture is teaching how not to get raped instead of not to rape.
The list goes on and on, and rape culture will not end unless we, as a society, make active steps to fight towards it, even in simple ways. We may not all be like Emma Sulkowicz who is strong and brave enough to carry the symbol of her oppression, but we can help her carry the weight so that victims of rape culture won’t have to suffer anymore.