The student who was carrying her mattress all day Wednesday, Oct. 29, was not carrying it around because she was tired and needed a place to nap. She was carrying it to support the “Carry That Weight” event to help raise awareness of sexual and domestic violence. Throughout the day, students were also carrying their pillows around campus. President of Rainbow Coalition Kelly Bjordahl said that the all day, “Carry That Weight” event was a success.
This Rainbow Coalition awareness event was to help support Columbia University senior Emma Sulkowicz and her senior thesis project that has developed into a national anti-rape activism movement.
According to a New York Magazine article about Sulkowicz, she refers to carrying her mattress as “performance art.” Sulkowicz has been carrying her dorm mattress everyday since September as a visual reminder that the student she said raped her is still on campus.
In the New York Magazine article, Sulkowicz said she would continue to carry her mattress all year in protest.
From an article in the Columbia Spectator, Sulkowicz said, “I carry a mattress, because I want to give visual expression to the struggle that the survivors of sexual violence must endure.”
Rainbow Coalition Social Media Coordinator Catie Cooper heard about Sulkowicz’s project from a friend back home.
Cooper thought the event was a great way to help bring awareness of sexual assault and domestic violence and collaborated with Bjordahl to start the “Carry That Weight” event on campus.
“It was awesome to see other students help that girl carry her mattress in class,” said Bjordahl. “They were carrying the weight together.”
Bjordahl and Cooper both carried their pillows on Wednesday.
Throughout the day, Bjordahl was asked why she was carrying her pillow and she explained to them about Sulkowicz’s project and the issue on sexual assault and domestic violence.
“We were making a social statement,” said Bjordahl. “And carrying our pillows helped raise the awareness of this worldwide ongoing issue.”
Raising awareness of serious issues like sexual assault and domestic violence is very important to both Bjordahl and Cooper.
“Even though people don’t talk about it on campus, it still happens,” said Bjordahl. “We need to address it, especially since we are a small community.”
Bjordahl and Cooper both mentioned that there were three reports of sexual assaults last year on campus recorded in the Clery Report. “An issue like sexual assault shouldn’t not be acknowledged,” said Cooper.
At the Rainbow Coalition meeting Wednesday night, Cooper and Bjordahl both said there were no negative reactions to the event.
Carrying around their pillows helped create discussions with other students on campus and that was exactly what they hoped would happen.
“It is important for people to know that you don’t have to do something huge to make a statement or to make a change,” said Cooper.