Today, tens of thousands carried mattresses to stand in solidarity with survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence as part of Carry That Weight Day of Action.
The movement started at Columbia University, when student and survivor Emma Sulkowicz decided to carry her mattress as a symbol of sexual assault. Emma pledged to take this performance art piece everywhere she goes until her alleged rapist is expelled.
Allie Rickard, a student at Barnard College, was inspired by Emma’s piece and created the group Carry The Weight Together. The group organizes “collective carries,” gatherings were various people help Emma carry her mattress, and raises awareness about initiatives to make college campuses safer.
As the piece continued to resonate nationally and internationally, Sulkowicz, Rickard, and Zoe Ridolfi Starr, a senior at Columbia and Know Your IX representative, organized the Carry That Weight Day of Action, calling allies to show their solidarity by carrying mattresses and organizing awareness events.
“Through this powerful demonstration of solidarity, participants will tangibly express their commitment to lift the burden of sexual violence from the shoulders of survivors — to carry the weight together,” reads the Carry the Weight Together website.
At Columbia, student groups carried mattresses with promises of solidarity written on them: “We pledge to support survivors of sexual and domestic violence and are united in carrying the weight together. We call on Columbia University to do the same.”
The call to action inspire students from over 130 colleges and high schools as well, and today pictures of mattresses flooded the internet. Students from Brown, Stanford, Emory, University of New Hampshire, Miami University, and Rice, to name a few, posted pictures on Twitter of their demonstrations. Dozens of international schools, including the University of Winnipeg, Bangor University in the U.K., and Central European University in Budapest, also participated.
These are positive steps towards progress, but much work is still left to be done. As Emma explained at the rally, “It takes six people to make a mattress feel light, but to change the way sexual assault is handled on campus, it’ll take all of us.”
Interested to learn more about the fight to make colleges a safer place? Read Noodle’s coverage of campus sexual assault.
Here are some images from the event at Columbia University:
Students gathered on Low Steps at Columbia University to stand in solidarity with survivors of domestic and sexual violence.
Zoe Ridolfi Starr, Allie Rickard, and Emma Sulkowicz spoke to students at the rally.
Emma Sulkowicz, Columbia senior, is the creator of the performance art piece "Mattress Performance: Carry That Weight"
No Red Tape is an activist organization at Columbia that advocates for sexual assault survivors.
After the rally, students carried their mattresses to the house of Columbia president, Lee C. Bollinger, to protest current sexual assault policies.
Zoe Ridolfi Starr, sexual assault survivor and Know Your IX representative, spoke to students about her experiences and activism.
Students wore red tape Xs to demonstrate that they were ready and willing to help others carry their mattresses.
Mattresses displayed different student group names and their pledges to support survivors of sexual and domestic violence.