Mattress Artist Emma Sulkowicz to Attend State of the Union

Emma Sulkowicz Photo: Via YouTube.

Tonight is President Barack Obama’s 2015 State of the Union address, and at least one brave artist will be in attendance: Emma Sulkowicz.

Sulkowicz is the Columbia University student who has made very big waves with her senior thesis Mattress Performance: Carry That Weight, a protest of the school’s unwillingness to expel the man she alleges raped her.

For the past four months, Sulkowicz has carried a dorm room mattress with her wherever she goes on campus to raise awareness about what she deems to be the university’s mishandling of her sexual assault claim (see Columbia Student’s Striking Mattress Performance, Columbia Student’s Performance Art Catalyzes a Full-Fledged Protest Movement, and Marina Abramović is Down With Emma Sulkowicz’s Mattress Piece).

Sulkowicz is attending the State of the Union alongside U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-New York), who told the New York Daily News, “I hope the President will seize this opportunity to shine a national spotlight on the need to flip the incentives that currently reward colleges for sweeping sexual assaults under the rug.”

Although Sulkowicz will not have her mattress with her, Gillibrand hopes that Sulkowicz’s presence at tonight’s address will send a sharp message to President Obama and also to her fellow lawmakers, whom she is pushing to support the Bipartisan Campus Accountability and Safety Act (the current document can be read here), which would require colleges and universities to improve the way sexual violence is handled on their campuses.

We notice two choice bits in the document as it currently reads: first, “All schools will now be required to use one uniform process for campus disciplinary proceedings and may no longer allow athletic departments or other subgroups to handle complaints of sexual violence for members of that subgroup alone” and “Schools that don’t comply with the certain requirements under the bill may face a penalty of up to 1% of the institution’s operating budget.”

Unfortunately, it is Washington, and not everyone is so happy to see Sulkowicz in attendance at the event. Conservative pundit and noted anti-feminist and publicity hound Ann Coulter tweeted several angry missives regarding Gillibrand’s guest on Monday night, including: “@SenGillibrand is bringing Columbia’ fake rape victim who walks around with a mattress on her back to SOTU.”

We, on the other hand, are happy to see Washington take note of a young artist with an important message.

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