#Emma|#Mattressgirl

On Millennials | #trendingThursday

Thursday, May 21, 2013

rulesOn Thursdays I want to talk about what is on my mind. As I spend a lot of time online everyday, some of my biggest thoughts are on topics that are trending and that affect everyday life. Like the millennial I am, I’m connected to multiple media channels that give me the latest happenings around the world, so this is my attempt to process at least one of those points intelligently with my readers.

I’m frequently concerned with the morals and ethics of marketing and the responsibility that comes with being a voice, an advocate, and a champion of anything you sell. The surest way I know how to deal with responsibility is to educate myself on the topic and to apply the same morals and ethics to my observations as I do to my personal decisions—fairness, constitutionality, and compassion. As a defender of rights and advocate for a better future, I know that for many cases I need to make a hard decision on issues. #trendingThursday is an attempt to give as an objective view as possible on important issues facing Millennials.

Marketing Like A Millennial’s #trendingThursday – an alternative perspective on a trending topic of the week. Read about and gather information on something that is happening right now from the mind of a Millennial. Guest bloggers and joint posts to ensue!


Who: Emma Sulkowiczmedia

What: Emma has just completed an endurance performance art piece for her senior thesis at Columbia University titled Mattress Performance (Carry That Weight). The art performance has led to worldwide recognition for Emma as well as for her alleged rapist, Paul Nungesser.

When: September 2014 – May 19th, 2015

Where: Columbia University, New York, New York

Why: Emma reported her alleged rape months after the event and after a hearing organized by campus administrations, it was decided that there was not sufficient evidence to prosecute Paul as a rapist. Emma feels that Columbia University did not sufficiently deal with her accusation of her alleged rapist and the formal proceedings that took place after. As part of her art project, Emma demanded that Paul be expelled from the university, otherwise the performance piece was to continue until either Paul voluntarily left campus or they both graduated.

Latest news: The art piece has now come to an end by Emma bringing her mattress to graduation on May 19th, 2015 and deciding against student tradition to shake Columbia University President Lee C. Bollinger’s hand.

traditional pfAlso on that day of graduation, posters were seen on several blocks around the university depicting Emma with her mattress and the words “Pretty Little Liar.” The Twitter account “Fake Rape” supporting the claim that Emma is a liar has been up since yesterday, May 20th and already has 2,593 followers. American actress, author, screenwriter, producer, and director Lena Dunham has also been targeted as a liar by the posters seen around Columbia on graduation for the claims she has made on being raped while in college. Lena responded to the posters by taking to Twitter to congratulate Emma on her graduation and thanking her for the courage she has given Dunham to come out with her own story of being raped in college.

The back and forth on Emma: As a member of the Columbia student and alumni community, I have been able to gauge student opinion on Columbia’s campus. From comments and articles on BWOG, the student run blog about campus life and events, The Columbia Spectator, the university newspaper, and conversations with students living on campus, as well as with friends of Emma, there seemed to be much support for Emma early on in the year.Re Emma But as publications picked up the story and especially after Paul Nungesser decided to file a lawsuit against Columbia University, its board of trustees, its president, Lee Bollinger, and Emma’s senior-thesis supervisor, Jon Kessler, students’ opinions have faltered in support of Emma, and even openly state that they wish for this situation to all go away.

Paul alleges that Columbia exposed him to gender-based harassment and a hostile educational environment in allowing the art project to go ahead. He maintains that in so doing, they damaged his college experience, emotional well-being, reputation and career prospects.

social mediaIt is easy to assume that people are passionate about the conversations that Mattress Performance has sparked – the general public has even been battling the validity of Emma’s statements through public art and twitter. The important discourse on women’s rights has been spearheaded into the minds of the American public. And, I want to argue that, thanks to Emma’s efforts, that discourse has remained relevant even when global leaders are having conversations about the real potential of nuclear warfare.

My thoughts on Emma: As a woman myself, I want to say thank you to Emma for the courage she’s had to brand and position herself as a voice for women’s rights. I also want to applaud Emma for an astounding performance piece she has successfully completed.

After much deliberation and after following this story since the first piece I read of Emma’s, published online by Time in May 2014, I have made my decision. This is an important time for women, for Millennials, for American universities, for “fixing something that is broken,” but I think Emma is wrong.

I don’t care if she is lying—she is performing a personal art piece, it is personal, so it shouldn’t matter what anyone else thinks. I wish I could end my comments on Emma’s work there, but unfortunately, and to my dismay, I must say that even though I feel like Emma is fully encompassing the American spirit, I think her demands are un-American.

I firmly believe that Emma is trying to set a precedent that, whenever a woman claims to have been raped or sexually assaulted, she must be believed – whether or not there is enough evidence to support that claim. I think Emma was trying to accomplish a dangerous thing for Americans, all Americans, men AND women.

Although I’m only a third party observer, I am also an American female and I know that my opinion matters; I’m assured that the issues surrounding the Sulkowicz and Nungesser case apply to me, my sister, my brother, my best friends, my niece and nephews, and someday maybe even my own children. These are the points that I can take from what I have read and discovered this past year following Emma:

  1. I have always been convinced that there was no way for Emma to prove that Paul raped her;
  2. Emma does not agree with Columbia as to what is sufficient proof of her case;
  3. She demands prosecution either way and publicly announces that this is a case for women and rape victims (especially in regards to university students), through her performance art piece;
  4. I can’t and don’t care to think about whether she is lying or not, she doesn’t have the evidence, talking about whether she is a liar or not is irrelevant, and I think Emma is wrong because she wants to be treated as an exception to the American justice system; and
  5. She is a visual arts student at Columbia and I think she did a great job on her senior thesis!

A crucial point: Emma has provided rich context for further discourse on American history, the Internet as (still) a new medium, women’s rights, and on the power and influence of modern society. Her hard work and perseverance has stimulated conversations about rape and women’s rights in the U.S. and around the world, amongst groups of people of all levels and prestige. She truly has accomplished a great thing.

businessI am interested in hearing more about what people think in regards to Emma. I will remain open minded as I am only sure of one thing, that I am never absolutely sure of anything at all. Please leave a comment about what you think, let me hear your passions and opinions on this case!

I will continue to share insights on social media and digital public relations, but on Thursdays you will be hearing more about the topics and trends I see popping up on Twitter and that permeate into real life.


If you feel like you have been a victim of sexual assault, even if you have some doubt, please reach out to someone immediately. Anyone impacted by sexual assault, whether it happened to you or someone you care about, can find support on the National Sexual Assault Hotline. You can visit online.rainn.org to receive support via confidential online chat or call 800.656.HOPE (4673) to be connected with a trained staff member from a sexual assault service provider in your area. 

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