With the exception of Drexel University, campuses everywhere are filled with graduates, in caps and gowns and smiling faces. Commencement at Columbia University was so prestigious that the iconic Empire State Building lit up its peak with the Columbia colors of blue and white.
The moment most graduates look forward to is certainly an impressionable one — the handshake with the president of their university. This was a privilege that student activist and sexual assault survivor Emma Sulkowicz was denied: Columbia’s President Lee Bollinger looked away as his student carried the same mattress that she was raped on across the podium, a walking reminder of the administration’s failure to protect and carry out justice for its students. According to The New York Times, a spokeswoman later said that the mattress had been between the two and prevented a handshake — which was apparently not worth the extra effort for an exemplary student. You aren’t slick, Mr. Bollinger, and your failure to stand in solidarity with Sulkowicz is duly noted.
It’s been a month since 20-year-old feminist and LGBTQ activist Grace Mann of the University of Mary Washington was murdered by her 30-year-old male roommate. This came after over 700 messages on mobile app Yik Yak promoting violence and rape against Mann and fellow members of the Feminists United group on campus, who had successfully campaigned to disband the men’s rugby team because the athletes had led a sexist and rape-referencing chant. And now, people who claim to be “men’s rights activists” have been celebrating her murder as a lesson against misandry (discrimination against men), asserting a threatening idea for other feminists and the like.
Violence against women is unfortunately not a new occurrence, and definitely more than just a cheap plot device on “Game of Thrones.” Catherine Montoya, a beloved LGBTQ activist, was killed in her Atlanta home April 14 by a man who had stabbed his wife earlier that day. Pakistani women’s rights activist Sabeen Mahmud was shot to death after hosting an event on “disappeared people.”
Feminism is not a trigger word. Discussion of it is not something to be afraid of. Feminism is not an extreme. Feminism is the bare minimum of how society should function and the equality people should believe. And people are dying for it. Mr. Bollinger, you cannot simply excuse away why you did not choose to shake Sulkowicz’s hand. You should’ve stood up. You should’ve shook her hand. You should’ve clapped. In fact, you should’ve bowed, because she showed more bravery than most people will ever be able to in their lifetime. But since you didn’t, we proud feminists here at The Triangle surely will.