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Professor Paglia Gives Mattress Performance a D, Calls it a “Parody” of Feminism

Photo: Twitter/@teoarmus via ArtNet News

Photo: Twitter/@teoarmus via ArtNet News

It seems like we haven’t heard so much from American academic and social critic Camille Paglia for a while. But the Donald Trump of feminism (self-described “dissident feminist,” although others have called her an “anti-feminist feminist”) is weighing in on current politics, liberal politicians, Bill Cosby, and Emma Sulkowicz—the Columbia University art graduate who carried around her mattress her senior year for a performance project entitled Carry That Weight. Serving both as her thesis project and a protest against the university’s lack of action against her alleged rapist, the performance gained much media attention and inspired students at over 100 other colleges to perform similar acts in solidarity, including Texas State art student Monika Rostvold, who sat at on the steps of her school’s library, blindfolded and almost completely nude.

We’re not sure what grade Sulkowicz got on her thesis project, but she (as well as the alleged rapist) graduated this past May, although the university president would not shake her hand at the ceremony. Paglia, who has taught at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania since 1984, told Salon.com in a recent interview, “I’d give her a D!” calling it “a parody of the worst aspects of that kind of grievance-oriented feminism.”

ArtNet News first picked up on Paglia’s mattress comments from the interview; The Observer later elaborated on them. Both seemed puzzled by Paglia’s explanation that Sulkowicz “trapped herself in her own bad memories and publicly labeled herself as a victim, which will now be her identity forever.” Jerry Saltz, among other art critics, gave the performance rave reviews, calling it “pure radical vulnerability” and one of the best art shows of 2014. ArtNet News notes that Sulkowicz was invited to this year’s State of the Union address.

Paglia seemingly has no sympathy for Sulkowicz or for college students in general: “They’ve been treated as fragile emotional beings throughout their schooling. The situation is worsening year by year, as teachers have to watch what they say and give trigger warnings, because God forbid that American students should have to confront the brutal realities of human life.”

Rape as a reality of human life. Wow.

also by Paula Newton
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