Cornell students blame 'rape culture' on capitalism and 'cisheteropatriarchy'

End Rape Culture, an event which recognized a "National Day of Protest Against Rape Culture," culminated in students spray-painting a mattress with a warning to the university's president.

A student-sponsored event at Cornell University (CU) claimed capitalism and white supremacy are “institutions that promote rape culture” and “must be destroyed.”

The event, which recognized a “National Day of Protest Against Rape Culture” late last month, took place in CU’s William Straight Hall. Bailey Dineen, one of the sponsors of the event, reprimanded Cornell and the justice system and accused “white supremacist, imperialist, capitalist, [and] cisheteropatriarchy,” for promoting rape culture, according to the Cornell Review.

According to the event’s Facebook page, End Rape Culture, where 323 students confirmed their attendance, “[v]iolence and fear are a constant feature of our society.”

“We cannot pretend that ours is a progressive culture when sexual violence remains a daily fact of existence for minoritized identities,” the page says. “Advances toward ‘equality’ cannot purport to signify much when the reality of rape burdens women and queer bodies at every moment and remains a fixed part of the history and present of people of color, people of lower income, and other groups rendered powerless in our society.”

The page goes on to declare that “[s]o long as sexual violence exists, it will be used as a tool to ensure subordination in the interest of maintaining a white supremacist, capitalist, cisheteropatriarchy.”

Dineen (who prefers to be identified with the pronouns “They, Their, Them”) wrote a bi-weekly column titled “Genderfucked” for the Cornell Daily Sun. Some of her articles include, “My Queer Rage,” “A Call to Anger,” “All in the Name of Inclusion,” and “A Look into my Sex Life,” which talks about her experience as an asexual.

Other organizers spoke at the event and issued a call for action against the university administration and its handling of sexual assault cases on campus. The students read poems and speeches and shared their personal experiences with rape and how it has affected those around them.

Following the event, Dineen and fellow sponsor Natalie Nesvaderani carried a mattress to the entrance of Day Hall, CU’s central administrative building—an act inspired by Columbia student Emma Sulkowicz—where they then spray-painted a warning for university president David Skorton: “Skorton here is your oral warning, we’re fighting back.”

Next to the message, the students wrote “6.4,” a reference to the university’s policy regarding sexual harassment and assault, which says that “[d]isciplinary action for prohibited discrimination and protected-status harassment, including sexual violence/assault, may include an oral or a written warning.”

Casey Breznick, editor-in-chief of the Review, told Campus Reform that he doesn’t understand why event organizers were attacking Skorton.

“You can have a grievance against Skorton because he is the university president...but this creation of rape culture, which they arguably resist and hate so much, has nothing to do with Skorton,” Breznick told Campus Reform. “He didn’t create rape culture. If anything he is doing a lot of things [to promote a safer environment] that protesters would agree with.”

Breznick told Campus Reform that the university did not issue a formal response to the threat, but he speculates that campus police got rid of the mattress to avoid publicity.

“At first the event was a legitimate one, regardless of what you think about what they are talking about and the specific words they use,” Breznick told Campus Reform. “But the whole thing was totally ostentatious in their showmanship...they just left the mattress there and [walked away].”

The Review was able to capture a video of the students carrying the mattress, but reported that participants went out of their way to avoid being filmed, after learning the video belonged to Breznick and other members of publication.

According to the Review, student groups in change of the protest included: Students for Justice in Palestine, Black Students United, Crunch: The Kinky Club at Cornell, Cornell Organization for Labor Action, the Cornell Progressive, DASH: Direction Action to Stop Heterosexism, Women of Color Coalition, and Girls Fight Back.

Breznick told Campus Reform that this is Skorton’s last year as university president.

Dineen did not respond to a request for comment from Campus Reform in time for publication.

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @MaggieLitCRO