Has Mattress Girl broken the 'wokester' trance?
Remember 'Mattress girl'?
Emma Sulkowicz was the very woke Columbia University art student who walked around 24/7 with a mattress to protest campus rape and made a snowflake spectacle of herself getting all over the news. She actually did it to protest against Columbia University which had neither affirmed her claims of rape, let alone expelled, a male German fellow student that she claimed had raped her. Columbia actually ended up paying the man a settlement. But her "performance art" became a cause celebre with the victim-oriented left, and as I learned yesterday after a conversation with a young Millennial who attended Bryn Mawr, was very influential. After that, Sulkowicz took up a career as a performance art, at least for a time, and started giving her pronouns as 'they' and 'them.'
Since then, she's gotten a little different.
In a pretty astonishing piece from The Cut, she writes that she's now gotten to actually know some conservatives and libertarians ... and doesn't hate them.
Sulkowicz is telling me about the “political journey” she’s lately been on, a listening tour of ideological positions that she’s always considered too right-wing to engage: centrists, conservatives, libertarians, and whatever Jordan Peterson is — various and sundry souls that Jezebel has canceled, whose names chill dinner conversation across progressive New York. Sulkowicz hasn’t been redpilled; she’s still a feminist and an advocate for survivors of sexual assault. What’s changed is her posture. “Even if I disagree with this person,” she says, “it doesn’t have to piss me off.”
Silvia McNamara's interesting piece runs with this slightly unflattering headline:
Did Emma Sulkowicz Get Redpilled? At the very least, she’s found a new social set.
It describes how the ultimate snowflake finally got to see things other leftists never see up close - conservatives -- who as it turns out, she finds to be witty and nice to be around, people she could actually be friends with.
Which is quite a new and innovative thing for a leftist icon to come up with.
During the summer of 2018, Sulkowicz tells me, she was single for the first time in years. Swiping through Tinder, a man she found “distasteful” super-liked her. “It smelled like Connecticut,” she says of his profile. “He was very blond, law school, cut jawline, trapezoidal body figure, tweed suit kind of vibe, but something inside of me made me swipe right, I don’t know.” They began messaging, and she found him witty. “He was actually way more fun to talk to than any other person I matched with.”
Eventually, Sulkowicz stalked him on Twitter and realized that he was conservative — “like, very conservative.” At first, she was repulsed and considered breaking it off. But then she thought, “Wait, actually, that’s kind of fucked up because he’s the most interesting person I’ve come across, shouldn’t I be open to talking to him?” After dispelling her initial fear, she texted him that it would be “interesting (progressive? Powerful?) for two people who might be the antithesis of each other to go on a Tinder date.”
She ended up being very good friends with the man.
Which highlights, first of all, just how shielded the snowflakes have been from any exposure to anyone who doesn't kowtow to leftist orthodoxy, hating and fearing conservatives and libertarians as so many do, as the barbarians at the gate.
Having gone to Columbia University myself, I can tell you that it's a left-wing monolith. I can't say I knew everyone there but everyone I did know was on the left. There were absolutely zero conservatives in the faculty lounges teaching these kids in the 1990s, an we all know it's gotten more intense since. The few conservatives in my class at the journalism school kept it very quiet and detected one another only by the conservative equivalent of 'gaydar.' (I'm not going to lie, though, that any of our professors who learned about it treat us badly. They didn't and remained friendly and commited to us. Some of our friends, though were different). The fact remains, a place like Columbia is very shielded, with conservativesabout as at home in the place as penguins in the tropical rainforest. Colleges such as Columbia are insular, woke, and that was all young Emma, coming in from an elite private prep school, had ever been exposed to.
Which is why what's obvious to us -- that conservatives are people -- was such a surprise to her. They didn't bite, they were capable of wit, they liked people, they certainly didn't shun her despite her hostile reputation, and she ended up learning something new. She even sports 'she/her' pronouns now.
Two things stand out.
One, she came to know conservatives through a sexual attraction angle, through her attraction to a handsome and nice young manly man, which might just be a novelty to her, given the pajama boys she'd been exposed to. Manly men evoke lines between the sexes, different perspectives from her own, set roles instead of fluid ones where no one knows where to stand on the social map despite different drives and interests. A manly man might just open the door to chivalry rather than the confused sex life she had experienced, with, as Mona Charen wrote 'shaded truth.' That sort the manly conservative with conservative values must have presented some kind of order to her -- and been attractive. As the French say, vive la difference.
Two, it might just be that it takes someone with an artistic orientation, as she has, to do it. Artists break orthodoxies, that's rule number one. They disrupt, they refuse to conform. We see some startling examples of conservatism and libertarianism in famous artists at times - think of some of the statements that sound like de facto conservatism of Ed Ruschka or the very openly conservative playwright David Mamet. The really good artists are unafraid to offend. Which might put her in the same league - and which might confirm the Andrew Breitbart tenet that conservatism much gain control of the culture before it gains control of the politics. This interesting story from the maturing Sulkowicz suggests that the door to that is actually open.