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Afghan Women’s Cycling Team Compared to “Mattress Girl” in Twitter Blunder

Tweet compares team to a girl whose rape claim has resulted in university being sued

An American Ambassador has come under fire following an unfortunate comparison between a group of trailblazing cyclists and a woman whose rape charges have resulted in a fellow student suing the university they both attended.

Samantha Power, United States Ambassador to the United Nations, sent two tweets aimed at inspiring women, writing:

We live in a time when wmn have made tremendous strides. True equality req we hear & lift up voices of those whom others choose not to hear.

She followed this, more controversially, by tweeting:

From a wmn carrying a mattress on her campus to Afghanistan’s Wmn’s Nat Cycling Team, reaching true equality req showing change is possible.

The ‘link’ is between the Afghan National Women’s Cycling Team, who battle to ride in the country  “consistently ranked as the worst place in the world to be a woman”, as described by Shannon Galpin, who supports the group.

The women on the team are breaking major boundaries that make our concerns about riding in the UK seem trivial – as Galpin explained: “people fear that straddling a bike could take away a women’s virginity and, for that, she could be killed.”

And the student carrying her mattress?

Powers is referring to Emma Sulkowicz – a student of Columbia University, who said she was raped by another student, and then carried her mattress around campus as an art project to highlight the sexual assault.

Her “Mattress Project” was signed off by the university, and formed part of her course. However, the assailant Paul Nungesser was cleared following a court case in which the judge examined texts from Sulkowicz to the fellow student, sent both before and after the alleged rape in which she requested sex. Nungesser is now suing the university for allowing the “Mattress Project” to smear his name around the university, and outside of it, before the case was complete.

It is not our place to comment on Sulkowicz’ case – and we wouldn’t want to – but since the story is still at a high profile state in America she doesn’t seem like the best figure for Powers to choose in her comparison to the women’s cycling team.

We’re sure Power’s meant no harm or insult in her tweet, but it was certainly an unfortunate mistake which many people suggested belittled the amazing efforts of the Afghan women.

We’d love to hear your thoughts on the messages Powers sent… 

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