Jul 082012
 
 July 8, 2012  Posted by  No Responses »

Here is the livestream recording of the Feminist GA at the Occupy National Gathering in Philadelphia last week.  It is heartening to see so many people in attendance and I know that the organizers put a lot of work into making this happen.

I was not able to attend due to long standing other commitments and am therefore somewhat reticent about criticizing, however  I am a bit dismayed by the opening questions asking people to express their thoughts on whether feminism is alienating.  I cannot imagine that question would be asked at a GA focusing on racism.  Or poverty. Or immigration. Etc.  Last I looked, the whole point is to address the fact that women get short shrift in just about every aspect of our existence on this planet and in this case, in the Occupy movement and the reason we are here is to address that.    If you are offended by that, IMHO, that is your problem and not something we should be wasting precious time on in a 90 minute time slot at a national gathering.  That the organizers felt this was necessary speaks I think to just how damaging misogyny in the movement has been.

That said, the declaration that was drafted after the GA is a significant step forward. You can hear it starting at about the 1:09 minute mark in this livestream and I will add a link when the text becomes available.

I also want to share a link to an interesting OccupyCafe discussion about Occupy and patriarchy that includes some really thought provoking comments by Stephanie Van Hook author of Waging Feminism, which looks at the synthesis of feminism and non-violence.  Worth the listen and the read.

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Jun 242012
 
 June 24, 2012  Posted by  5 Responses »

When my sons were young, I used to recite for them a version of the Gettysburg Address that began along these lines,

Four score and seven years ago, our foremothers were busy raising children and putting food on the table back home while our forefathers met in Philadelphia to write the Constitution and Bill of Rights and completely forgot to include the women.

Well the truth of course is that it never occurred to the framers of our Constitution that women or people of color should have equal rights, and we’ve been paying for that prejudice ever since.

Next weekend in Philadelphia, there will be both an Occupy National General Assembly and a Constitutional Convention 2.0. As I’ve noted previously, the second gathering has failed miserably in its stated intent to have equal gender representation. It is however heartening that the Occupy Gathering will be having a Feminist GA on July 1rst at 7pm edt.

There are a number of issues that need to become an integral part of Occupy’s call for social and economic justice in order to fully empower women in our democracy. While I’ve raised these issues before, along with an explanation of why they must be considered essential, I want to point to them again as a call to action to the Occupy movement as it convenes its national gathering. The following is excerpted from my recent remarks to the Civicus “Amplifying Marginalised And Muted Voices” virtual consultation:

If Occupy, as it goes forward, wants to really change the world, it will have to have a zero tolerance for misogyny and violence against women and for that matter, violence against anyone. But as the articulation of that vision develops, we also need to look at what feminism brings to Occupy and why it is so crucial for the success of the movement.

It seems to me to be beyond obvious that if you want true structural economic reform, issues like equal pay, access to childcare, paid maternity leave, etc. have to be an integral part of the Occupy agenda because women are half of the world’s population and without those things, we are not able to participate fully in society.

We also need to address sexual violence, exploitation and trafficking.

Occupy needs to not only call out predatory banks, but also be very clear that the people who were hit the worst by subprime mortgages were poor women of color and it will take women longer to pay off student loans if they are earning less than men. Economic and social decisions almost always have a gendered impact and addressing that needs to always be a part of our work for social change.

And we absolutely must work to get the Equal Rights Amendment through, as well as implementation of the U.S.’s new National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security and it is well past time to insist that the U.S. Senate ratify CEDAW, the Convention On The Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women.

We need to confront the fact that women make up the overwhelming majority of people living in poverty and do the overwhelming majority of unpaid work on which everyone’s lives depend.

And most definitely, we need to put an end once and for all to the horrendous assault on our reproductive rights.

For any real, substantive change for the better to occur, it is critical that issues such as these be addressed.

The above recitation of critical issues is offered not as a complete list but as a starting point.

This 4th of July, let’s insist on the self-evident truth that women’s human rights and empowerment are a necessity for a functional democracy!

 

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Jun 152012
 
 June 15, 2012  Posted by  7 Responses »

I was honored to have the opportunity to participate in the Civicus  “Amplifying Marginalised And Muted Voices” virtual consultation on June 20th.  Here is the prepared text of my remarks about Occupy and Patriarchy and a description of the consultation follows.  The other presenters were Ennie Chipembere of Action Aid, Patrick Anderson of the Forest Peoples’ Programme in Indonesia.  The consultation was moderated by Ciana-Marie Pegus of Civicus.  When the podcast becomes available I will post the link.

Thank you for inviting me to join you today.

In the remarks that I am sharing with you, I will primarily be discussing the Occupy movement in the United States, but with the understanding that this movement for social and economic change takes place in the much broader global context.

The Occupy Patriarchy.org website of which I am the primary author, was begun last October as a forum for fostering a feminist informed discussion of the Occupy agenda and has focused on 2 key issues–sexism and misogyny within Occupy and secondly, why feminist analysis is so crucial to achieving the goals of the Occupy movement.

When the Occupy Patriarchy website ramped up, the intention was to really focus on that second point, but it didn’t take very long to realize that we weren’t going to be able to do that until we addressed the very problematic atmosphere of misogyny that was being reported at Occupy camps in numerous locations both in the U.S. and other countries.

Report after report started surfacing about sexist power dynamics, of women being harassed, shouted down, sexually assaulted and raped. The  sheer number of reports made it all too clear that these weren’t isolated incidents but rather something that was happening systemically throughout the Occupy movement.

The thing that nails me about that is my sense of déjà vu because what we’ve seen at Occupy is a lot like what led me to start the Feminist Peace Network eleven years ago and I’d like to briefly share that history with you because I think it is important background for the discussion of patriarchy in the Occupy context.

Back in late 2001, as the U.S. was getting ready to invade Afghanistan, I was concerned about President Bush’s use of the plight of Afghan women as part of his call to war, because prior to 9/11, we had almost completely ignored their problems.  And I was also concerned about the gender-specific impacts of war and felt that there was a need for a feminist pacifist presence in the peace movement.

It was also quite clear that the mainstream of the anti-war movement that was ramping up then was for the most part, dismissive of those issues and when I brought them up, I was told that I was off-topic and divisive and that those issues could be addressed later. I began to feel uncomfortable in those discussions and felt there needed to be a space where those issues could be discussed in a supportive atmosphere.  And thus was born the Feminist Peace Network.  Unfortunately, within the context of the Occupy movement, feminists have once again been hearing those conversation stoppers.

The misogynist blowback experienced at Occupy is also disturbingly reminiscent of what women in what we refer to as Second Wave Feminism experienced in the 60’s and 70’s.

In fact feminist icon Robin Morgan, who wrote the seminal book, “Sisterhood is Powerful”, wrote to tell me how thrilled she was to see a website like Occupy Patriarchy and how livid she was to see all this happening again.  I interviewed her at length about this and you can find a link to that interview on both the Feminist Peace Network and Occupy Patriarchy websites.  Morgan also pointed to the global context of  misogyny in Occupy, something that I think is crucial to understand.

As we all know, women played a pivotal role in the Arab Spring, which preceded Occupy.  But what we have seen since has been discouraging, with women protesters in Egypt for example being arrested, beaten and forced to undergo virginity tests, and with very little progress in women’s rights and in some cases very blatant statements from those who have stepped in to take over the power void to the effect that women’s rights are most definitely not on the agenda.

Nor have women’s human rights been an integral part of the Occupy movement.  In retrospect, looking back to 2001 when I formed FPN, it was probably pretty naïve that I thought the peace movement would be concerned about the impact militarism would have on women’s lives.  But ever the optimist, in 2011, I really was excited because I felt sure the Occupy movement in the U.S. would be concerned with things like the Equal Rights Amendment, equal pay, childcare and so on.

But it quickly became apparent that not only were these issues not a de facto part of the Occupy agenda, when women tried to bring them up, or for that matter tried to speak up about anything, they were hearing the same reaction that feminists have heard time and time again.

And here we get to the crux of the problem which is that like too many progressive movements before, women’s rights and agency have not been seen as an integral part of the Occupy movement and all too often, women have been seen as sexy eye candy, not significant participants in the movement.

Clearly, if Occupy, as it goes forward, wants to really change the world, it will have to have a zero tolerance for misogyny and violence against women and for that matter, violence against anyone.  But as the articulation of that vision develops, we also need to look at what feminism brings to Occupy and why it is so crucial for the success of the movement.

It seems to me to be beyond obvious that if you want true structural economic reform, issues like equal pay, access to childcare, paid maternity leave, etc. have to be an integral part of the Occupy agenda because women are half of the world’s population and without those things, we are not able to participate fully in society.

We also need to address sexual violence, exploitation and trafficking.

Occupy needs to not only call out predatory banks, but also be very clear that the people who were hit the worst by subprime mortgages were poor women of color and it will take women longer to pay off student loans if they are earning less than men.  Economic and social decisions almost always have a gendered impact and addressing that needs to always be a part of our work for social change.

And we absolutely must work to get the Equal Rights Amendment through, as well as implementation of the U.S.’s new National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security and it is well past time to insist that the U.S. Senate ratify CEDAW, the Convention On The Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women.

We need to confront the fact that women make up the overwhelming majority of people living in poverty and do the overwhelming majority of unpaid work on which everyone’s lives depend.

And most definitely, we need to put an end once and for all to the horrendous assault on our reproductive rights.

For any real, substantive change for the better to occur, it is critical that issues such as these be addressed.

It bears remembering that feminism has in fact been addressing these issues for a long time.  We know what is at stake and we bring that expertise and experience to the table.  Institutions such as Wall Street are manifestations of the far deeper and greater problem of patriarchy, which depends in large measure on the exploitation, disempowerment, and subjugation of women.  For any real economic and social justice to be gained for the 99 percent, those issues certainly need to be addressed.

It is encouraging that there will be a Feminist General Assembly on July 1rst when the Occupy National General Assembly is held in Philadelphia, the symbolic birthplace of American democracy.  As the Occupy movement continues, I think that there is a real opportunity to develop a broader commitment from progressives to work on issues such as those that I have discussed here from the understanding of a feminist lens.

But that opportunity will not be easily realized and must be predicated on the understanding that Wall Street is a manifestation of the problems we face, not the root cause, and real change must also include confronting misogyny in the movement itself.

That concludes my remarks and I look forward to your questions and comments.  I also encourage you to visit occupypatriarchy.org and feministpeacenetwork.org and to join in our Facebook discussion.  Thank you!

———-

AMPLIFYING MARGINALISED AND MUTED VOICES

A virtual consultation hosted by CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation, Wednesday 20 June, 2012 at 1 pm UTC/GMT

The work of organised civil society sometimes serves to reinforce existing paradigms of power and of exclusion. Global alliances such as CIVICUS must live their values by practicing and promoting diversity within our organisations, networks and programmatic work. As a platform organisation, CIVICUS needs to facilitate access for muted voices in order to ensure just processes and decisions, particularly in the global arena to ensure the inclusion of traditionally excluded, exploited, and marginalised groups. The challenge lies in moving beyond shallow, box-ticking approaches and towards forming legitimate partnerships with marginalised groups and mainstreaming their issues and concerns into our core work.

Join us as we explore how can CIVICUS increase access for muted voices locally, regionally and globally and how CSOs can form genuine partnerships marginalised groups.

This webinar will feature presentations on:

Patriarchy and the Occupy Movement – Lucinda Marshall, Director, Feminist Peace Network

Gender mainstreaming – Beyond box-ticking – Ennie Chipembre, Acting Country Representative, Action Aid South Africa

The role of international solidarity and a global alliance in amplifying marginalised and muted voices – CIVICUS staff member

The session is expected to last for 90 minutes. 50 minutes will be dedicated to an open discussion during which you are invited to share your experiences and perspectives.

Click here to register.

Space is limited so mark your calendar and register now!

If you have any further questions about the webinar, please contact Ciana-Marie Pegus (ciana-marie.pegus@civicus.org).

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May 282012
 
 May 28, 2012  Posted by  1 Response »

Several days ago, I got an e-mail from two longtime feminist activists who pointed out that the upcoming National General Assembly, Continental Congress 2.0 being planned for July 4th in Philadelphia had a gender problem. Despite a goal of delegate gender equity calling for there to be one woman and one man as delegates from each state, the current slate of candidates is overwhelmingly male.  To date, no effort has been made to address this and as Rajchelle Miller and Carol A. Bouldin detail in their memo (excerpted below), when Rajchelle tried to run as a delegate, she was not allowed to sign up.

While it may not be possible to achieve total gender equity at this late date, there is still time to make a significant effort to rectify this situation and we urge the Congress organizers to act immediately on this and to devote time at the Congress to discussing why this happened and what can be done to assure that it doesn’t in the future.  Here is Carol and Rajchelle’s memo:

URGENT MEMORANDUM
TO: PARTICIPANTS AND STEERING COMMITTEE, NATIONAL GENERAL ASSEMBLY, CONTINENTAL CONGRESS 2.0
FROM: RAJCHELLE MILLER, ASPIRING DELEGATE; CAROL A. BOULDIN, DELEGATE, ON BEHALF OF ALL WOMEN
SUBJECT: GENDER-BALANCED REPRESENTATION, ONE WOMAN ONE MAN PER DISTRICT
DATE: 5/28/12

We are writing to urgently call your attention to the fact that the current list of delegate candidates DOES NOT MEET the stated intention to have ONE WOMAN and ONE MAN from each Congressional District, an essential feature of the National General Assembly document, and necessary to a successful, democratic and transformative assembly. The voter registration section of the website  specifically declares to voters that there will be gender balance in the election of delegates: “On the weekend of June 1st, 2012, the People shall elect two Delegates, one identifying as male and one identifying as female, by democratic vote, from each of the existing 435 Congressional Districts, DC and PR, and four U.S territories, to represent the People at a National General Assembly.” We acknowledge the Assembly for this commitment.

As of May 25, the current gender balance of delegate candidates is 155 women and 495 men, a situation in which women are outnumbered over 3 to 1 and men exceed 50% of 876, the target total, both of which are unacceptable. When Rajchelle Miller, who is interested in becoming a delegate, attempted to access the “Become a Delegate” link on May 22, it went to a page with the message “Error 404 – Page Not Found”, and it would appear that delegate nomination has been prematurely closed in a state of gross gender imbalance, affecting many others who can still be and are needed as delegate candidates. This situation should be remedied right away. We suggest the following 4 steps:

  1. The “Become a Delegate” section of the Website be reactivated, and kept open through June 22, pending the achievement of equal numbers of women and men candidates.
  2. Email (and wherever possible, telephone) outreach be made to Occupy Delegate Candidates, Occupy websites, pro-democracy websites and women’s organization websites in every State to notify Occupy and related communities in every Congressional district, that women delegates are urgently needed, and are being actively recruited/drafted at this time to meet the necessary specifications of one woman and one man from each district of the original National General Assembly document. Each State Coordinator actively contact and recruit 8-11 women from its constituent occupy activist communities (and if need be, other online pro-democracy, pro-women) resources, alerting them to the current gender imbalance and the pressing need for more women candidates for the National General Assembly to meet the originally-intended goal.*
  3. The planned National General Assembly election, which we understand will be assisted by Votenet Solutions, is online, very convenient and quick, and therefore we suggest it be held June 23 instead of June 1, still leaving enough time for late-entry delegates to make travel arrangements for July 4. We assume the online election will use a “zipper” ticket approach, as is used in Scandinavia and other countries, and implied by the original document: Vote for one woman and one man from each district.
  4. It would appear that the National General Assembly Steering Committee is currently composed of two women and four men. We urge the addition of two more women to achieve balance of gender and in order to uphold its importance for the National General Assembly as well. If needed, we would be willing to join the Committee in order to offer support towards achieving gender balance.

One woman and one man from every district at the National General Assembly is the only evolved, intelligent, and fully human and planet-friendly solution; it is the central issue of human anthropology at the root of all grievances and solutions, and we feel that delaying the voting process long enough to allow for some outreach–with which we are ready and willing to assist–in order to achieve parity in this regard is vital.

This matter is Urgent and Time Sensitive. Your timely reply is requested and essential. Thank you for all your efforts towards an equitable assembly, and we will assist you in making this intention into a reality.

  • Carol A. Bouldin, LMFT, Delegate Candidate
  • Rajchelle Miller, Ph. D., Aspiring Delegate and Participant at Large

*Active recruitment and outreach to women is the way gender balance has been successfully achieved in many other countries. Journalist Thom Hartmann recently reported on the importance of it to democracy.

In time, this model of one woman and one man from each jurisdiction should also be sent to National General Assemblies and Occupy General Assemblies in other countries and international/global bodies. In the meantime, a simple but practical example of how (and an online location where) National General Assembly website participants can vote for gender balance in this National General Assembly, all national and regional general assemblies, and national congresses/parliaments, in our and all lands is available at: http://arkearthinbalance.webs.com/occupywithgenderbalance.html#Vote

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Apr 022012
 
 April 2, 2012  Posted by  5 Responses »

Over the course of the last few weeks, I have had the opportunity to speak about Occupy Patriarchy and why feminism is so important to the success of the Occupy movement at the University of Pennsylvania, at a panel organized by the Lysistrata Gender Working Group at NYU and at a panel discussion at the National Young Feminist Leadership Conference.

One of the key things that I discussed is why the issues that feminists routinely prioritize are so important to the Occupy movement.  Those issues include:

  • Equal pay and ending other forms of economic discrimination
  • Childcare
  • Paid maternity and paternity leave
  • Zero tolerance of violence against women, sexism, sexual harassment and other misogynist behavior
  • Ending sexual exploitation and trafficking
  • Getting the Equal Rights Amendment ratified
  • Implementation of the National Action Plan for Women, Peace and Security
  • Funding the Violence Against Women Act
  • Ratification of CEDAW the Convention on All Forms of Discrimination Against Women
  • Reproductive justice (including the right not to have a child, the right to have a child and the right to raise children
  • Zero tolerance on the assault on women’s reproductive health
  • Valuing unpaid work such as childcare, eldercare and housework

Nat'l Young Feminist Leadership Panel on Occupy and Feminism

For any real substantive change for the better to occur, it is critical that these issues be considered an integral part of the Occupy discussion because institutions such as Wall Street are manifestation of the far deeper and greater problem of patriarchy, which depends in large measure on the exploitation, dis-empowerment and subjugation of women.

As the Occupy movement continues, I think that there is a real opportunity to develop a broader commitment to addressing these issues. But that opportunity will not be easily realized and must be predicated on the understanding that Wall Street is a manifestation of the problems we face, not the root cause, and real change must also include confronting misogyny in the movement itself.

It is not sufficient to say that we have to come together as the 99% against the 1%.  The needs of the 99% are not homogenous and it is not acceptable to say that it is divisive when we point this out.

While the Occupy movement has been developing, the war on women has become a nightmare of hateful, ignorant, daily attacks on women’s human rights.  It is urgent that this be stopped and presents an opportunity for the Occupy movement as a whole to stand up for women’s lives and say that this war must stop.  On April 28th there will be rallies in all 50 states and in Washington, DC calling for an end to the war on women.

Occupy Patriarchy calls on the Occupy movement everywhere to support and attend these rallies because an attack on the 52% is an attack on the 99% and if we want to confront Wall Street, then we MUST confront patriarchy.

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Mar 152012
 
 March 15, 2012  Posted by  3 Responses »

Earlier today, I wrote a post about an Occupy poster that I felt was misguided, patriarchal and sexist. Occupy Posters which had posted the poster in the first place did not care for the criticism, and compared me to the GOP and then intimated that I was a movement infiltrator. Others chimed in to support my position and that proved too much for Occupy Posters which scrubbed the unfavorable comments and banned us from the discussion. But have no fear, I saved most of the conversation before it disappeared and you can see what it said before it got censored:

There were a few more comments that unfortunately got scrubbed before I saved them, but you get the idea.  Many thanks to those who chimed in so supportively.  This conversation has been a good reminder about why we indeed need to be discussing misogyny and patriarchy within the Occupy movement.

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Mar 152012
 
 March 15, 2012  Posted by  8 Responses »

According to Occupy Posters, there is a simple solution to the war on women–unmarried women have to get out and vote.

Phew glad we solved that.  Not.

Yes of course if unmarried women aren’t voting, they should if they believe in the electoral process. But hello?  First you call us whores and now you tell us it is on our backs to end this misogynist spew fest?  I don’t think so.  What about all the white married guys who voted for them in the first place?  Where is the poster about them?

And I don’t know how to break it to you, but the war on women was going on long before women got the vote. Why do you think we weren’t granted the right to vote in the Constitution?  What was that Declaration…we hold these truths…that all men are created equal well all white men, but that was assumed and never mind the women who are home tending the hearth and changing diapers while just us guys decide how to word this thing.  You get my drift.

As this unprecedented and increasingly insane war on women continues, lets be very clear:

  1. These attacks against women hurt everyone.
  2. How dare anyone say it is on the backs of women to end this frenzy of patriarchal hatred.  It is equally up to men to step up to the plate and say that this must stop.
  3. In promoting this poster, we once again see the Occupy movement completely missing the point when it comes to the empowerment and rights of women.

Occupy Patriarchy calls for the immediate removal of this poster.

 

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Mar 122012
 
 March 12, 2012  Posted by  No Responses »

Feminist Peace Network Director Lucinda Marshall will be speaking about Occupy Patriarchy in Washington, DC, Philadelphia, and New York City at the following upcoming events, the first 2 are open to the public, the conference requires registration.

Lecture: Confronting Patriarchy: The Occupy Movement From A Feminist Perspective
Thursday, March 22, 6pm
Benjamin Franklin Room
University of Pennsylvania
3417 Spruce St.
Philadelphia, PA

Panel: Occupy Gender: Patriarchy and Gender Experiences in the Occupy Movement
Tuesday, March 27th, 4-6p
NYU Center for Global Affairs
15 Barclay Street
(The NYU entrance to the Woolworth Building)
New York, NY 10010
Room: TBA
(note: this will probably be via Skype, but possibly in person)

Panel: Grassroots Uprising: Fueling the Revolution Against Gender Oppression and Economic Exploitation
National Young Feminist Leadership Conference
Saturday, March 31, 12:15-1:30 pm
Hilton Crystal City
Arlington, VA

 

 

 

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Feb 202012
 
 February 20, 2012  Posted by  5 Responses »

Great thanks to Mimi Yahn for permission to reprint her excellent essay, Whose Occupy.

Whose Occupy?

January 11th was the 100th anniversary of the Bread & Roses Strike. It was more than a strike that successfully raised wages and improved working conditions for 250,000 textile workers throughout New England, more than a strike involving over 20,000 mostly immigrant workers speaking 45 different languages: it was a strike called by no one, led by no formal organization, but spontaneously initiated, organized, led and won by women. From the mass meetings—where the people’s mic consisted of continuous translations—to organizing actions that formed human chains around entire factory blocks; from organizing strikers’ welfare committees to going head-to-head with armed police and state militia called in to break the strike by any means; from organizing soup kitchens to ensuring the safety of their children by sending them to allies and supporters in other cities, it was the women who carried out most of the organizing and who consistently and persistently refused to let the men take over. It is the strike most famous for the banner carried by a group of women and young girls that read: “We Want Bread And Roses, Too.”

This understanding of the link between the personal and the political, between the human body and the human spirit, is what gives women our power and wisdom to lead. But you’d never know it from looking at the Occupy Movement.

Women have been pushed to the margins, just as they’ve been in every failed revolution and progressive movement throughout history and across the globe. Once again, women are being threatened, silenced and made irrelevant by those accustomed to writing the agendas, formulating ideology, setting policy and implementing practice.

The media—both mainstream and alternative—have played into this: The vast majority of images, interviews, videos and articles feature men as the dominant face and brains of the Occupy Movement, as if only the men’s opinions matter as the important experts and thinkers of Occupy. Worse yet, it is one race that predominates, even in the images of women: the white race. As if whites, and especially white men, represent the 99%.

But the images of Occupy presented both by the mainstream and the alternative media is an image that has more to do with image itself and far less to do with the realities of the 99%. The mainstream press mostly portrays the movement as a bunch of leaderless, unemployed (male) street kids and their female camp followers, while the alternative media present an idealized image of noble, brave, young men fighting in the trenches for the rights of the downtrodden, while their radicalized girlfriends stand bravely but quietly beside them, occasionally bearing the brunt of some out-of-control cop’s tear-gassing spree.

Neither present the women who are angry and in the trenches every day struggling against the same injustices taking place within the movement that they struggle against outside the movement. Neither present the deep analyses and outsider perspectives of women because our opinions don’t count. There’s no mention of the women who continue to be sexually harassed and assaulted, who continue to be pushed further to the margins to form their safe spaces and auxiliary caucuses in order to escape degrading and dismissive attacks, no discussion of how a movement can call itself progressive while its women cannot safely participate unless accompanied by a man.

None of the white media talk about the hard decisions that people need to make about whether or not to involve themselves and their own communities in a movement that is so clearly dominated by whites who so clearly hold onto their privilege by behaving as if the rest of the world’s populations are merely guests and bystanders rather than participants and co-creators of this movement. Do people really want to ask their families and friends to willingly put themselves into yet another racist situation, where their minority presence guarantees no allies?

Already, the dominance of men has been established and the exclusionary agendas they consider important implemented. Though attempts to introduce “fetal rights” have so far been blocked around the country, Occupy Austin decided that since abortion is a “divisive” issue, it will not be part of any Statement of Principles or official action plans. Of course, no progressive woman would ever agree to that since reproductive rights are absolutely fundamental to our most basic human rights. But the men who have taken over the thinking, policy-making and agenda of the Occupy Movement have decided that, since reproductive rights don’t concern them, it’s a minor issue. More than that, their lifelong privilege as men gives them the certitude that they have the right to make decisions for those they consider less relevant, less valued to the Movement and the human race.

For women, whose marginalization always includes terrorized silencing through physical and sexual violence, and who have almost no training in fighting back, the choice is no choice at all: Either remain silent and remain with us or go off and do your own “little” thing far from the main movement. For women, whose dehumanization and objectification has always included being reduced to her reproductive body parts—body parts which she doesn’t even have the right to own, control or protect from assault—the choice is never hers. The decision as to whether the basic human rights unique only to women should even be on the agenda is left up to those whose privileged body parts make them uniquely protected from those human rights abuses.

These are the choices we’ve been given for thousands of years: Put our own rights aside for the “greater good,” choose between your race or your gender, your religion or your gender, support your man or be a traitor to the cause. Even sexual orientation has been disconnected from gender oppression—as if only straight women experience misogyny and lesbians only experience homophobia the way gay men experience it—leaving lesbians to choose between the struggle that most oppresses them.

The principles of the early days of the Occupy Movement included recognition of privilege and a commitment to addressing and undoing the destructive, counter-productive and regressive behaviors that arise from privilege. Step back/Step up was immediately instituted at General Assemblies: This meant that those traditionally holding privilege—those who were accustomed to being the first to speak, the ones accustomed to dominating the room and the agenda—would step back, remain quiet, while those whose voices, ideas and perspectives were rarely heard would step forward. White men were to listen for a change and begin understanding that their ideas and voices weren’t the only ones that mattered. Women and people of all other races were to be given priority for speaking, setting the agenda and leading this movement to a new paradigm.

It didn’t work. Just as governments and corporations won’t stand idly by while citizens take power into their own hands, within a few weeks the entitled men who had come to Occupy in order to have their voices and ideas listened to and heeded began lashing back to retake their privilege.

In Occupys across the country, similar stories have been emerging: When people bring up the subjects of misogyny and racism, they hit back with proposals to ban those words from all public Occupy discussions permanently because they’re “divisive.” In Oakland one woman was told that including discussions about how “Blacks, Indigenous People, and Asians have been colonized in this country was a distraction,” while in Nashville, an attempt to form a women’s caucus was labeled “divisive.” In Boston, a proposal was presented to allow rapists to return after a specified period to present their case for remaining in Occupy. In New York, an angry demand was made that a women’s caucus be summarily disbanded because the women failed to include the words “female-assigned, female-identified” in a draft statement. In Nashville, women who raise the issue of the rampant misogyny—which includes cutting off live feeds when women begin speaking, refusing to allow women to create their own caucus and using social media to slander women who speak out—are being called “bullies” and labeled as “trouble-makers” and “man-haters” with an “agenda.” The Nashville men are also using the centuries-old tactic of labeling women as emotionally unstable and hysterical. As Norma Jones points out on Nashville’s Occupy Patriarchy blog, “Email after email uses language like ‘going off the deep end,’ ‘tantrum,’ ‘chaos,’ ‘severe malfunction.’ And, as elsewhere across the country, men’s postings to blogs, live streams, Facebook pages and the Occupy sites are filled with ugly, dehumanizing comments about women, ranging from crude sexual remarks to suggestions that women “deserve to be beat.”

Meanwhile, where are the men calling for change in misogynist attempts to marginalize women? Before men started becoming defensive, nearly every casual conversation I had with men regarding gender issues resulted in them telling me about the women’s area and the women’s daily meetings, as if that addressed any grievance the “feminists” might have and absolved them from any concern or need to educate themselves about “women’s issues.” More recently in New York, a man sent a request to one of the women’s caucuses for the group to intervene in what he characterized as an inappropriate, exploitative relationship developing between a man in his 30s and a 16-year-old girl. His comment was, “Who will look out for women in this movement if not your group?” But what makes this man who considers himself a member of the Occupy Movement incapable of intervening himself? Does he realize how insulting and dismissive it is to see, once again, a man treat injustice toward a woman as less important than other injustices, less morally imperative that he also “look out for” someone being exploited because of her gender? Instead, once again, sexual harassment and exploitation is disconnected from issues of injustice, oppression and abusive privilege. It’s just a women’s problem, a personal issue; so let the “girls” handle their own separate problems in their own separate safety zones and caucuses. Ironically, earlier that day, a friend posted to Facebook an appropriate quote by Desmond Tutu: “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.”

One of the worst and most insidious tactics I’ve seen yet is being implemented in New York’s Occupy. A group of white men are now claiming that they are being marginalized because they are losing their prerogative to speak whenever, wherever and for however long they want.

Let’s be clear about this: marginalization is oppression, and there is real violence, real blood, and real dehumanizing, objectifying, terrorizing physical and sexual assaults in those words and the lived experiences that inhabit those words.

Marginalization is not getting nervous and uncomfortable because you may no longer be masters of the universe. To use that word to describe what the 1% is feeling right now is an affront and utter dismissal of the human injustices done daily to the 99% who have been silenced, enslaved, impoverished, deprived of basic human rights, and yes, marginalized for too many thousands of years. And it is an inappropriate and outrageous insult to the dignity and very existence of every person who endures real marginalization and oppression every single fucking day.

There will be many women in the Occupy Movement who will be angry with me for airing the dirty laundry, but they’ll be even angrier at me for the loud, aggressive and combative tone of this article. These men are part of the movement—they’re crucial to the movement—we should not be antagonizing them or creating divisions.

Sisters, the divisions were created the day you were born. If my tone is unladylike, it’s because I’m fucking angry and, as a woman and a human being, I have every right to be angry. These men, who use their privilege as a weapon against us in order to occupy what belongs to us all, are not as important to the movement as we are. It is not up to us to be conciliatory, to attempt to adapt to their privilege. It is their privilege and arrogance that divides and weakens the movement. Women—as the ultimate working class, as the class that is at the bottom of every culture, nation, race, and society across the globe and across history—are the Occupy Movement.

Either you’re part of this movement that is all about egalitarianism, co-governing, and a cooperative sharing of life’s bread and roses, or you are not. If you are more concerned with hearing your voice heard above all others, imposing your vision of a revolution—without input, creative development and consensual process by others who do not share your gender, race or privilege—and maintaining your position above all others at all costs to everyone but you, then this is not the movement for you.

If ever there was a movement that needed to be led by people who understand the connection between heart and mind, between the personal and the political, it is the Occupy Movement. If ever there was a people whose past history proves extraordinary power, strength and leadership in the face of crushing odds, it is women.

I ask sisters everywhere to recognize, cherish and activate your innate abilities to take charge of our world too long run by those with none of the skills, wisdom, heart or strength that we have. We may be marginalized by men, we may be assaulted, deprived of basic human and civil rights, paid less, impoverished more and universally despised, but ultimately it is we who make the decision whether or not to rise up and create the world we want for ourselves and our children.

One hundred years ago, immigrant women and girls who were at the bottom of society, who were paid less than $7.00 for a 56-hour work week, who spoke little or no English, whose lives were enslaved to poverty, stood up from their machines and said, “Enough.” On the hundredth anniversary of their historic and successful uprising, we can honor and carry on their spirit on International Women’s Day.

International Women’s Day, March 8, 2012, holds more meaning than ever before. If ever there was a time for women to rise up in one united, global general strike, this March 8th is the time. Women have borne the brunt of the global economic disaster, and women are continuing to bear the brunt of the political, economic, religious, social, and cultural wars. Across the globe, women are still at the bottom of society. As the New York-based Movement for Justice in El Barrio says, “Women around the world are rising up and saying, “Enough!” Their event will honor the women who “are organizing new movements from Chiapas to Egypt, from Greece to Spain, from South Africa to New York…They are ’indignadas,’ outraged by the staggering inequalities, the violence and deceit, the hatred of democracy, the flagrant corruption and utter disregard for life on this planet that characterize our society, our economy, our governments. They are struggling against this nightmarish status quo, and laying seeds for a new world in the process.”

Click here to continue reading.

———-

Mimi Yahn is a longtime feminist social justice activist, writer, social scientist, artist and musician

 

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Feb 102012
 
 February 10, 2012  Posted by  1 Response »

Several days ago I received an email from the Women’s Caucus of Occupy Montreal regarding their experience with misogyny at Occupy Montreal.  With their kind permission I am reprinting it here because I think it will resonate with many others in different locations.  No one is sadder than I am regarding the  news in their opening paragraph that patriarchy has not yet been occupied, here I thought maybe I might just be able to retire and move to the beach.  But as I pointed out to them, the good news is that we are now just that much stronger because they reached out to share their experiences.

Hi Occupy Patriarchy / FPN! Greetings from Occupy Montreal!

I wish this email came bearing news of an occupied patriarchy and much non-violent, anti-oppressive rejoicing in the snowy streets. Alas, things are looking pretty grim for the Women’s Caucus of Occupy Montreal.

About two weeks ago, a courageous caucus member presented the GA with a fairly basic proposition for progressive stack. While we expected the customary objections and background murmurs, we were in no way prepared for what actually happened. You see, not only was there a fair bit of opposition to the idea (including a “maybe” and a “no”), a white male blocked progressive stack–you heard right: he blocked it.

In the days following this event, submerged in controversy, we caucused it up and evaluated our options: should we back down completely, compromise, or step up? In good “Occupy Patriarchy” form, we opted for the latter. About 48 hours later, we had a document and made it public; clearly, this would justify our position and pave the way for a mature movement-wide dialogue.

Well, the document was largely ignored. And then the “blocker” publicly advised the caucus that the women “shouldn’t have done that” and tacked on something about “the kitchen”. Actually, the comment is so unbelievable that in spite of our desire to limit the exposure this individual’s action may afford him, the caucus feels the comment in its (unfortunate) entirety should be reproduced right here:

“When made aware of [this document] I thought ‘Who gives a flying fuck’ but than I noticed that the 3 first point are directed at me, yes I am the one who blocked… You shouldn’t have done that! Looks like it’s time to guide the woman back to the kitchen!

Exceptionally I will be at the next Occupons Montreal GA to remind some people that getting laid once in a while is recommended by 9 out of 10 doctor.

Not to mention that there was less than 15 ppl present at that “GA” or that that proposition was made on the fly.”

We appreciate our allies (and we do have quite a few!), but it’s getting increasingly difficult to hear them (and ourselves) over the incessant chatter of good ol’ misogyny.

Sincerely,

The W.C. :)

The following is excerpted from their website and provides some very solid ideas of how to make the progressive stack really work.  The full recommendation can be read here.

Recommendations of the Women’s Caucus on the Subject of Progressive Stack

  1. The (measurable) lack of diversity within OM is casually remarked upon but rarely discussed; a movement having difficulty recruiting outside the dominant/majority culture should at the very least implement minor logistical measures–progressive stack, for example–to actualize our supposed ideals, as well as to acknowledge privilege and power within our own spaces.
  2. The Caucus insists that any “stack” devised on the basis of criteria that doesn’t consider marginalised voices not be called “progressive”. OM’s resistance to progressive stack is symptomatic of a broader refusal to acknowledge the dynamics of privilege. To devise a methodology that addresses the problems of disproportional expression without naming or exploring that imbalance is somewhat disingenuous, and goes against the purported non-oppressive character of our movement. While implementation of logistical changes that will ultimately yield similar results to those we have proposed demonstrates a relative willingness to cooperate, the movement’s refusal to verbally recognize the struggle behind such modifications leaves us at some kind of semantic and/or ideological impasse.
  3. “Artificial” (simulated) modes of promoting equality are to be employed as placeholders or gentle reminders until equality arises organically. A useful metaphor is a set of scales that have been imbalanced for centuries, favouring one side. Measures like progressive stack add a counterweight to the other side, balancing the scales. Once the original cause for the imbalance is gone, we can remove the counterweight.
  4. Solidarity means offering support, acknowledgement and active listening, even with regard to struggles we may not have experienced and don’t completely understand.
  5. It has been implied (and even, in fact, stated) that the “beneficiaries” of progressive stack will abuse identity politics in order to bypass process. This is not only offensive in the extreme, but also goes against the unspoken community agreement whereby we assume that an individual is acting in “good faith”, unless we find irrefutable proof to the contrary. How can we, on one hand, decry injustice, and on the other accuse marginalised voices of abusing the “power” of their own identities? Let us remember that disenfranchised communities experience various degrees/forms of oppression every day, in nearly all social situations (even from within, as oppression is internalised); a short reprieve from persistent injustice in the form of progressive stack is nothing to be envied. Furthermore, as with all stacks, progressive stack preserves the right of everyone to speak–no voice is silenced, only ones that have been long unheard are amplified.
  6. Women have objected to the idea of being considered on the basis of their sex. This is actually a sound argument. However, because power dynamics are internalised through early conditioning and promoted in slippery and subtle ways, this line of argumentation disregards the way in which a woman is always considered on the basis of her sex. Though it may seem like people who “benefit” from progressive stack are being differentiated or “singled out”, the truth is far more complex. Regardless of one’s subjective analysis of the situation, the fact is, in mixed gender groups, men tend to speak first, more often, and for longer periods. This dynamic appears in early childhood conditioning and is sustained by (and useful to) patriarchal capitalist culture; it also happens to be invisible and odorless. Studies on this stretch back to the 50s (the 50s!) and are conducted today with similar results.
  7. We urge that the Assembly recognize the concept of stepping back: that dominant voices and identities recognise privilege and power in the room and in themselves, and ‘step back’ from monopolising a conversation in the interest of hearing a diversity of voices and experiences on the topic. We are not here to reproduce the same monopolisation of voice and power as the ‘1%’, we are here to diversify spaces for radical inclusion, and to name centuries of privilege and exploitation of particular demographics of the population, including but not limited to: women, people of colour, members of the LGBTQ populations, non-status individuals, differently-abled persons, the very young and the very old…all these voices are regularly marginalised in our societies. In devising alternate modes of being and redistribution of power in the world, it is our duty and responsibility to listen and learn from prioritising these voices that are traditionally and systemically silenced in our dominant culture. Let us be accountable to our own declarations of values – let us put these principles into practice in order to devise alternate ways of being in the world.
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