Today I address the Occupy Movement directly, with a special focus on how it relates to women and women’s issues. I searched the web for a variety of expert opinions on the subject and have excerpted a few here (bolding some passages for emphasis). Please join in on the conversation by adding your own opinions or linking to any piece that you’ve found enlightening.
Mary Gatta, a senior scholar at the Washington-based nonprofit Wider Opportunities for Women:
The movement’s success in bringing attention to income inequality may help narrow the gender-wage gap. The more people, and especially young women, talk about it, the more likely society is to reject the notion that it’s irreversible. Seeing the pay gap as part of this larger economic inequality that’s being talked about by Occupy Wall Street, I think, is very promising. Awareness and education are really important. (Source: BusinessWeek.com)
Tina DuPuy, nationally syndicated op-ed columnist, investigative journalist, stand-up comic, and on-air commentator:
This movement is complex — how the members define themselves, how important the tents are (or are not) and what they’re doing is still being worked out in marathon meetings and through endless committee votes. This process of identity-formation is made only more complicated by police raids, and by the tear gas and pepper spray that gave greeted protest in some cities. Occupiers all viscerally sense the problem: extreme economic inequality. They all cite a lack of fairness — a lack of opportunity. They also agree that the status quo is failing.
But when it comes to women, Occupy is really a microcosm of the greater culture at large. This should give comfort to those who find Occupy’s dynamics puzzling — and greatly embarrass those in the movement who see themselves as revolutionaries. America’s gender conflict fault-lines are making a familiar reappearance inside Occupy, with results both predictable and novel.
I’m not the only one to notice the Occupy gender gap. This issue is talked about at GAs [general assemblies held by the Occupy Movement], I’m told, a lot. Nearly every night at Occupy LA, the question comes up: “What can we do to get more women out here?”
Of course there are women out there — and they are in the line of fire. Brandy Sippel, three-months pregnant, was clipped by a car during a protest with Occupy D.C. The driver sent three others to the hospital that night and was released by police. At a press conference the next day, the Metropolitan Police Department implied she and the other victims were “drunk diving” on cars. Another pregnant woman was pepper sprayed by police at Occupy Seattle. The police said pepper spray wasn’t harmful or they wouldn’t be using it. Susie Cagle, a journalist covering Occupy Oakland, says that when she was arrested during a raid by police, there were a higher percentage of women arrested on the roster than who were normally at the camp.
For an absurd contrast to these facts, last week a year-old Maybelline ad campaign for “Baby Lips” lip gloss resurfaced online. In a display of tone-deafness as to what it would take to make women protest, it shows models taking to the streets demanding softer lips, confronting cops with kisses and parading around with a banner reading “no more basic lip balm!” over the Brooklyn Bridge. Liberal bloggers immediately dubbed it L’Oreal’s attempt to co-opt Occupy, until the upload date on YouTube was noted. To me it was more like an ironic half-right foreshadowing; the majority of the Occupy protesters are not the target market for lip gloss.
There have been a couple of alleged rapes reported in encampments. One was in Occupy Baltimore during the first week of their encampment. Police said the victim’s claim lacked credibility and dismissed it. Another was at Occupy Philadelphia and is still being investigated by police. One protester was arrested in New York for rape. There’s this volatile mix of those waiting to pounce on anything to discredit Occupy and an open public space where female protesters are sleeping that absolutely anyone can wander into. There have been no reports of men being raped at Occupations.
Sadly, many responses have been much like the ones in the wake of correspondent Lara Logan’s sexual assault in Tahrir Square while covering their revolution: Yes, it’s tragic and awful, but you know you’re vulnerable so why are you out there?
Why are they out there? Why sleep in tents and risk being confronted by police only to be slighted by fellow revolutionaries at the same time? It’s simple: these women believe the country is broken and they see the Occupy movement as a solution.
What is Occupy’s solution to its gender disparity problem? Occupy LA has a code of conduct and a zero tolerance policy for any violence or assault. Of course, it also lacks the ability to keep people out of the public space the camp is in. Occupy D.C., a more stable camp because it has not been raided, is able to work out intricate documents like a Declaration of Occupation (leaked last week), has set up a women’s tent. At first the idea was resisted because the men felt that inequality meant special treatment for one gender and equality meant equal treatment. Then the group consensus came around. Women needed a safe place. Some women have said its purpose is for “group menstruation.” (Shades of The Red Tent.) “There’s a legitimate reason and then there are fucking hippies,” said one male Occupier who’s proud of the new development. But it’s really an effort by the women there to make women feel more at ease at McPherson Square. Men there also have agreed to self-police other men and remind them sexist language makes women uncomfortable. Will that bring the numbers of female Occupiers up? Like everything else with Occupy, it’s all too soon to tell. (Source: The Atlantic)
Miki Kashtan, Ph.D. (sociology) and co-founder, lead facilitator and trainer of Bay Area Nonviolent Communication:
… if I imagine for a moment that the Occupy movement succeeds in replacing existing governments with some other form of governance, I am not so confident that the outcome will be what I most long for: a world that truly works for everyone.
I am fearful that the people who are now the 1% would be mistreated, shamed, incarcerated, or even executed. I am fearful that women will still have an equally challenging time having physical safety, full inclusion in decision-making, and the possibility of affecting the ways that decisions are made. I am fearful that racial and ethnic divides will continue to plague us, and that some people will continue to suffer poverty and human indignities. I am fearful that consumption will continue rampant and the march towards depletion of the earth’s resources will go on. I am even fearful that a new 1% will emerge, sooner or later, and what might be gained would be lost.
Prioritizing social transformation without attending to the ways in which all of us have internalized the very systems and habits of heart and mind that we aim to transform runs the risk of re-creating these systems and habits. From my reading of history, such lack of attention to the internal and relational realms has resulted in astonishing amounts of pain and suffering, sometimes for millions of people. On smaller scales, this lack of attention has meant that many social movements are plagued by vicious conflicts, resentment, cynicism, and despair even while doing inspiring and uplifting work.
I have a very strong desire for the Occupy movement to shift this historical pattern. One of the reasons I have such appreciation for Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. is precisely the depth of their understanding about the personal changes that were necessary to make the movement work. Gandhi put it in simple words: “The very first step in nonviolence is that we cultivate in our daily life, as between ourselves, truthfulness, humility, tolerance, loving kindness.” (Golden Treasury, p. 41.) (Source: Psychology Today)
Neale Donald Walsch, author of the Conversations with God series:
We’re holding protests such as Occupy Wall Street—-because we don’t know what else to do.
… We thought it was a political problem. Then we thought it was an economic program. Those were the only two things that we seriously considered, because we thought our Collective Life was a dyad. And it’s only occurred to us lately that it’s not about that dyad. It’s about the Third Thing that makes the triad. Humanity’s problem is a spiritual problem. It has to do with what people fundamentally believe about themselves and each other–and yes, about God, and the purpose of all of life.
And because more and more of us see this, it’s become very clear that we can’t paint a better picture by using the same brush strokes in the same places with the same colors we used before.
Something’s got to change.
It’s time to tear up the canvas and start over. It is this awareness that is producing the Overhaul of Humanity. It is this awareness that has created the Occupy Movement.
This has nothing to do with “Conservatives” and “Liberals.” That’s why there is in many areas a coming together of Occupy Wall Street and the Tea Party. Both sides of the political spectrum see clearly that the political system in broken—and that people in the middle class are being deeply hurt because of it. BOTH sides want to “wake up” Wall St. and get the rich titans to stop their abuse of the middle class. Both sides want that abuse of power to end.
This is not, I repeat, about Liberals and Conservatives. This is about PEOPLE….people tired of life the way it now is on this planet. (Source: http://www.theglobalconversation.com/blog/)