The Women Of #OWS: 'We Are The 51%!"

I wrote a piece with my impression of the Occupations I've visited so far.

From The Atlantic:

During the very first week of the Occupation in LA I noticed that the gender breakdown in its General Assembly (GA) and various committee meetings was roughly the same as the within the U.S. Congress. In other words, about one-fifth of those who were participating in the (small d) democratic part of this Occupy encampment were women. It was the same with the people who slept in the camp.

This is pretty consistent throughout the movement in general.

Thus far I've visited eight Occupations in the U.S. and Canada, four on the West coast and four on the East: Toronto, New York City, Baltimore, DC, Los Angeles, San Francisco, the University of California at Berkeley and Oakland.

The only GA that had anywhere near gender parity was the largest one there's been yet -- the GA on the day of the general strike at U.C. Berkeley. The largest GAs will only turn out 500 people max; Zuccotti Park is a tiny granite slab in lower Manhattan and can't fit many more than that. But the Mario Savio Steps at Sproul Hall at Berkeley held more than 4,000 students and activists -- and half of them appeared to be female. (Go Bears!)

This is not an expose of the Occupy movement's outlook toward women or to suggest attitudes within it are radically different from those found elsewhere. I was also screamed at and called "bitch" at Occupy LA, but frankly I'm called worse in my fan mail on a daily basis. Yet as this movement has been in the media at a near constant rate for now two months, the story telling about it has not evolved. There's either the agenda "journalism" whose practitioners show up to paint the protesters as violent or stupid or its equally useless counterpart, a virtual livestream of reporting on every detail, no matter how trivial. Everything else is crime reporting: How many arrests? Who's pepper sprayed? Who's died? No wonder we still hear the question: "What do they want?"

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.

The whole piece is here.


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