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!