kmiriam

Nov 252011
 
 November 25, 2011  Posted by  3 Responses »

Note:  Unfortunately the podcast mentioned before appears to have been taken down.  OP is no longer associated with the producers and so has no control over this.

Dear Readers,

I’m delighted to announce the premiere episode of Feminism Now, a new podcast co-produced by Becca Wilkerson, Catherine Barbarits and myself. On this first episode Lucinda Marshall and I engage in a dialogue about Occupy Patriarchy.  We also talk to a feminist activist at Occupy Houston who has a poignant and fiery story to tell about sexual politics at that site. We interview long-time Filipina feminist and transnational activist Ninotchka Rosca.  Finally, Becca Wilkerson introduces our regular feature The Feminist Commentator. Check out the web-site where Becca’s commentary and my own “Manifesto: installment 1″ for the podcast is also published in print.

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Nov 212011
 
 November 21, 2011  Posted by  5 Responses »

This is the press release sent to us by the coalition that is organizing this event.

 

Facebook Event: http://on.fb.me/sHzun8

Twitter: #WomensAssemblyOWS

WOMEN TAKE LIBERTY: STOP VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN

Women’s Assembly, Speak-Out & Rally at Foley Square, March to Liberty Plaza

November 25, 2011, New York, NY: Boycott Black Friday! March Instead of Shop! On Black Friday, November 25th at 1pm women from across New York City will gather at Foley Square for a Women’s Assembly, Speak-Out and Rally to mark the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, then “Take Liberty,” marching to Liberty Plaza (Zuccotti Park), making the connection that the unregulated exploitation on Wall Street is violence against women. Clear Action for/by Women (CLAW), the organizing coalition comprised of several women’s organizations and unaffiliated women organizers, calls for the elimination of all types of violence against women and demands respect, equity, compassion, peace, security and healing for women, our children, our communities and our world. 

Everyday around the world women-identified persons survive different forms of violence. Physical violence leaves women with traumatic scars. Economic violence causes women to struggle to feed their families.  Sexual violence in our homes and on our streets causes women to feel shame. Political violence silences the power of women’s voices to make decisions in society.  Military violence divides nations of women who want peace. Women’s bodies are regularly disrespected with street and workplace harassment, rape, and other forms of physical and sexual violence. One in 6 American women has been a victim of attempted or completed rape (RAINN). Media corporations make billions with music and films that disgrace women’s bodies, minds and spirits. Women do two-thirds of the world’s work, earn 10% of the world’s income, and own only 1% of the world’s wealth, according to a 2010 UN report. Corporations get nearly 70% of their profit from women workers who earn $2 a day, and women of color are 70% of the global poor. In the U.S., women make as low as $0.52 for every dollar a man makes.

Boycott Black Friday by refusing to shop at corporations that commit acts of violence against women, whether by using physically violent factories abroad or failing to provide health care to workers or paying unlivable wages around the world. We raise our voices to promote a fair and just economic system! March Instead of Shop!

Assemble at Foley Square on November 25, 2011, 1:00 pm

CLAW Coalition Members: AF3IRM/GabNet, ANSWER, Black Women’s Blueprint, Feminism Now Podcast, SisterSong NYC, Trust Black Women, and several unaffiliated organizers

Facebook Event: http://on.fb.me/sHzun8            Twitter: #WomensAssemblyOWS

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Nov 112011
 
 November 11, 2011  Posted by  14 Responses »

NOTE NEW TIME TO ASSEMBLE: 1 pm AT (ANTI)BATTERY PARK

WALL STREET IS VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN!
DISMANTLE IT!!!

On Nov. 25, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, the CLAW (Clear Action for/by Women) coalition will hold an all-women assembly, speak-out and rally at Battery Park, starting at 1 pm, to be followed by a march to Liberty (Zucotti) Park on Wall Street. CLAW is calling for the dismantling of the immoral and unethical economy of Wall Street, whose ingrained allegiance to racism and the patriarchy compounds class war against the 99% with a race war against people of color and a War against Women.

Wall Street’s war against women has created 21 million impoverished women in the US, a 500% increase in the number of jailed women, ¾ of whom have children, and has resulted in 43% of the nation’s children living in households on the brink of impoverishment, with 15 million children in actual poverty. That single women with no dependents are 26% of all poor women shows the all-encompassing War against Women launched by Wall Street.

This denigration of women’s worth has translated into the impunity with which women are physically and sexually assaulted. More than 200,000 women suffer attempted/completed rapes each year, with women aged 24 and under suffering the highest rates of assault. Domestic violence correlates directly to families’ income level with women in the lowest income category being six times more vulnerable to physical violence. Wives comprise 81% of all persons killed by spouses.

Overseas, Wall Street’s globalization practices wields the same horrendous race and gender exploitation so that women of color comprise 70% of the global poor. It is with the voice of women and of the global poor that we speak out and demand the dismantling of the unspeakable horror of class, race and gender exploitation that Wall Street has unleashed upon us. We demand a more ethical and equitable economy and an end to the deliberate victimization of women and of communities and even nations of color.

The Crimes of Wall Street:

  • Women continue to suffer huge income disparity under the patriarchal system of gender and race discrimination. White women workers earn only $0.77 to every dollar a white male worker makes; black women, $0.64 and Latinas, $0.52. This wage discrepancy leads to a loss of $300,000 to a woman worker over her work life.
  • Women constitute 64% of minimum wage workers in the US.
  • Single mothers of color are the hardest hit in the current mortgage crisis, because banks had targeted communities of color for high cost subprime. 35% of current subprime loans actually qualify for lower-interest prime loans, which would have saved many homes from foreclosure.
  • Women are both consumers and commodity in corporate culture, urged to shop even as images of women are used to sell products, from electronics to beer. Women’s bodies are the main merchandise of both the sex and labor trafficking markets.
  • Multinational corporations derive 68% of their global profits from women workers who are paid the equivalent of $2 a day while creating products sold for hundreds of dollars in the US and European markets: electronics, garments, toys. In labor camps stretching from Honduras to Mexico to Cambodia to the Philippines, these corporations, whose stocks are traded on Wall Street, defy labor laws and anti-pollution laws. They take out 100% of their profits from the underdeveloped countries, creating economic catastrophes. Some of these corporations ignore sexual harassment and the victimization of women workers; some sterilize women workers to save on maternity benefits and to keep plants running 24/7.
  • 200,000 women are in the US military; half are deployed overseas, leaving 230,000 children motherless. 30,000 single mothers have been deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan in wars to enable multinational corporations to takeover other countries’ resources.
  • The right to suffrage of women, particularly women of color and female senior citizens, is under attack, with Wall Street’s puppet politicians imposing ever stricter requirements on voting. Districts where people of color predominate are divided and re-divided, to water down the communities’ already limited power within the electoral process.
  • Race and gender discrimination permeates Capitalist Patriarchy and is enhanced by corporatism which categorizes women and women of color in particular as both cheap labor and cheap commodity, as both producers of goods and extreme consumers, as subject to both sexual objectification and sexual repression. The one in 15 people living in extreme poverty in the US today is likely to be a female of color, carrying the triple burden of class, race and gender exploitation.

We say enough and say:
Black Friday Black-out!
March instead of shop!
Assemble at Battery Park on the 25th of November, 2011, 1:00 pm.
WALL STREET IS VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN.
Dismantle it!
Sponsored by: CLEAR ACTION FOR/BY WOMEN (CLAW)
*AF3IRM/GabNet *ANSWER/PSL*BLACK WOMEN’S BLUEPRINT*FEMINISM NOW PODCAST*SISTER SONG*
Contact to endorse this statement and action: nynj@af3irm.org

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Nov 112011
 
 November 11, 2011  Posted by  6 Responses »

I’ve just read a new piece on Persephone Magazine, called “How about We Occupy a Rape Culture.” http://persephonemagazine.com/2011/11/occupy-wall-street-how-about-we-occupy-rape-culture/

The piece is valuable as a compendium of (reported/publicized) cases of men’s assault on women but I was particularly intrigued by mention of an accountability process being implemented by the women at Occupy Wall Street:

The current method of confronting violence. . . . is to identify and isolate the perpetrator/assaulted, call the Mediation/Security folks and talk to them individually. In cases of sexual assault, the survivor would be asked whether they’d like to go to the hospital, call the police, and/or (as these are not mutually exclusive) go forward with an accountability process.

This is the best news I’ve heard so far—even more powerful than the safer-spaces forf women-and-GLBT folks  safe sleeping area. Don’t get me wrong: I’d sleep there in a nano-second if I was physically able to camp on the street at this point in my life.  However, why not re-name “safer spaces” in bolder, imagination-inciting words like Free Space for Women?  Freedom is a precondition of safety, and freedom is what we’re really after right? It certainly seems the right word for what OWS is already creating with its methods of direct democracy and transformation of everyday life. Freedom for women is our ability to determine the conditions of our own participation in movements, and our own demands for the transformation of everyday life–this living of freedom in the here and now is of course a rich resource for cultivating a radical political movement.

The very fact that women are organizing groups like safer spaces shows that women are beginning to invent our freedom–but also shrinking a bit back from it at the same time. I fear that these “safety” zones, rather than gloriously and joyously as well as necessarily angrily manifesting the Freedom of OWS– remain patrolled by invisible electric fences of ideological barriers we dare not cross lest we be taser-zapped by the invisible cops of patriarchy: men in the street, bed or head. In the head means piped in through media-outlets, pornography and everyday discourse among peers. The inner Reality-show-male emcees  warn women that we will no longer be desirable to men if we go too far, or that if we go too far, we might earn the name “feminist” or ‘bad feminist; meaning , among other things, hairy, dyke, castrating feminist.”  While you might not agree with Valerie Solanas in the S.C.U.M Manifesto, she makes some good points one of which is to call out to “thrill seeking females” to stand up to male dominance and men. Surely women of occupy are already thrill-seeking females in their daring to throw themselves into history by organizing this new movement from day 1.

So to women who live at Occupy and/or attend so many meetings: I am inspired by you as you take the step of shifting from targeting “victim blaming” which is abstract and isolates what is actually an effect of the root cause, namely rapists and rape culture to focusing on the perpetrator with an accountability process.  It’s powerful because such a process has the potential of deterrence since no perpetrator wants to be confronted with what they have done but mostly of politicizing the community—in particular the women organizing this—since it is through practice that new ideas and more radical practices have the potential to evolve. When I say more radical, I mean that I encourage the women organizing safer spaces to work at connecting the problem of sexual assault to the larger political picture associated with Wall Street.  In confronting Wall Street, we are confronting Capitalism, a world system based on exploitation. By this I mean that elite classes—a broader swathe than the 1 per cent—is affluent because it lives off the surplus value (profit) extracted by capitalists from low paid workers.  Capitalism is also organized around male power and intersects with the world order of patriarchy based on men’s exploitation of women. Sexual harassment and rape of women must be seen as sexual exploitation, a systemic means for men (a conservative estimate is that 90 per cent of perpetrators of sexual exploitation including the rape and sexual assaults of GLBT folks are men) to use female bodies for male “profit” in the form of surplus-pleasure, controlling interests in sexual relations between men and women.  Rape is one violent form in which sexual servicing is demanded for male needs. The sex industry makes this already systemic power relation even more entrenched as a system in capitalism—and the race basis of much of this sexual exploitation is very important here. From the infamous and infamously banal but banally vicious Hot Chicks of Occupy Wall Street video to the Facebook Page Occupy Vagina to the less extreme but also pernicious tactics with which white men are resisting women’s efforts to organize ourselves: You are divisive; you are distracting from the real issues; you need to stick to one message, etc. The sentiments of male resentment and sometimes rancor are already revealing themselves and thus providing a true object lesson that should further incite women to not only organize but work to name the problem of patriarchy and of men’s sexual exploitation of women that is at the root of the harassment issue–and talk about how this issue connects to other issues of exploitation both sexual and economic and race based or all of the above.

I am also cheered by the goals of women organizers to implement a social contract at the General Assembly that includes stating the conditions under which people will be allowed to stay at Zucotti Park:

In the meantime we’ve been drafting a community agreement, a document that states the conditions under which people are allowed to stay in the park. This has been reviewed at the GA and is still a work in progress. It’s also controversial, as some complain that we’re basically policing the space (except, you know, we don’t have weapons or structural leverage). But it’s called a community agreement because, as people bring it to the GA for amendments, it is a public document developed by the community.

Of course it’s “policing” for women to hold men accountable for abandoning their god-given (they think) and natural normal red-blooded American male rights to demand that women remain physically and/or sexually available to them. Notice that this kind of verbiage is awfully reminiscent of Fox News talk about sexual harassment and unfortunately often echoed by male Lefties in their various venues of speech and action.  Let’s not be scared off by this tactic either!

So I join with the writer of the linked article: Yes, Occupy Rape Culture!  And I urge all to attend the General Assembly (and I will supply date here once I get it) when the community at OWS will debate about implementing the above social agreement.  Courage, Sisters! Keep on stirring it up! There are many of us who have your backs!

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Nov 072011
 
 November 7, 2011  Posted by  4 Responses »

SPREAD THE WORD: Come join us in NYC for a Feminist Day of Action at Occupy Wall Street.  The action is the first day of a National 15 days of action against violence against women.  Feminist organizers include Af3rm, Answer, Blackwomen Blueprint, Sistersong, and Feminism Now (a podcast co-produced by yours truly).

The date is 25th November—“Black Friday”: March instead of Shop

Assemble at Battery Park 4 pm… march to Liberty Square at Wall Street (Women Take Liberty at anti-battery park! Women Take Liberty Square!). End Violence against Women. Dismantle Wall Street. email: nynj@af3irm.org

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Nov 062011
 
 November 6, 2011  Posted by  1 Response »

I arrived at Jamison Park on a rainy Sunday afternoon with concern that interviewable women might be hiding from the weather in their tents, but there were some milling about.

The first woman I spoke with was part of a man and woman team organizing an open mic poetry session. She didn’t know much but expressed disappointment that it was mostly men doing the speaking while men and women were sharing duties on practical matters like food preparation and providing information.

As if to prove the point, then I came across the info desk being staffed by a woman and we talked. Her perspective is that the inter-gender problems she’s seen have involved people bringing their personal problems to camp. “What used to be kept behind walls comes through tents,” she told me before suggesting I inquire at the med tent.

To get to the med tent I had to cross the street, and on the corner waiting with me for the light to change were two policewomen. I asked if they knew anything about the known sexual assault or other gendered violence, and one of them rather unhelpfully told me to go to the city website for information about “assaults against women and MEN.” The other policewoman repeated the suggestion that I ask at the med tent and pointed it out to me, and just in case I missed it the first time around First Cop reminded me that I can get information there about “crimes against women and MEN.”

At the med tent a man with a long and bushy white beard told me the camp is much calmer now than three weeks ago. Portland’s mild weather and abundance of social services has garnered it a larger than average homeless population, and some of the more mentally ill and alcoholic homeless men were being disruptive. Local soup kitchen Sisters of the Road will not serve noticeably drunk patrons so they were going to Occupy Portland’s kitchen and causing a ruckus. He explained that there are still a fair number of homeless people at the camp but the scary, violent ones had since been ejected.

Someone had donated mace and loud horns that the medical tent handed out to women who said they felt unsafe.

Santa Cause also said there was an incident about a week ago with a pregnant homeless woman getting beaten up by the baby’s father. The abuser was seen kicking the woman in the stomach and her face was scratched up. She is still at the camp but he hasn’t been seen for a week, and word had gotten out that he was a known perpetrator and would be ejected if seen again.

There is a tent designated with a sign as the “Sexual Assault Response Team” but when I inquired about it he didn’t have much information.  All he knew was that the one woman whose effort it seemed to be was barely there. On a small dry erase board was the woman’s name and a request for sexual assault volunteers, but there has been no response to my email four days later. I get the sense that a few people are trying to form an organized response but they haven’t had much support.

Next I headed for the Food Not Bombs tent to drop off the sack of apples I’d brought and to speak with the two women running that show. The talkative one said she stumbled across a meeting of women some days ago and thought they might have been having regular meetings, but didn’t know more than that. By day’s end I couldn’t find any postings or announcements about such a group, and I really, really looked. She also expressed disappointment that while other radical media outlets in Portland had an Occupy presence, local women’s bookstore In Other Words was MIA along with the city’s Radical Women socialist group.

My final noteworthy interviews were with two young women hanging out behind the makeshift kitchen. One of them had been there that early day when the rape was reported, and her impression was that the community response was surprisingly quick. “Dealing with that was prioritized at a chaotic time when a lot of construction was going on,” was her take on it. She had just been in Oakland and said that both there and in Portland far more men are taking the public megaphone than women.

Our interview was interrupted by a young woman who had been cleaning the kitchen for the past ten minutes. She came over and calmly said with an air of exhaustion, “There’s a lot of vegetables over there that need to be turned into something.” The less talkative of the pair reacted with a completely unnecessary and haughty, “I don’t react well to being ordered. It’s oppressive, and personally I just don’t respond well to that. If you want to ask me to do something I’ll consider it, but don’t order me around.”

The weary worker asked in a conciliatory tone, “Did you feel that I was ordering you?”

“Yes I did.”

“Well I’m just saying there’s vegetables over there. I mean, I don’t care because I cleaned and now I’m done but anyway…”

Ah, the familiar smell of horizontal hostility. Awkwardness aside, to their credit the two of them de-comforted from their chairs and we said our goodbyes as they headed to the kitchen.

Sam Berg, 11/3/2011

Samantha Berg is National Coordinator for the feminist organization Stop
Porn Culture and founder of http://www.Genderberg.com, an anti-prostitution
activist community since 2005. Her newest website is www.Johnstompers.com

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Nov 042011
 
 November 4, 2011  Posted by  23 Responses »

author: Kathy Miriam

 

The New Now-Moment of Occupy Wall Street

The whole world was erupting as we U.S Americans were watching.  Our noses pressed to the screen-monitors of history we watched as waves of mass rebellion rippled from Greece and Spain to Tunisia, Egypt, and Syria in the Arab Spring where dictatorship after dictatorship was toppled.  And then, who knew? I for one never expected that the waves of protest would find our own shores.  As we watched, only occasionally would a plaintive or angry question pop up: When will we get out on the streets?  Yet when pushed to the brink and over of desperation at the beginnings of the economic onslaught on this country, people were still echoing the noxious nostrums of the new president who preached “no more excuses” and “individual responsibility” to a people suffering the brunt of a crisis put in motion by a financial system that–contrary to the delusions of the left–had put Obama in office.

When the nation began to crash in the first month of the new president’s first term, we did not rush to the streets when Obama appointed for fixing the crisis the same miscreants culpable for creating it. Nor did we riot upon word that while record numbers of people were plunged into joblessness, homelessness, and health crises, corporations were making record rates of profits. Yet Obama called for self-sacrifice and personal responsibility, instructing us that “everyone” had to pitch in in hard times. That we are all one family. Our uncles presumably are not then the thirty major corporations who paid no income tax in the last three years, while making 160 billion dollars?

And there was no revolt among people of color despite the fact that for these communities recession is depression and even “economic holocaust.” Nor did women surge into the streets when sold out by the State’s sudden bequeathing of decision-making power over health-care to Catholic bishops during the non-debates over Obama-care, thus ensuring an outcome that made hash out of reproductive justice for women. The state gambled with women’s bodies and all we got was one lousy rally staged by the same mainstream women’s organizations who had, even prior to taking their phantom seat at the “negotiations,” had abandoned their right to ask for anything more than no-change to the abortion status-quo. Yet the status-quo was already defined by racial injustice to women for example under the Hyde Amendment which denies public funding for abortions.  (See here for my critique of the role of women’s organizations in the health-care debates and the Obama election)

As the new regime commenced year 1, 2 and 3 with its procedural pillaging (making it continuous with predecessor regimes), major left-liberal venues like The Nation were and are still issuing their piteous calls for a real and Liberal Obama to come out of hiding and “do the right thing.”   The sycophantic relation between state and corporate pirates, pimps and priests is reiterated by the established liberal-left in the latter’s long record of genuflection to electoral politics and Democrat Party. In the same vein, as shown by the role of Feminist Majority and Planned Parenthood in the health-care deform, mainstreaming feminism has meant establishing feminism as ancillary to the Party.  Although there are shining exceptions, whatever else remains of the public face of feminism is a brand-feminism of sound-bites and slut-walks; primarily an identity-politics of I am a feminist because I’m empowered by doing anything I choose as long as it’s a choice kind of politics and especially if it’s a choice of my sexual subordination (except I call it empowerment).

Thus in the context of a deracinated, branded Left, Occupy Wall Street has seemed like a miracle. It seemed to have come from nowhere and yet it has come. And it has come as a welcome, indeed essential rupture with the dominant molds of leftist/feminist politics to date.

Taking (to) The Streets

If nothing else Occupy Wall Street has proved that the sanctity of the neoliberal-hyper-individualized-(“no more excuses”)-self-unit is not recession-proof after all. The Occupy movements have sprung free collective outrage from the ideological snare of neo-individualism and its seemingly impenetrable fortress of personal shame and self-blame as a response to economic violence. Through its action, the movement has re-directed resentment outwards from the self to the real cause of wide-shared suffering, namely a System that stops short of nothing in its predatory imperatives to feed on any living substance—from seeds and medicinal herbs to human bodies and whole populations—for its means of extracting surplus-value (profit).  The choke-hold of personal blame and shame—or on the flip-side, the lock-down of positive-think faiths in individual empowerment—gives way as the sense of a human faculty we thought extinct begins to rouse, namely the capacity to act with others for co-determining the conditions of our individual and collective fates.   This capacity to act is the essence of politics itself which means according to philosopher Hannah Arendt, acting in concert with others for goals and objectives, and this essence has been released from hibernation by force of activity itself, the action of the new Occupy movements.

So perhaps the carrying capacity of The Streets has not yet been exhausted? Once teeming with the spirit of rebellion, for decades now (with some exceptions) The Street has been under lock-down, zoned by police-escorted, permit-ted arenas of civilized obedience. Thus public space has been re-privatized, shrink-wrapped to sound-bite-sized feel-good moments of unity whose shelf-life never survives beyond its moment of orchestrated “self-expression.”  “Having a voice” has for so many years become the raison d’etre of protest.  The beauty of Occupy Wall Street is that in its seizure of The Streets, i.e. of material space, it surpasses the merely expressive while retaining symbolic power as “occupation.” But more verb than noun, its dynamism pushes the movement beyond spatial location into a time-zone called the now-moment of history.

 

Occupy Imperialism, Occupy Patriarchy

Very early on in this very nascent movement, people of color organized themselves to push Occupy Wall Street towards new intellectual syntheses that account for the racial structure of capitalism. These groups with their blogs and working groups continue to remind us that capitalism is based on still-living legacies of racialized conquest, colonization, and slave-systems—or in short empire building.  In contrast to the working-groups and blogs of people of color, no comparable development has emerged from women pushing forward a feminist analysis—thus the reason for this blog.

Occupypatriarchy.org is founded to invite feminists to jump into the political opening created by the Occupy movement and forge new analyses and networks of action that show how capitalism is organized around the exploitation of women. We dare to utter that hoary term, “patriarchy” which might stick in the craw given decades of vilification relegating the term to the historical bumper-sticker crop of slogan-kitsch.  Yet patriarchy is a term emphasizing the systemic and structural nature of women’s oppression and exploitation. Patriarchy is a term which makes sense of the fact that “Capitalism kills women” as I read off the Halloween-painted cheek of one young woman activist. For the concept of patriarchy goes farther than capitalism in explaining why it is that capitalism depends for its sustainability on the extraction of surplus value from women’s unpaid work—women’s unpaid and unvalued work is equal to 50% of the world’s GDP  and yet  women only control 1 per cent of the means of production. (See here for a short-list of statistics). This “women’s work” (i.e. work naturalized/normalized as women’s work) consists in care-taking, emotion-tending, sexual servicing, as well as in reproductive labor. The word “patriarchy” explains that it is women’s position as subordinates of men for example as wives, girlfriends, daughters, prostitutes that allows for capitalism to profit off of the services provided by these subordinates. Patriarchy allows capitalism as well as all social classes of men, albeit differently according to race and economic status, to profit off of the appropriation of women’s bodies, sexuality, and minds/emotions as well as labor.

Consider a few examples of how capitalism is really capitalist patriarchy: Consider that it is due to women’s position as an unpaid tender of children and men that austerity cuts slash most brutally at women, specifically impoverished women of color who are forced to take up the slack of all the care-work no longer provided minimally the State. Consider the case of Latina mothers of young children in Hartford, Connecticut. When their state subsidies were slashed under welfare deforms, they were forced to sell food-stamps in exchange for cash for purchasing school supplies  for their children!

Consider too the role played by the U.S sponsored military in a capitalist and imperialist world-order: the military exists in large part to protect corporate interests, and is fueled by and fuels a turbo-masculinity. With the spread of U.S military bases around the world, so spreads the brothels at these bases for sexual appropriation of local women. These populations of women are targeted for the express purpose of servicing military men and their ejaculatory racial fantasies of the colonized women at their disposal.  The sex industry, primarily fueled by demands of men to put women on the market for sale, sustains neoliberal capitalism in other ways. In the most basic sense, as Eve Ensler has pointed out, the poorer women become, the more women become sexually commodified. She reminds us that women can be sold cheaper than a cell phone the world over.   Consider then that developing nations under the yoke of austerity policies imposed by the World Bank and IMF in the service of the corporate interests have turned to the sex industry for a percentage of their GDP. Women’s non-sexual trafficked labor as migrants is also part of this percentage and another pattern in neoliberal capitalist patriarchy.  The systemic appropriation of racialized and colonized women specifically is at a dense nodal point of intersecting systems of exploitation.

I am talking about patriarchy here as a world-order, and feminism as the movement which contests and opposes this world-order. While this understanding of feminism was common twenty or thirty years ago, it has been eclipsed by an identity-politics-view of “women’s issues” smugly ratified by the male white dominant left.   Slavoj Zizek is consummate mansplainer when he grants his celebrity-intellectual imprimatur to Occupy Wall Street in the following narrative of the Occupy Movement genesis: :

“In a kind of Hegelian triad, the western left has come full circle: after abandoning the so-called “class struggle essentialism” for the plurality of anti-racist, feminist, and other struggles, capitalism is now clearly re-emerging as the name of the problem.”

Talk about master-narratives, Zizek would position himself with mastery over history, assuming a god’s-eye-view and assuring us that feminism and anti-racism alike are only phases before passing away into the great synthesis that absorbs their partial-perspectives into the One Unity that counts.  The ugly (to the master) truth is that historical struggles against the race of capitalism, and against patriarchy are very much in process, and will be determined not by the masters of discourse, whether left or right, but by those who are the primary subjects of this struggle. Angela Davis is far more attuned to the historicity of the moment when, in her speech to  Occupy Wall Street she encourages the movement to see that the unity it embraces as “the 99%” is a “complex” unity, i.e. a unity accounting for multiple systems of exploitation including race and gender.

Feminism Now?

Our job is to wake our people up, so that we don’t sleep through this moment.”  Black Agenda Report

Bruce Dixon and Glenn Ford, editors of Black Agenda Report are reminding African-American political activists to determine the outcome of the movement themselves rather than strain to read the minds of the young, white constituency at the core of the present Occupy movement. Feminists need to remind ourselves of a similar task. The need for a feminist presence to develop itself in the space of the Occupy movements shows up painfully within present efforts by women to confront an atmosphere of sexual harassment at the Occupation sites. The stories are filing in, and we do not yet have a clear picture of what is really going on. We do know that working groups like “safer spaces” in New York city have organized to confront the problem yet there is no sign that the groups have drawn political and analytical connections between on-the-ground male dominance and the systems of exploitation that Occupy Wall Street as a movement are contesting.

Davis and Ensler are the exceptions the norms at Occupy Wall Street; at present I have no doubt that resistance to feminism outweighs any signs of a feminist perspective coming to Occupy movements. And yet I remain optimistic. The dynamics of radical protest released by the movement surpasses the particular ways that it has thus far framed and defined itself.  Due to its creation of public space as a space of action, and its rupture with calcified forms of political action, Occupy Wall Street has created a political space where already on a daily basis new groups, unhinged from ties to long-standing institutions and established organizations, are spontaneously creating themselves. (Listen here for brilliant and encouraging interviews with scholar-activist perspectives on Occupy as a historical social movement). Can feminist solidarity reap the whirlwind and reinvent itself within new forms of social association too? My optimism in response to the question derives from the fact that the dynamism released by Occupy Wall Street involves women–lots and lots of young women–who, like their male counter-parts are caught up in the momentum of movement-creating.  This means that women are agitating, aroused anew as political actors on the stage of history.  If there is any situation then, in which feminist ideas might stick and take root, this is it. Will Occupy Wall Street be open to re-orientation through the lens of feminist action and vision? Will feminism re-invent itself as a movement within the new political situation and its force-field of political possibilities? I have no answer; the moment is undetermined, fluid and dynamic in terms of any known outcomes. All I know is that our job– to paraphrase Black Agenda Report– is to wake our people—women—up so that we feminists do not sleep through the moment.

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Oct 252011
 
 October 25, 2011  Posted by  9 Responses »

The following statement was written for a flier by the Feminism Now Podcast Group in NYC.  Becca Wilkerson and myself, Kathy Miriam, collaborated on the writing. Becca did the bulk of the work, and I revised, added, subtracted.  Announcements of our first podcast on feminism and OWS will be forthcoming! The purpose of the flier was to distribute at OWS and what ended up happening was that we used the flier as simultaneous teaching and talking points when interviewing women on the site. Feel free to use and adapt this flier for your own needs!  The flier will be prettied up with graphic and better formatting soon!

Bring Feminism to Occupy Wall Street!

We will only truly know that a different world is possible when we know what this world now truly looks like. First, neoliberal capitalism is the source of “corporate greed,” and neoliberal capitalism is also patriarchal to the core.

The Man-cession is a Myth; the Reality is . . .

It’s true that men suffered 70% of the job loss during the Dec 2007 to June 2009 downturn [1] but the facts of the ‘recovery’ (June 2009 to September 2011) tell a clearer story. The unemployment rate for women has increased from 7.7 percent to 8.1 percent while for men it has dropped from 9.9 percent to 8.8 percent. [2]  Women-headed households have about one-half the income and less than one-third the wealth of other American households; and further, women are 35 times more likely to be poor than men. [3]

The Capitalist System Depends on Women’s Unpaid Work

“Austerity” measures (e.g. Obama-administration’s spending-cuts) loot the public sector (education, health care, human services, government) while bailing out the private corporate sector (Wall Street). Women are hardest hit both as workers in the public sector (teachers; nurses) who lose their jobs and as unpaid caretakers who take up the slack when social services are lost. Global capitalism is made possible by women’s unpaid care-taking of dependents as well as of healthy adult men. In the U.S. among ages 25 to 34, women spend about twice as many hours per week (31.7) doing unpaid household work as men (15.8). [4] In Canada unpaid work is estimated to be worth up to 41% of the GDP. [5]  The shifting of the burden of domestic labor from elite women to the domestic laborers (maids) culled from subordinate groups of women (immigrants; women of color; poor women) is another part of this same process of exploitation.

The Capitalist System Depends on Controlling Women’s Reproduction

The reproduction of capitalism’s work force is a large part of women’s unpaid work.  Attacks on women’s ability to control when and whether to give birth [6] increases women’s economic dependence on men, the state, corporations and white elites, all of which, in turn, directly benefit from controlling women’s reproduction.

Women of Color are Hit Hardest by Predatory Lending

Deregulation of the market has lead to decades of preying upon the most vulnerable populations, with women of color being the worst impacted.  Women are 32 percent more likely than men to receive sub‑prime mortgages and black and Latina women borrowers are the most likely to receive sub‑prime loans at every income level. [7]

Domestic Violence Intensifies in Unstable Economy

In an effort to save money, the city council of Topeka, Kansas recently voted to repeal the law that makes domestic violence a crime! Minimal resources meant to help protect women are being sacrificed when domestic violence is actually worsening. Rates and severity of domestic violence increase in times of economic struggle. Financial strain often compels women to stay in abusive relationships. Women whose male partners experience two or more periods of unemployment in a five year period are 3 times more likely to experience abuse. [8]

Economic Exploitation and Destruction of the Environment go Hand in Hand 

Women’s reproductive organs are particularly vulnerable to damage from environmental toxins, endangering them and the children they may bear because of under-regulated corporations that value money over life.

Women’s Bodies are Part of the Battlefield of War

Due to women’s position as unpaid primary-caretakers, they are the social glue of communities strategically destroyed by military rapes. Sexual harassment and rape of U.S female soldiers by their male counterparts is figured at staggering rates. [9] Militarism is fueled by hyper-masculinism, the latter stoked by soldier’s prolific use of pornography [10] and the establishment of the sex trade at military bases around the world. [11] Women and children are the overwhelming majority of refugees displaced by war.

Sex Trafficking is a Reality for Women in Poverty

“Trafficking occurs in a context of global economic inequalities and a failure to respect the human rights of a majority of the world’s population. Enormous amounts of people find themselves unable to provide for their families and are forced into situations of extreme desperation. The impact of structural adjustment policies is worsening the feminization of poverty; women make up 70% of the worlds’ poor. Women are more vulnerable to exploitation as they are often supporting families, work in unregulated sectors of the economy, have little or no access to education, employment and options for migration. They are often seeking to migrate due to war and internal conflict, poverty, statelessness and domestic violence, but face strict immigration policies and are unable to migrate legally. Often their vulnerability is exploited and they fall into the hands of traffickers.” [12]

FeminismNOWOWS

Occupy Patriarchy


1. Calculations from U.S Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics.

2,  National Women’s Law Center, www.nwlc.org/

3.  Women of Color Slammed by Economic crisis, www.alternet.org/

4. Bureau of Labor Statistics, American Time Use Survey http://stats.bls.gov/opub/ted/2009/ted_20090806.htm

5.  United Nations Platform for Action Committee, Women & The Economy http://www.unpac.ca/economy/unpaidwork.html#3

6.  Reproductive Rights Steadily Eroded in the States, http://www.now.org/issues/abortion/031704states.html

7.  Ibid.

8.  National Institute of Justice, Concentrated Disadvantage, Economic Distress, and Violence Against Women in Intimate Relationships (2004), http://

www.nij.gov/nij/topics/crime/intimate-partner-violence/economic-distress.htm

9.  http://towardfreedom.com/americas/2320-militaryviolenceagainstwomen

10.  Benedict, “Why Soldiers Rape,”  http://www.inthesetimes.com/article/3848/

11.  Read anything by Cynthia Enloe for information about and analysis of this point.

12.  REED, http://www.embracedignity.org/?page=trffckng

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