Since the Occupy movement began, women in numerous Occupy locations have reported experiencing blatant misogynist behavior. The following piece by Norma (Jinx) Jones about misogyny at Occupy Nashville was first published on her blog, Occupy Dixie. We are grateful for permission to cross-post this excellent piece because Jones’ eloquent explanation about why women’s needs and voices are not trivial, and nor is the misogynist behavior that is taking place at Occupy Nashville, will resonate across the Occupy movement, regardless of location.
On the evening of October 31, 2011, I watched as a woman presented a proposal in Occupy Nashville’s General Assembly to form a women’s caucus. Her proposal was met with charges of being divisive. I was dismayed to see that, in spite of her thoughtful and apparently well considered explanation of why she was making the suggestion, it was met with such hostility. In response, I set up the Women Occupy Nashville page on facebook that very night so there would be a space designated somewhere as a forum to address women’s issues.
In the almost three months since then, I’ve seen repeated incidents of women within ON being discounted, harassed, threatened, marginalized, and their voices silenced. One after another, women have come to ON on fire to participate in this movement, only to leave in frustration after repeated unsuccessful attempts to assert their right to be a part of the process without harassment.
I’ve seen ON stream team cut the live feed when a woman began to speak in GA, only to “explain” to those watching that the woman was a “trouble maker.” I’ve watched in dismay as a male occupier repeatedly acted inappropriately with female occupiers while the other men excused his behavior by discounting the women’s concerns. I’ve listened to snark from the stream team with comments like, “Be careful, we’ve already pissed off the feminists.” And I’ve seen words like femi-Nazi thrown around. I’ve seen myself and at least one other woman banned from posting on ON sites when rules were not broken and I’ve had posts removed when I posted links to the ON facebook page as admin of the Women Occupy Nashville fb page.
The theme of “trouble maker” has been the primary weapon in efforts to silence women within ON. In my own instance, the label was quickly applied when I objected to a group of men publicly trashing a woman member of ON in the live stream chat. A narrative that lied to indicate I had “stalked” and “harassed” someone who had been a party to the incident was created and repeated ad infinitum, in chat, on the ON forum, the ON fb page, and in several emails that went out to as many as 40+ recipients at a time. I (and a number of other women who are part of ON) were all “man haters” with “an agenda,” a “vendetta,” even, at one point.
When it wasn’t enough to simply label us as trouble makers, the tack taken was to cast us as emotionally unstable. Email after email uses language like “going off the deep end,” “tantrum,” “chaos,” “severe malfunction.” One line from one email read, “I don’t know what spaceship she got a ride on…but she’s waaaaaaay out there.”
Three weeks ago, when I blogged here about an upcoming interview ON citizen journalist Matt Hamill was going to do with a man convicted of multiple charges involving two incidents with two different women in two different states, the narrative continued, as evidenced in some of the anonymous comments left on this blog, on facebook, and the ON forum. Perhaps the nadir of what happened there was the suggestion that some women deserve to be beat.
Earlier this week, ON participant Tristan Call published an excellent article in which he included a section called The Politics of Gender in Occupy Nashville. This article became the subject of discussion in more than one place online, but nowhere more than on a group page on fb started by a member of the ON stream team. Once again, the attack dogs went into action.
I’ve mentioned the marginalizing that’s continued unrelenting with charges that we’re trouble makers and crazy; there’s a new one now. Bullies. Now, we’re bullies. This came after the chortles all around over the clever comments that talk about us as if we’re bugs (really, read it for yourself.) This is all just more of the dehumanizing of your enemies that’s the usual process for those who can’t address your issues, so they go after you…again. Say and do anything that will make the conversation about the messenger, not the message or problem at hand. It’s precisely the same thing we’ve seen the media and some in political office, dare I say, even the state of Tennessee, take when dehumanizing the occupiers on the plaza with their wild charges of nonsense in the bushes and tents.
But, there’s no misogyny in ON, right? Apparently not, if you were to listen to the Soapbox after GA last night. It seems women have “run away” from ON because of “silly shit.” Or, maybe it was really just “bull shit,” as suggested by another. Or, was it the one who labeled it all as “trivial issues” that got it right? Because, don’t you see we have more pressing issues here than the concerns of some women? Again, it’s divisive to speak of such things because we have a “real” problem to deal with if the state moves to evict the occupation from the plaza, right? The message repeated clearly was that if you put energy into addressing misogyny and gender bias within ON, you’re not part of the team and not in support of the movement.
We need to get a few things straight here. Women make up over half the population. When you’re talking about representing the 99%, we are who you are talking about, like it or not. While we make up 51% of the population, we’re doing 2/3 of the labor around the globe and still being paid only a percentage for our labor what the men are being paid for the same work. 70% of those living in poverty around the globe are women and, in our own country, women over 65 are twice as likely to be living in poverty as are men of the same age. In 2012, women are still the primary care givers for children, the elderly, and the disabled. When you look at who is most impacted by the violence against people as a result of corporate controlled politics and public policy, you are looking at women and you cannot avoid that.
Women are not only what this movement is about, we’ve been at the forefront of every movement that ever wrought social change throughout the history of civilization. This is our movement. We will be a part of it because we are unavoidably so. You will learn to adjust to that appropriately, or this movement will fail. That’s a stone cold fact that should sober any of you willing or able to contemplate it with even a modicum of honesty.
Norma (Jinx) Jones is an activist with Women Occupy Nashville. Before retiring, she worked in the area of women’s issues focusing on domestic violence and substance abuse many years. Jones is currently a freelance photographer and ardent supporter of the Occupy movement. When I contacted her about reprinting her post, she told me, “You might also note that I’m just “crazy” enough to be a “trouble maker” wherever I see a need for one”. As they say in the south (I know because I lived there for 24 years), bless your heart Norma, we need more trouble makers like you!