‘#OWS’ Category

Why Representation Matters

I just watched the documentary, #whilewewatch. It’s free online, and you can watch it too. It’s only 45 minutes.

It’s also very overwhelmingly male–and except for one man, really fucking white.

This bothers me. It is more than just political correctness or affirmative action–it is about me (and all of the other women, women of color), and the hard work I (we) have put into this movement (especially making media to accurately portray this movement) being completely ignored.

I’m a woman. I’m not silent, I’m not invisible and I’m not decoration. In fact, I have fantasized about countering the evils of capitalism through revolution and taking the streets and a radical redistribution of wealth and re-evaluation of our cultural values since long before #OccupyWallStreet was conceived as an idea. To me (and many others), Occupy Wall Street was an answer–a powerful force to show that we were not crazy, and more importantly not alone. It wasn’t about being a hippie, being rebellious or doing something counter-culture just for the sake of doing something counter-culture–it was something that was deeply, deeply needed to shift the dialogue towards the privatization polices and rampant inequality that has absolutely entirely left so many of us completely fucked.

(There really is not a more polite way to put that and properly get my point across).

The reality is, the people organizing Occupy Wall Street, taking the streets, making documentaries, writing articles and exposing the corruption of both our police force and the one percent that rigs our government are women and men of all races and sexual identities. Of course, there have been difficulties–it is impossible for all of us to acknowledge and confront our intricate roles as oppressors and oppressed without working through uncomfortable moments. Still, Occupy–through meetings, media and conversations has provided a space to have these essential conversations, enlightening some of us to our privilege, allowing some of us to speak out in a safe space about our oppression, doing a combination of these for all of us in between. Our differences are our strength and inclusivity–as we bring more and more voices, experiences and ideas of how to make the world a more equitable place we truly will become a powerful force of collaborative change.

My participation in Occupy Wall Street originally had nothing to do with the fact that I was a woman. At first, I was an American before I was a woman.

But then the boy’s club came to town.

Disclaimer: The following paragraphs might get a little bit salty–I don’t know the sodium content, because frankly I haven’t written them yet. I just wanted to say that I mean nothing against male journalists and media makers, and nothing against white men in general. I’m friends with several white male journalists, media makers, commentators and activists–and many of them have an amazing social conscience about their personal privilege merely by being white males.

Soon, those of us who have been activists–or at least bleeding hearts who genuinely believed that change in the world was possible–for years began to feel “replaced” by white men. It wasn’t a conscious decision, but this made it a little bit more scary. In the first Occupied Wall Street Journal, there were no female bylines. The vast majority of journalists and pundits asked to comment on television shows were white and male. The journalists who were asked to cover the topic for major publications–and likewise were paid more for their work–were majority male.

TIME Magazine even famously asked “Where are all the women reporting OWS?” Those of us like myself and Alison Kilkenny who were there since day one, and Sarah Jaffe who was there shortly thereafter were rightfully infuriated. I elaborated a little bit more on all of this here.

You see, I don’t want to have to see myself as a woman in the movement. I want to see myself as in the movement. And, the wonderful part is I have met several amazing women through the movement–and when the movement is at its height and we are in the streets facing off with the NYPD and have the magical feeling that another world really is possible, gender and race don’t matter for a split second because we truly are one.

However, when I see a representation of #OccupyWallStreet that shows barely any women, I’m suddenly struck with my difference. I don’t see myself documented in what is supposed to be a posterity portrait of something that my heart, soul, and every thought has been quite literally occupied by. I don’t feel any antagonism towards the men who are represented, and I agree for the most part with most of what they say. I just want my presence–by which I mean the presence of all women who occupy–to be remembered, documented and passed on for generations.

I want my daughters to watch a documentary about #OccupyWallStreet and see that a woman’s place is in the revolution. I want them to see that there are role model women who are loud, smart, articulate and are rewarded for devoting themselves to social change. I want them to know that we/they are so much more than just the Hot Chicks that Occupy Wall Street–I want them to know that we/they are the hardworking agents of social change.

 

 

 

Rent is Too Damn High, Wages are Too Damn Low

There is not a single state where one can afford a two bedroom apartment at fair market value on minimum wage for a standard forty hour work week. Here is a chart listing how many hours you would need to work in each state.

Rent is too damn high, wages are too damn low. Something has got to give.

De Mai ’68 à May 1, 2012

En espérant …

Happy Anniversary, Baby

Six months ago. I don’t really remember what life was like before six months ago. It was probably very dark and bleak and characterized by rich white men controlling politics from behind closed doors.

It still is–but this time we know who they are, and aren’t going to shut up until they are held accountable for their actions. Their actions that have constricted our mobility, made us wonder whether or not we can afford to have families, and privatized basic human rights to a point that worth and value is placed only on those who can afford to pay for every basic commodity–for those of us who don’t have that kind of money, we’re a mass of regular people trying to figure out how to navigate a world rigged for the one percent.

Six months ago we realized that we have each other. We aren’t alone.

On September 17th, I didn’t believe anything was going to actually happen–but because I’m young, hopeful, idealistic and a bit of an idiot, I still packed my flip cam and my cell phone and went to Wall Street–just to see if something would happen.

I wasn’t sure–and then I saw the tweet:

Today I told a cab driver I was here to Occupy Wall Street–he said “This ride is on me”

The rest was–and is, still in the making–history.

Happy anniversary, baby.

 

Neoliberalism, DSK, and Rape

I’m reading Naomi Klein’s The Shock Doctrine right now.

For those who don’t know, The Shock Doctrine follows the history of Milton Friedman and The Chicago Boys’ implementation of neoliberalism throughout the world. Milton Friedman—and all of the ensuing economists trained at the University of Chicago tasked with saving the third world from public goods and an organized workforce—waited (or in some cases, created) a “crisis moment” in many countries, ensuring that the populace would be too in shock to notice the sudden privatization of services, depletion of the social safety net, and implementation of economic reforms that ignored the needs of the people or perpetuating what had previously ensured prosperity in favor of economic competition and profits for the corporate, or political-corporate elite.

The people notice it later—they notice when years later they are still reeling, wondering what went wrong and why there is a massive income gap between the rich and the poor, and why “the rich and the poor” is better described as “the elite and everyone else.” In these cases, the elite isn’t living lavishly as everyone else lives modestly—the elite is living in palaces as “everyone else” lives in shanty towns.

Many know that they are angry, and many protest as soon as they find the language to articulate their feelings. For those who protest, the police crack down, saying that they deserve to be arrested, interrogated, tortured, disappeared, and killed for showing dissent.

The economic elites—the harbingers of privatization who play their big money game and argue that it is for the greater good—continue to the next country, with no remorse or accountability. If someone tries to hold them accountable, they lie and say that this phase is only temporary—when there is no proof of recovery whatsoever.

I can’t help but think about rape—particularly as told through the story of Dominique Strauss Kahn.

Dominique Strauss Kahn was the chief of the International Monetary Fund (IMF)—last year, while in New York City, he raped a hotel maid. “The Maid” as she came to be known was Nafisatou Diallo, a black immigrant woman from Guinea. She had experienced sexual trauma in the past. The story was that he forced his penis into her mouth while she was cleaning his room, and—by a fluke—she reported the incident to one of her coworkers when he returned to the hotel to get his cell phone, which he had left.

The story erupted into an international scandal—indicative of each and every flaw that the French and American media and public commit when discussing a rape case. In France, the French media acted as though not just Dominique Strauss Kahn, but the entire country of France was a victim of this terrible crime—not blaming DSK, but blaming the American media for acting like it was a news story whatsoever. In the United States, after months of media and deliberation, the courts decided not to hear the case—because there was enough evidence that Nafisatou Diallo had lied.

This was just the official grievances—as we all know, it is the microaggressions that are truly indicative of cultural tendencies.

In the United States, an acquaintance of mine said, “Why would he rape a maid? He has the money for a high class hooker.”

While I see his logic, he failed to understand that this was not a crime about sex—this was a crime about violence, this was a sexual urge that was violently expressed and like many victims, Nafisatou Diallo was not chosen for any reason other than the fact that she was there in the wrong place at the wrong time.

There were thousands that responded to the media, eating up every story that the New York Post published about her alleged past as a prostitute, or any lie that she had ever told. As if prostitutes are immune from rape and anyone who has ever lied is assumed to be lying at all times.

It is a combination of the dynamic between a powerful white man (a financier, no less—and chief of the IMF) and a powerless black, immigrant woman, the response placing the onus and blame on the victim rather than the perpetrator, and the ultimate lack of justice or accountability whatsoever that brings me back to neoliberalism. Like Nafisatou Diallo—like every rape victim who’s resistance has been silenced or repressed with fear—many of these countries never gave their consent to be made over, to have privatization implemented, to have the IMF or the corporate elite take what they wanted in that moment because that country was in the wrong place at the wrong time, and leave the people reeling, wondering what happened and realizing that they could do nothing to nullify or fix the enormous violation that has just been permanently engraved in their collective history.

The vast majority of rapists are serial rapists—their victims are a string of individuals reeling from this psychologically traumatic experience of violation. Milton Friedman, the Chicago Boys, and the entire history of neoliberal implementation as implemented by Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher, and George W. Bush are a series of economic rape cases—imposing themselves uninvited, institutionalizing fear and violence for their own gain in that moment, and having enough of a sick obsession and thrill from this process that it is repeated, time and time again, ignoring the screams of resistance to institutionalize corporate, disaster capitalistic neoliberal policies without the consent of the people.

Personal: Love and Revolutionary Ramblings

I am about to write very personal things.

Things about love. Things about the movement. Things about how sometimes, I really do not know how to tell the two apart.

I was just on the phone with my mother—I was wondering if I was a horrible person for not going to an action in solidarity with Occupy Oakland.

I told her that I was annoyed that it felt the same as everything, except no longer radical. It was the same dialogue, the same arrests, the same march routes, the same chants. It no longer feels like the movement is testing the system, or experimenting with what it can or cannot do, but adhering to the same formula, and regurgitating the same results.

I got off the phone to research a piece I’m writing, and respond to some e-mails. I sat in the kitchen, making tea and procrastinating.

Then, I heard it.

 

We are the 99%! We are the 99% Another world is possible! Another world is now!

 

It was electric, shaking the floor of my fourth floor apartment (okay, I still have to make dinner, so maybe my blood sugar is just low), but I felt the sudden rush of the need to put on my coat and boots, grab my keys, and run out the door, chasing the pure sound of the march to have That Feeling again.

Then I realized it: I was having That Feeling right there, in my kitchen. I started crying. For the first time in a while, I felt hopeful and imaginative against, rather than cynical and critical, if not depressed.

To tell the complete truth, I recently got out of a relationship—yes, it was related to #occupy. I met this person the night that the police descended, and the people were not supposed to win, but they did—my feelings about the power of the people and the power of love (or perhaps, believing in a form of sudden emotional intimacy and understanding) proceeded to mount, (perhaps dangerously) intertwined.

Both felt incredible.

I was there the night that Liberty Plaza got evicted. I was pushed against a wall and verbally harassed by a police officer and coughing out tear gas. Still, I believed in my heart that Liberty Plaza would be fine—it wasn’t until I saw the pictures on Twitter that I realized what had happened. It wasn’t until I read what happened to the People’s Library that I let myself break down in Foley Square at 3 in the morning.

I was alone that night. Very, very alone.

When Liberty Plaza got evicted, I was one of many who tried to remain hopeful about the occupation, but missed The Way Things Were dearly. Going back to Real Life and Writing About Things That Aren’t Occupy Or At Least In Some Way Radical Resistance felt disorienting and unsatisfying, and trying to justify the movement and maintain the faith that it would persist to people who were asking my “informed” opinion was even worse.

So, this relationship—which is insignificant compared to the movement, but still very much related to my experience—ended in January. Like the police eviction, it felt upsetting, shocking, and like something that I had had faith would continue got pulled from underneath me. I confronted my memories, forced myself to go to the place in Liberty Plaza where we met by chance.

In that moment, I realized that Liberty Plaza was Zuccotti Park again. It wasn’t the cradle of the revolution—it was back to a place that Wall Street traders took cigarette breaks. This felt a lot harder to accept.

There were still actions—but without the community of Zuccotti Park, many meetings feel more governed by internal politics than the collective fight to divide and conquer the one percent and radically redistribute wealth and rebuild our new world on their toxic rubble. I felt disgruntled and cynical—again.

I lost some work I had been depending on. I wasn’t writing as much. I had the kind of month where you go through Things That Make You A Radical Feminist and Things That Strengthen Your Personal Vendetta Against the System. (Yes, we know I didn’t need either of these things—but it happens sometimes). These things happen.

So, we’re back in my kitchen and the floor is shaking because the movement is crescendoing or maybe my blood sugar is low. I’m making an English Muffin in the microwave. And the movement is happening outside, and I feel it in my veins and I realize the quasi-religious, definitely spiritual feeling I get from Occupy—or just a lot of other incredible people who fervently believe in something—is happening right there in my kitchen, and I’m not going to grab my coat and run out the door this time, but next time I’ll be there from the start. Because this movement is so loud that it shouts until the cynical and disillusioned get drunk off of tremors of hope, and leave their cynical and disillusioned kitchens and pour into the streets where The Movement is happening, and The Movement doesn’t have to do with one other person but A Lot of other people and We ALL deeply, deeply need each other and each other’s love and support because we aren’t going to take the bankers’, the corporations’, the governments’, the wars’ the CYNICS’, the patriarchs’ CRAP anymore.

And we need each other right now, and we need to be receptive and communicative and loving, no matter what life has given us—because this is how we will believe so fervently in hope that it occupies our reality.

Because this is fucking happening.

I apologize for the long sentences, the too much emotional information, and the use of the F word. But if you had problems with any of these, you wouldn’t have gotten to the end of the article.

The Ninety-Nine Percent…of Women Who Need Birth Control

Reproductive justice and economic justice are intrinsically intertwined together. Politically, reproductive choice is quickly becoming a privilege rather than a right—though the numbers are not as stark as the bottom ninety-nine percent versus the top one percent, the privatization of healthcare is quickly eradicating the middle class of birth control users. If this persists, women who become pregnant will have no choice but to become mothers, pushing them further into poverty. How are women who can’t control their reproductive futures going begin to be able to control their economic futures? …

Read the rest at Gender Across Borders here.

OWS: Phase II

Despite the enormous strength evidenced in the (multiple) police raids two weeks ago, followed by a massive day of actions on November 17th culminating in a jubilant march across the Brooklyn Bridge, it is easy to feel apprehensive, disheartened, and angry about the destruction of Liberty Plaza–and the subsequent resurrection of the far more bland Zuccotti Park–after all, there was a complete and coordinated demolition that included a heart-breaking bibliocide and a staunch reminder that though small in numbers, the top political and financial 1% is protected by hired authoritarian thugs.

Personally, I took a break–from both #OccupyWallStreet and the Internet–and spent the holiday in California with my family. It wasn’t soon after landing that I was on a BART train to go to #OccupyOakland, but–though taking to the streets, blasting homegrown music and chanting “Hella Hella Hella Hella Occupy” made it feel good to be home (and convinced me that despite appearances, #OccupyOakland is alive and well), I couldn’t help feeling eerie about the desolate Oscar Grant Plaza.

New friends told me stories about the way things were, and showed me pictures of taking the port on their smart phones. They had bought gas masks from army supply stores and were fully prepared for clamp downs from the riot police.

I came back to New York, having undeniably mixed feelings about activism, #occupy, and the importance of space. On one hand, thriving protests are happening with CUNY, the UC Campuses and the #OccupyColleges movement. On the other, occupations are being cracked down upon right and left, and occupiers are scattered, scared and forced into new places. On the other hand, these crackdowns are eliminating the pettiness that many occupied occupations were becoming–and putting an end to the frustrations of the bureaucracies of the mini tent cities. On the other hand, leaving my comfortable one mile radius from the heart of Occupy Wall Street showed me that many Americans are still asleep at the wheel, leaving Thanksgiving Dinner with their families to line up at Black Friday for a cheap flat screen TV to silence their families.

On the other hand, we have been waiting for this moment, and waiting for this moment to turn into this movement. There may be fewer and fewer tent cities–but there are more and more Google searches on “corporate greed” and “income inequality,” less and less money stored in the big banks, and more and more Americans who have realized that politics doesn’t have to be an indecipherable game of deficit reduction and inescapable budget cut negotiations by bought-out Congressmen, but is an idea that we can seize for ourselves, translating it for one another into understandable language to re-claim democracy the way that we see it, screaming until our voices are blasted throughout the media and linking arms until the corporate elite is blocked by our people power.

Occupy 2.0 is now the catchphrase of the hour. It will be fueled by more demonstrations and demands, less petty personal bureaucracy. It will be about our struggle as Americans, not our struggles amongst each other as occupiers, and we will use the lessons we learned from Chapter One: Tent Cities to mobilize Chapter Two: Who The Fuck Knows Yet, But Better Than Before to be more united, more inclusive, more directed, and more ultimately powerful than anything we have seen yet.

RT: Journalist Arrests at Occupy Protests

An estimated 26 journalists have been arrested while covering #OccupyWallStreet–and the vast majority of them are with the alternative, non-corporate press. Those of us who haven’t been arrested have most likely been teargassed or caught up in other forms of police brutality, more often than not without credentials or acknowledgement of press credentials to protect ourselves and our work. For more, read Susie Cagle’s article about her arrest at #OccupyOakland here.

Anastasia Churkina of Russia Today (RT) put together a great little video of alternative journalists talking about this problematic situation.

In the words of Amy Goodman, when you handcuff the press you handcuff democracy. Please support independent journalists’ work!

Egypt, Occupy Wall Street and Solidarity

It is reported that over 35 have died (and 1,750 injured) in Egypt this weekend–in fresh clashes in Tahrir Square. However, as the police brutally spray teargas, beat protestors with abandon and literally throw the dead into dumpsters on the side of the street, the actual numbers are much higher.

In January, Egypt was inspired when the Egyptian army joined the protests in solidarity, ultimately toppling Hosni Mubarak and re-instating themselves as a temporary governing force–the Supreme Council of Armed Forces– before democratic elections slated for November 30th. However, over the past nine months, they have become an authoritarian political force of their own, deploying the brutal police forces that have made peaceful marches become violent, deadly crack downs that show that despite a people united, Mubarak’s Egypt is institutionally alive and well.

Inspired by both the global occupy movement and the threat of the Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF) writing themselves into the constitution, several groups in Egypt decided to reignite and continue their revolution, demanding an end to authoritarian military rule in order to proceed with the planned, peaceful democratic elections.

It quickly became violent. Tents inspired by the #Occupy movement were burned in the square. An endless stream of teargas was sprayed, and the riot cops have both lethal and “non lethal” weapons that they have used in full force.

Hundreds have been wounded, overcome with teargas, blinded, and struck in the face with rubber bullets. Still, they vow to resolutely remain in Tahrir Square until a resolution is reached.

 

Here we are at #OccupyWallStreet–we say that we are inspired by Tahrir Square, and that we are all a part of a global movement fighting for economic and social justice to replace our respective corrupt, powerfully entrenched systems of governance. However–silly as this way of making sense of information, and mentally mapping solidarity may seem–my Twitter feed is currently divided between those who are tweeting about Occupy Wall Street, and those who are tweeting the horrors in Tahrir Square. As of right now, Occupy Wall Street’s official Twitter and Facebook feeds have not mentioned Egypt, and there are no plans for even so much as a march, vigil, or moment of silence for those in Tahrir Square.

It is as if we want to remember an Egypt that is glorious, revolutionary, and free–the Egypt that Asmaa Mahfouz inspired and millions of Egyptians fought for, and is the apex of revolutionary uprisings as our modern world knows it. It is as if we refuse to acknowledge that lasting revolutions don’t happen in eighteen days, and that it is a long, exhaustive process of literally fighting, constant regrouping, and giving one another strength to continue to overthrow each and every occupying force. We could seriously learn from this, but would it thwart our idealism?

If we say that we are in global solidarity, we need to be in global solidarity. We need to acknowledge that the news is not always about us–though we have been empowered by our movement to no longer be in silence about our actual struggles that lurk under the facade of America. We need to send them all of the pizza–or shwarma and falafel or whatever else their hearts desire–that it is possible to send, as they have done to us. We need to discuss their struggle, reach across the world and show our endless admiration and solidarity.

We need to look at their protests with new eyes–after all, we live in a police state too, and though their violence far outstrips ours, the videos and photos of teargas and riot gear hit far too close to home for comfort. We need to take notes. We need to send our love. We need to resist–en masse.

 

A few months ago–long before #OccupyWallStreet–I went to a talk about the Egyptian Revolution with Ahmed Maher. One of the patronizing white men in the crowd (it’s my blog, and I can say what I want to) asked him, in an academic tone, “So, in Egypt are you looking to make a democracy as seen in America?”

Ahmed speaks scattered English, but he knew enough to laugh, knowingly smile, and say, “No, we would like to make one like in Egypt.”

Now we are all occupying, protesting, screaming at authorities demanding changes to our systems. So, let’s create democracy–something of and by both the Egyptian people and the American people, for our respective countries (horizontally organized, and based on consensus rather than imperial notions of what is and is not democracy), and let’s help each other as much as is humanly possible be in solidarity as we do it.

 

 

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