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Women Have The RIGHT To Occupy (W)all Street(s) Without Fear

November 13, 2011

The Ms. Blog used the picture below to illustrate the statement on anti-harassment and anti-assault in Occupy spaces (to which Ms. and Occupy Patriarchy are co-signers).  My first reaction to it was, “Yes!”  My second reaction was, “Not quite…” It’s a nice word play, but I’d re-word it to say, “Women have the right to occupy (w)all street(s) without fear.”  Occupying the streets should be an innate right, not something we ‘deserve’ or have earned–that makes it sound like it is a privilege that we earned for what?  Having babies and cooking dinner?  I don’t think so.  The way it reads, however well intentioned, strikes me as an inadvertent illustration of the problem it is attempting to call out.


Additional thoughts based on initial comments below and on our Facebook page–I think one of the reasons the word ‘deserve’ doesn’t sit well with me is that we have heard rapists and sexual abusers justify their actions all too often by saying that she ‘deserved’ it.   That said, kudos to this guy for holding that sign and I hope he’ll keep standing with women who occupy.

Postscript:  The man holding the sign responded on our Facebook page and understood  my discomfort with ‘deserve’.  By way of context, he explained that there was a Slutwalk going on that particular day and the sign was intended for both that and Occupy.  A case could definitely be made that ‘deserve’ is a way of calling out the issues Slutwalk is addressing, but he saw what I was saying in terms of the Occupy context.  Regardless of the appropriateness of the wording of the sign, it still seems problematic as an illustration for the Ms. post.

11 Comments leave one →
  1. November 13, 2011 1:48 pm

    Agreed–really love your clarification on the sign’s words! Yes, ‘all streets’. And I, too, was a tad rankled at the use of the word ‘deserve’–‘have a right’ is a better way to say it for sure. And at least people are trying, and that is heartening even when they haven’t grasped the full scope of things yet–and so, can’t yet find words expressing the full scope of this. I do have to give pretty major kudos to a man holding a sign like that, as I know in some camps, men showing solidarity with womyn have received pretty harsh treatment.

    Not that I feel sorry for those men, tho I appreciate their efforts. And in some ways I’m glad to know that a few of the men are experiencing something a bit like the hate and dismissal that is just part of the air womyn breathe daily in patriarchy. Nothing like the direct experience to more fully inform hearts and minds!

    Keep up this good work, please…know that some of us would have given up already if not for knowing other feminists are feeling this so powerfully all around the country, giving voice and taking action. It’ll be a better world indeed, when we can find like-minded people abounding in our home neighborhoods, where we can love and support each other more directly in the day-to-day–but for now, this cyber-connection will do quite nicely!

    ❤ ❤ ❤

    • November 13, 2011 1:58 pm

      Jai, thank you for your kind words, it keeps us going to hear from people like you! I agree that the guy holding the sign gets kudos, it was clearly well-intentioned.

  2. Elaine Charkowski permalink
    November 13, 2011 6:06 pm

    It’s a fact that unless ALL the world’s women are free from male harassment including catcalls, rape and battering-nothing will change. No revolution will succeed if women are left behind and still treated as second class citizens whose “value” under patriarchy is the 1.mass production of consumers to keep the male dominated global economy endlessly expanding.
    2. source of cheap or unpaid labor
    3. drudges who do all the grunt work to leave men free to ruin the world and wage war

  3. November 13, 2011 9:23 pm

    Thanks, Lucinda, for the great post. All too often, women are told to applaud men who mean well but still don’t “get it” on patriarchy. But if we don’t call out well-meaning men (and women) on their sexism, they still won’t get it.

    Feminist theory has existed since the 1700’s and there has been a huge outpouring of brilliant scholarship and activism during the past fifty years. Most public libraries and community colleges have good books and courses on these subjects. Even the Internet has several good articles and websites. So there is no excuse for the Occupy activists not to “get it” on male privilege.

    Again, keep up the good work.

  4. Mocha Erinys permalink
    November 13, 2011 11:50 pm

    It would be nice if men would “just get it” and do their part to end the Rape Culture, but we can’t be that naive…we can’t afford to be! As much as liberal feminists would love to believe that all men can be “reformed” and are comfortable with the goals of feminism (ie: the end of male primacy, privilege, dominance over women, politics, the law, socioeconomics, and the planet, and the rape/porn culture), but it’s not a realistic way of thinking.This our chance to reinvigorate the feminist movement, bring a strong, uncompromising feminist narrative to the forefront, and demolish the patriarchal machinations that have made women– especially women-of-color, poor women, and women and girls in the so called “Third World/Global South”– more vulnerable to political and socioeconomic injustice, environmental racism, the horrors of war, and puts the onus on *us* to stop what *men* do to us everyday and everywhere, when it should be men demanding and educating their friends, brothers, colleagues, etc. to stop sexually terrorizing and disenfranchising us.

    As said over at Shakespeare Sister we need far more than just a change in management, we need a revolution– one that confronts misogyny in all its forms; political, sexual, racial, socioeconomic, religious, etc. Men need to “get it” or get out of the way and prepare themselves for a very rude awakening. And the porned-up “feminist” marches need to end– *of course* the guys looooove them! Way to insult what my mother and the women of her generation fought for. Let’s have a little more mature anti-sexual violence movement that’s just a tad bit more cognizant of the complex history and the reality of women’s sexual “status” in our patriachal/phallocentric culture, shall we? Feminists-of-color certainly have– as usual, many of the white bourgeois “feminists” are light-years behind.

  5. November 14, 2011 11:52 pm

    Mocha–it truly did my heart good to hear you reference what “my mother and the women of her generation fought for”. I am one of those mothers, and don’t often hear appreciation expressed by women of the next generation. A bit from my own grown daughters, yes, though being raised by me, and not having to deal with the extremes of oppression my generation dealt with, they don’t totally get what it was like to NOT have their wild female power nurtured but instead oppressed. Anyway, thanks for the mention, I appreciate your appreciation for those of us who went before (and many of us going still, with the next generation).


    • Mocha Erinys permalink
      November 15, 2011 1:05 am

      You’re very welcome, Jai!

  6. SheilaG permalink
    November 15, 2011 6:01 am

    Let’s not expect the oppressors to free the oppressed. Basic anti-colonialism 101… the task of radical feminism is very simple: to awaken women, to alert women to what true freedom is. To alert women that the back gate has been left unlocked, and they don’t have to report this to the man.

    Sign held by man, well intentioned. That’s good. But the greatest challenge is to wake up women in America, to occupy every office, every store… to refuse to live with men, have sex with men, until something big changes…. wake up women, get women to act and leave the penis palace, and you really do have revolution.

  7. Harriet permalink
    November 19, 2011 6:40 pm

    I’d rephrase something in the excellent blog post: Women don’t have the right to make babies, we have the POWER to make babies.

  8. December 2, 2011 3:47 pm

    From Occupy Tucson:

    I am in my late 40s and experience less sexual harrasement than I did in my 20s.
    Last week we had a big GAeeting, one of the men spoke about something I strongly agree with that hasn’t been mentioned and afterwards I went to compliment him. We spoke for maybe 30 seconds. Next was a workshop on social movements. I got there late, and the one
    empty space in the circle was next to him. I sat down, then took part in the discussion. He leaned over to me and whispered, “Do you want a sholder rub?”. It was totally out of place, out of context, creepy and I left the circle.

    I saw him at the local food co-op the next day and he greeted me by name and came and talked to me. He said he is a massage therapist. I told him that his offer seemed completely out of place and made me leave. That there is widespread sexual harrasement
    at Occupy. His response? “I didn’t do anything wrong. Where I come from people often sit around the circle, giving each other massages’. I told him w/ that attitude he does not belong at Occupy Tucson.

    Beware of New Age SNAGS who are just as misogynist as any other man…..

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