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Whistles

November 19, 2011

A lot of our mail asks about strategies and ways of dealing with overt sexism when we encounter it at Occupy gatherings.  For the last few weeks, the word “whistle” as in the kind coaches use to get the team’s attention not the catcall variety, has been on my mind and today ShielaG wrote a comment to one of our earlier posts that picked up on the idea and offered a great example of how it might be used:

What we used to do back in the day in college classes where male professors made sexist comments… we brought whistles to class, and every time the man said “girl” or made a demeaning “nice” comment about women, we literally blew the whistle.

In a theology class, every time the male professor used “he” as the pronoun for god, we blew our whistles. It took about a week for these men to stop the sexist words. No shouting needed, just 20 plus women with whistles, plus handing out leaflets explaining the use of the whistles.

Women need to participate in large groups (100 plus), with whistles and stop watches to time male vs. female speech. Women interrupted by other men — whistles could blow loudly while he talked.

It was amazing to see how nervous those male teachers were when the women came in with whistles around their necks. And we poured on the pressure by blowing them if the male made a “joke” to deal with the women standing up against sexism in the classroom. Interestingly enough, no other male students supported this action, and often confused sexist speech with freedom of speech. Heaven forbid that men would loose the power of freedom of speech to call women names, grab mics away from women, and threaten women with harm for speaking up against male supremacy.

Anyone inspired to make a run to the nearest sporting goods store and stock up?

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12 Comments leave one →
  1. amber permalink
    November 19, 2011 2:17 pm

    Im very excited about this idea. Everyone please tell occupydc.

  2. Kim Rivers permalink
    November 19, 2011 4:28 pm

    I got two whistles ready to go!

  3. November 19, 2011 4:36 pm

    If you tech yourself to whistle loudly with fingers, you don’t even have to go shopping! It’s a great strategy and I hope it spreads like wild fire.

  4. Harriet permalink
    November 19, 2011 6:31 pm

    How, in the context of the OWC, would it be used? We’re not a classroom situation (well, I’m not since it’s Saturday!) but protesting by occupying camps? Under what conditions and when would we get together and tweet?

  5. Carolyn Dixon permalink
    November 20, 2011 4:09 am

    What a wonderfully empowering way to challenge men’s casual put-downs of women. I would so like to participate in doing that and experiencing that “Sisterhood is powerful,”
    especially as a way of putting a stop to men interrupting women.

  6. November 20, 2011 9:37 am

    I love this idea! Mostly because the males do not ‘hear’ when females have a valid objection. I’m in!

  7. Anne T. permalink
    November 21, 2011 12:15 pm

    Could have used the whistles here in Portland when one man speaking to the GA handed out roses to some of the young woman, while saying these are for the “pretty ladies” and advising them to stand in the front of the protest and give them to the cops. Women as decoration and photo op. Here’s to my sisters in the Occupy movement who lead with incredible strength and intelligence.

    • November 21, 2011 12:21 pm

      I am speechless, although I sure feel like screaming. That is beyond belief. Did anyone call him on it?

  8. November 21, 2011 3:38 pm

    Excellent counter-tactics to confront misogyny and sexism in the classroom—and, hopefully, elsewhere!
    Thank you.

  9. November 21, 2011 3:42 pm

    It would be a great if a feminist billionaire-philanthropist with taxes to spare gave the “We are 51%” group a few million to buy whistles with the logo. But it will more likely come from the 51% of the 99%–many hundreds of us. And, of course, we have to research if there indeed does exist such a ‘feminist billionaire’!

    Linda Quaig’s book “The Trouble with Billionaires” –once I’ve finished reading it — may give me that answer….

  10. November 29, 2011 10:11 pm

    I don’t remember the context under which we received these whistles, but my school (School of the Art Institute of Chicago) gave out free “rape whistles” (a whistle is a whistle, right?) to the student body. Or to the people who attended a safe sex talk. I can’t remember. Point is, three years later, I still have this whistle my school paid for. Maybe if some people can wield that as a resource, the whistles can be freebies at an event about smashing patriarchy and all its forms?

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