[Debate] OWS: Not the Same as Utopia!
peterwaterman1936 at gmail.com
Fri Nov 11 10:31:15 GMT 2011
I just wanted to re-post this item from the original source since,
sorry, but I was a little confused by the introduction to the original
posting. I am horrified by this account, which reminds me of the
unashamed machismo in some of the movements of the 1968 era, and also of
charges of sexual harassment or rape made about the youth camps at at
least one World Social Forum. I do not recall the latter being publicly
and satisfactorily dealt with. It is clear that this will not be the
case here. And I hope for further information, analysis and strategy for
definitely preventing it and making OWS spaces not only safe but
welcoming for women and other human beings.
Now read on...
/November 4, 2011
Author:/ Coco Papy <http://persephonemagazine.com/author/coco/>, /1
Occupy Wall Street: How About We Occupy Rape Culture?
/Tags:/: angela davis <http://persephonemagazine.com/tag/angela-davis/>,
angi becker stevens
warren <http://persephonemagazine.com/tag/elizabeth-warren/>, Melissa
McEwan <http://persephonemagazine.com/tag/melissa-mcewan/>, misogyny
<http://persephonemagazine.com/tag/misogyny/>, occupy oakland
<http://persephonemagazine.com/tag/occupy-oakland/>, occupy wall street
<http://persephonemagazine.com/tag/rape/>, Rape Culture
<http://persephonemagazine.com/tag/rape-culture/>, sarah seltzer
<http://persephonemagazine.com/tag/sarah-seltzer/>, sexual assault
"Our unity must be complex. Our unity must be emancipatory." -- Angela
Davis, Oakland's General Strike, Nov 2.
"Listen, if your revolution doesn't implicitly and explicitly include a
rejection of misogyny and other intersectional marginalizations, then
you're not staging a revolution; you're staging a change in management."
-- Melissa McEwan
On Wednesday November 2^nd , more than 15,000 people participated in
Oakland's citywide general strike as part of Occupy Oakland. And I wish
I could write about that right now. I wish I could write about the
100,000 protestors that were there. I wish I could write about how
amazing it is that demonstrators effectively shut down the Port of
Oakland, the fifth largest port in the U.S.
I wish I could write about how the media keeps treating the day as a
or just plain-up dismissing it
I would love to expand on the metaphor handed from the gods of how a
white man ran over two protesters with his Mercedes Benz because he was
"frustrated" and was then given police permission to drive away
Instead I think we need to occupy some goddamn rape culture. Let's start
from the top.
In Zuccotti Park, Tonye Iketubosin, a kitchen worker with OWS, has been
charged with groping an 18-year-old female demonstrator
as well as being a suspect in the rape of another 18-year-old
In Glasgow, a 28-year-old woman was raped at the George Square
in the morning and police are currently investigating the attack. That's
just this week alone.
Then there's the rape of a 19-year-old disabled woman at Occupy
<http://www.mediaite.com/tv/rape-alleged-at-occupy-cleveland/>, (who was
then accused of secretly working with the government
the sexual assault of a 14-year-old runaway at Occupy Dallas
(another "isolated incident"
and the still-standing controversy around Occupy Baltimore with alleged
sexual assaults within the camp
to the memo released by organizers on ways to report sexual abuse
a notice which left many feeling like the issue was being rerouted as
nothing more than personal complaints, as opposed to actual sexual assault.
According to (NBC) reporter Tom Beres, the big question is: "How much
damage this will do to all the work that has been done and the future of
the occupation." Really? Is that the big question, or is it, "Was this
woman raped and if so by whom? The report gets worse from there... After
a recitation of the charges and what amounts to a denial by organizers,
i.e. we don't make sleeping assignments (sic), the report goes
completely off the rails. We get a reaction from someone who isn't named
and reportedly isn't part of the protest but is "familiar" with it: I
don't believe any of these guys would do anything like that there. So I
think someone probably brought her here, set her here and to spend the
night and hang out with them for one day just to say she was raped. --
Local NBC Butchers Occupy Cleveland Rape Case with Bias
(highlighted on Occupy Patriarchy <http://occupypatriarchy.org/>)
Occupy Lawrence dealt with their own sexual assault case
well as Oakland <http://www.insidebayarea.com/oakland/ci_19139575>. A
Seattle man involved with the Occupy movement
<http://www.komonews.com/news/local/132064518.html> was caught exposing
himself, and Occupy Portland urged the suspect of the sexual assault of
a young women
to leave the camp before police arrived and at Occupy New Hampshire, a
woman has been charged with pimping out a 16-year-old girl
Hardikar spoke on her own experience
and she is not alone
Greenstreet created "Hot Chicks of Occupy Wall Street"
and Julian Assange became a fixture of Occupy London
Then there's this little gem tweeted by Occupy LSX
<http://www.mobypicture.com/user/OccupyFS/view/11096131> and also this
diamond by Joseph Hunter, aka, @anti_feminist
<http://twitter.com/#%21/anti__feminist> and his thoughts on the matter:
[Screen shot 2011-11-03 at 11.52.10 AM]
Did I mention that November 19^th is "Occupy a Vagina Day"
<https://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=175488869201551>? From their
Facebook page: "With the occupy movement growing so much it is time that
everyone occupies a vagina! Unless of course you have one, then you need
Though really, the worst is that there are folks who think these are
just isolated incidents
and that there are things bigger than us
That's what it keeps coming down to. There are "bigger things" than all
of us, though these things seem suspiciously easier to deal with when
you aren't necessarily the target of rape culture. It's also easy to
believe that you don't stand for rape culture when it is a more concrete
example of power, like the threat of sexual assault from police
officers. But when it's your own assaulting your own? Well... then it's
Well, "us" says hell no. "Us" makes up this movement- and "us" ain't
just women with a capital W. "Us" are not down with excusing rape
culture for the cause. From Sarah Seltzer's "Where Are The Women at
Occupy Wall Street? Everywhere--- And They're Not Going Away":
The dozen women I spoke to for this story---most of them
queer-identified and/or women of color---have witnessed varying amounts
of offensive behavior, such as unwanted touching or use of casually
misogynist language, within the movement. And they also differ as to the
extent to which they think they can elbow the "isms" out of their space.
But for the most part they share a defiant hope; just maybe, they say,
for once, a mobilization for social change can get it right: maintain a
broad base of support, connect the dots between different kinds of
injustice and achieve staying power. Their fervent wish is that the
movement's careful attention to inclusive structure, including "safe
space" caucuses and working groups and a commitment to anti-oppression
training, means not that misogyny will vanish altogether but rather that
diverse voices will remain a core part of the movement.
OWS organizers have responded by creating a guarded sleeping area and
have emphasized the need for safe spaces within OWS
but the fact remains that growing security concerns, especially sexual
assault and rape, are becoming a serious issue
While many are still cautious in throwing themselves into such
environments, there are those taking measures for the creation of a less
threatening environment. I spoke with Suzy Exposito
<http://twitter.com/#%21/senorita_ex>, an organizer in Occupy Wall
Street's Safer Spaces Committee on the actions that are being taken.
Safer Spaces started out by making impromptu announcements at the
general assembly about consent, boundaries and offensive language. We
often had to wait until the end of the assembly to make these
announcements, until we became an official working group. Now we have a
member report back with the other groups at the GA. We've recently
collaborated with a group of radical social workers and trained
mediators in scheduling anti-oppression workshops and "Community Watch"
shifts for anyone at the occupation. The Community Watch is a new thing.
In tandem with the Medical, Security and Mediation teams at OWS, we
started a program in which we schedule shifts for people to walk around
the space. They walk in pairs, or sometimes as a group, throughout the
night. This is just to look out for people who need help, who are being
violent, or who are using drugs/drinking out in the open. The current
method of confronting violence, though, 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
Accountability processes are usually tailored to the survivor's needs.
They may not want to face their attacker. The attacker may be removed
from the space temporarily or indefinitely, but meanwhile they would
have to go through an educational process on consent. They also usually
make a statement, publicly or privately, of apology and accountability.
Safer Spaces is trying to work out whether we would allow a perp back
into the space, with or without an accountability process. 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
In addition to these measures, "Safe Space Sleepovers," as mentioned
before, have been becoming more frequent. Two people take shifts and
while it is currently not a regular event, the Safe Spaces committee are
working together to make it another part of the Occupy movement. Which
is great, because there are folks bussing in from all over
Support is pouring <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=79QaklzY0YE> in from
The Safer Spaces Committee has released an official statement as of this
afternoon, which you can read here
Here's the thing, though. What does it mean if those who say they are
fighting against the system are recreating the system? What does it mean
when rape and sexual assault are excused because there are "bigger
things than us"? What does it mean when you disenfranchise the same
folks you are claiming to fight for? Why are specialized spaces having
to be created for those affected most by rape culture or gender based
violence? Why can't everyone be able to be full participants in the same
space? Where is the miscommunication about that whole 99% thing happening?
Many---typically straight white men---claim that talking about gender
and race will only divide us, when what we need is to be standing
together and focusing on how we're all the same. But the reality is that
we do not all experience oppression in the same ways. There is value in
uniting--the 'Occupy' movement's slogan that "we are the 99%" is a
powerful one--but our experiences still differ based on race, class,
gender and sexual orientation. It is perhaps a well-intentioned notion
to imagine that we can unite in a way that transcends these categories,
but it's a notion that has no basis in the reality of our society.
Because these categories, however artificially constructed they might
be, still play a huge role in how and to what degree we are exploited,
it is impossible to fight oppressive forces without acknowledging the
reality of how they function. We can stand in solidarity with one
another without pretending that our experiences are identical. In fact,
I would argue that the only true//solidarity is one in which we fully
recognize and respect both how our struggles are alike and how they
differ. -- Angi Becker Stevens. "/Why Safety Is Essential In Order For
Women To Fully Participate in the Occupy Movement."
Though really, the salt in the wound on this whole manner is the sudden
interest in rape and sexual assault by conservative media outlets,
an attempt that's enough to make anyone see red because when the right
isn't expressing this concern, they sure are doing everything they can
away plenty of
fight against rape culture
and see no problems with using aggressive language to degrade people
like Elizabeth Warren
Women deserve to start the conversations about the impact of economic
inequality, to participate in the conversations, to change the
conversations, and to end the conversations---and they deserve to do
those things while not facing police brutality, while not experiencing
sexist attacks, and while not being sexually objectified. All those
things work in tandem to further take away power from women, and we need
women in this fight.
We support the Occupy Together movement while acknowledging that it
needs to work to make spaces safe for women, and to fight sexism and
misogyny when it creeps in. -- Women Occupy's mission statement
<http://womenoccupy.tumblr.com/>, Women Occupy Facebook
The sexual violence and harassment that is happening in Occupy camps
cannot be ignored and cannot be thrown to the side in favor of the "real
issues." These are the real issues
they don't lie <http://sarccp.weebly.com/statistics.html>.
People wonder why women don't "fight back," but they don't wonder about
it when women back down in arguments, are interrupted, purposefully
lower and modulate their voices to express less emotion, make obvious
signals that they are uninterested in conversation or being in closer
physical proximity and are ignored. They don't wonder about all those
daily social interactions in which women are quieter, ignored, or
invisible, because those social interactions seem normal. They seem
normal to women, and they seem normal to men, because we were all raised
in the same cultural pond, drinking the same Kool-Aid.
And then, all of a sudden, when women are raped, all these natural and
invisible social interactions become evidence that the woman wasn't
truly raped. Because she didn't fight back, or yell loudly, or run, or
kick, or punch. She let him into her room when it was obvious what he
wanted. She flirted with him, she kissed him. She stopped saying no,
after a while. -- Harriet J, "Another Post About Rape
Cause folks, we are either fighting for it all
or it's just new folks and the same old shit.
/ For more information, follow @womenoccupy
<http://twitter.com/#%21/womenoccupy> or the following
hashtags: #occupyrapeculture #occupypatriarchy #womenoccupy
Coco Papy <http://persephonemagazine.com/author/coco/>
Coco is a writer and discusser of all things that make her culturally
tick.She currently lives in Brooklyn, NY with too many books and animals
and is also trying to make it on that professional writer ticket thing
that everyone keeps talking about.
Website <http://persephonemagazine.com/members/coco/> - More Posts
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