Sunday, January 29, 2012

Trivial Issues

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.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Let's Interview a Woman Beater

Representative Daniel P. Gordon, Jr. wrangled his seat in the Rhode Island state house by beating his opponent with a mere 47 votes in the November 2010 election.  Gordon ran as a Republican against Democrat George S. Alzaibak, declaring during the campaign that called attention to the candidates' differences of opinion on same-sex marriage and immigration issues, "The most important issue is honesty and integrity."

So what, right?  Same-sex marriage and immigration are hot topics across the country, and I've yet to hear a politician openly argue against "honesty and integrity."  And, goodness!  Why the heck am I writing about a member of the Rhode Island state legislature in a blog about Occupy Nashville in the first place?  Because Occupy Nashville's affiliated radio show, This Occupied Life, will feature an interview with Gordon during its weekly live broadcast tomorrow.

Voters in Rhode Island know a lot more about Mr. Gordon today than they did when they cast their votes in 2010.  When Mr. "Honesty and Integrity are Important" Gordon was arrested in September 2011 for being a "fugitive from justice," just ten days after the Rhode Island House GOP Caucus voted to expel him from the party, a disturbing history of violent behavior was revealed.  This history included revelation that Gordon had a violent criminal record:

  • In 1996, Gordon was charged with two counts of assault with a dangerous weapon, assault with intent to murder, discharging a firearm within 500 feet of a building and two other weapons charges.  (Gordon was incarcerated four months related to these charges.)
  • In 2001, Gordon plead guilty to charges that he assaulted and threatened to kill his girlfriend.  (After serving 28 days in jail, Gordon received 18 months probation and was under a restraining order to stay away from the woman.)
  • 2003 brought more problems, with charges of car theft, negligent operation of a motor vehicle, operating a motor vehicle with a suspended license, failing to stop for police, using a motor vehicle without authority, operating a motor vehicle without a license, marked lanes violation and speeding being filed against Gordon.  (Disposition of these charges unknown.)
  • In 2004, Gordon, would be charged with attempted murder and assault and battery in a case involving yet another girlfriend.
  •  In 2008, Gordon was charged with eluding police, and it would be those charges he was arrested on in September 2011.
Gordon's official photo on Rhode Island House of Representatives web site.

The record indicates Mr. Gordon has had, at minimum, some problems with self control, but he also very quickly offered an explanation for his troubles when they became public a few months ago:  Gordon claimed his behavior was the result of self medicating, with alcohol, the PTSD he suffers because of military service in a war zone, including a shrapnel injury sustained on the streets of Baghdad.  He further lamented that his service records were not available for the public.

But, those records are, at least in part, now public, and the military record released by a U.S.M.C. spokesperson doesn't support Gordon's claims of combat service or a shrapnel wound in Baghdad.  It seems that Gordon spent his four years in the Marine Corps between 1987 and 1991 in such dangerous battlegrounds as South Carolina, Tennessee, Washington State, and California.  And, while Gordon's  bio on the Rhode Island House of Representatives web page cites "Marine Corps Institute, Terrorism Counteractions, 1990" under the heading of "Education," it may be worth noting that 1990 is the also the year that Gordon was demoted in rank by the Marines...not once, but twice.

So, just why is Occupy Nashville protester Matt Hamill interviewing Rhode Island Representative Daniel P. Gordon on 107.1 WRFN fm Radio Free Nashville tomorrow morning at 10 a.m.?  I don't know.  Perhaps Occupy Nashville has suddenly attained a feminist consciousness and they want to ask Gordon why a convicted woman beater should be holding public office.  Or, maybe the burning question du jour will be one that poses the question of how he squares his "The most important issue is honesty and integrity" statement with his lies by omission about his violent criminal convictions and his overt lying about his military service.  Those are things I'd like to ask him, if I was doing the interview.  Or, maybe he can ask him about his positions on issues, since Gordon's refused to respond to's repeated attempts to get that information.

So, what is the connect to Occupy Nashville?  Why is their weekly radio show, This Occupied Life, interviewing Gordon tomorrow?  It turns out that not only did the Rhode Island GOP Caucus force Gordon out in September, leaders of both the Democrat and Republican parties in that state have called repeatedly for his ouster from the state legislature.  In response, Gordon, a Ron Paul supporter, has joined the Libertarian party and vowed he will not resign.  Is that the connect?  It's no secret that the Occupy movement is populated by people with diverse political views and that Libertarians and Ron Paul supporters are part of that mix.  It's also no secret that the oft repeated stance of Occupy, in general, is that they do not support any particular political party or any politician. 

Let's hope that tomorrow's radio show event will be one after which we can still claim it's true that we are not aligning ourselves with anybody other than ourselves.  Let's pray that by this time tomorrow, we will not have to be talking about this radio show as the latest example of poor judgement on the part of some whose face is a public representative of Occupy Nashville.  And, how 'bout we tune in tomorrow when the show is broadcast?  The format for This Occupied Life has, to date, included the solicitation of questions from listeners and those in the online chat when the show is live streamed on one of ON's two live stream channels.  Here's hoping that format isn't changed for tomorrow's event.  You can log in to participate in chat here at 10 a.m. central time tomorrow morning, Saturday, January 7th, 2011, and assure that the right questions are asked.

Let's further hope that the next time ON interviews a politician it isn't a woman beater who lies bout his military service.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

What's Next for Occupy Nashville?

Occupy Nashville has been on Legislative Plaza for three months this weekend and, like Occupy sites all over the country, conversations are being had about what's next for the movement.  While many Occupy groups have lost their sites through forced eviction, others have made strategic decisions to abandon the physical occupation part of what they've been doing in favor of a different model of activism, one that is not burdened by the difficulties of communal camp living and is less of an obvious target for local opposition.

I have some thoughts on this myself and plan to write about that this weekend too, but I'm soliciting input from others about this.  If you've given thought to this and have some ideas, or are just interested in the subject and have questions or other input you'd like considered, please email me so I can include what you have to say.  Also, please vote in poll about this on this page, right hand column.