Monday, May 21, 2012

Negative Bitching, Complaining, and Whining

Last Thursday, on the 17th of May, there was an event held on Legislative Plaza here in Nashville that was announced as a feminist general assembly, or FemGA.  If the perverts at Westboro Baptist get to call themselves Christian, I suppose the bunch at ON can call themselves feminists and their little gathering last week a feminist event.  On the other hand...

Let's backtrack just a bit and see how the event came to be in the first place.  At the Occupy Nashville GA on May 8th, a proposal was presented that ON have its GA on May 17th be a FemGA, in solidarity with FemGAs scheduled all across the country to be held on the same day.  The proposal was presented by a woman who quickly advised she saw no need to devote the entire GA to feminist issues. 

As has happened over and over again in ON and other Occupy groups, when the subject of feminist concerns was raised, there were immediate cries (from the usual suspects, of course) of divisiveness, a declaration of how "isms" are "tools of the 1% to divide us."  Although the proposal included a statement that the FemGA would present their own agenda, ON's GA discussion of whether or not to allow the FemGA quickly devolved into their resolution to come up with ideas of their own of what should be on the agenda for discussion.  There were, after all, the cautions that people didn't want a FemGA to be "negative," or include "bitching," "complaining," "whining."  Before it was over, they got really clever (and dismissive) by embracing the watered down event and proclaiming we should all wear pink.  Because nothin' says women's issues like pink, I guess.  See the sham discussion for yourself here.  It's the first 10 minutes of that video.

Although that GA on May 8th did include saying that some sort of outreach should be undertaken to advise women and others who might want to attend, nothing was posted about it on the Occupy Nashville or Occupy Nashville Social Media facebook pages or even on the ON .org official site until over a week later,  the day before the event was scheduled to take place.  And, not surprisingly, there was confusion even in those announcements that came so late:  ON was posting that they were hosting a FemGA.  The people who were actually sponsoring and were going to be the facilitators of that meeting were posting that it would be a FemGA.  Nowhere was it mentioned that this wasn't going to be a special FemGA, but, instead, a part of the usual Thursday night GA as was agreed to when ON's GA watered down the proposal presented on the 8th.

As noted in my post on the Women Occupy Nashville facebook page, there wasn't a lot that was feminist about that GA.  Again, there were the cautions that it's "divisive" to talk about women's issues.  Why can't we all just get along, right?  Finally, at almost the end of the labored event, there was a brave feminist voice whose eloquence and passion spoke to the heart of the issue, and that's privilege.  More to the point, male privilege in patriarchy.  Darlene spoke and told all who would or could hear how we got to this point, what and where the problems are.  Her message was impassioned, beautiful, and true.  You can skip over the bullshit that for the most part postured painfully as a FemGA and hear what she said by fast forwarding to 1:20:40 in this video.  (That portion goes until about 1:33:01.)

By the time the "Fem"GA concluded, we'd endured yet another round of condescending crap about how we're all "human" and have the same rights so wtf's the problem.  That's shorthand for what the deniers had to say, of course, but if you're inclined to wallow in it, you can watch the whole thing for yourself.  I'm not feeling the need or desire to go over it all again.  It was the usual diatribe, punctuated with assurances about how much they really do, of course, love women. 

There were a couple of things brought up in that GA that I do want to address however, just for correction.  First of all, I do understand that if you were born after the feminist wave of the 60s and 70s, your experience on this planet has been different than if you'd been born before that.  That's true no matter your gender.  But what you might not know is just how relevant to the lives of some of us who were there in the 60s and 70s was one Gloria Steinem and Ms magazine.  When the first issue of Ms was published in 1972, there were millions of women, like myself, who had grown up in a world that didn't include birth control pills (introduced in 1960) and who had lived rather than read about the Feminine Mystique (Friedan's groundbreaking work published in 1963).  1963 was also the same year I finished my junior year in high school and when my parents informed me that "the only reason girls go to college is to meet a husband."  This would be years before the first Pell grant (the first Pell grants became available in 1972) that might have made it possible for girls like me to go to school just because we wanted an education.  It was Ms magazine that I pored over as a woman in my late 20s, finding validation for what I knew I was living.  It was Steinem's magazine that told me about Pell grants.  Ms magazine that empowered me to flee from my home on a snowy weekend in Illinois in nothing more than a robe because my husband/captor got sloppy and momentarily left the car keys where I could get my hands on them.  It may have been fate that allowed the first car I encountered when I fled that day to be a sheriff's patrol car, but it was Ms magazine that had let me know there was a place women like me and my daughter could go to start a new life that included the freedom to become, to grow, to even be, free of restraint.  And, it was Ms magazine's article about Pell grants that spurred me to go back to school, even if the last thing I was looking for was another husband.  Gloria Steinem has made a difference in my life and I'm personally aware of other women right here in Occupy Nashville for whom that's also true.  I care much less about what any person or group that she may have known or been associated with did than I do that.  Her work has profoundly changed lives and I found it offensive to hear her slammed in this "Fem"GA.

I want to say something, too, about the "war on women."  One speaker at the GA asked us to consider being more inclusive and acknowledge that there's a war on more than women.  Fair enough, on the surface, right?  She went on to speak about the power of language, and with that, I heartily concur, being someone myself who often addresses the issue of our need to use language as the powerful tool it is, to recognize and confront where necessary the words that perpetuate hate, to use words that more accurately and genuinely reflect reality.  To take back and reinvent words that have been used to shame and abuse us.  But, here's the thing...When the phrase "war on women" is used now, it's used to describe the onslaught of literally hundreds of pieces of legislation across this entire country in the past year that purport to restrict birth control, abortion, and even other health care services for women.  Not men.  Not transgendered folks.  Women.  That's who gets pregnant.  That's who bears the responsibility for failed or unavailable birth control.  That's who gets abortions.  While I'm sympathetic to the issues of transgendered individuals, I do not like seeing even what is clearly a war on women renamed in the interest of, what?  Getting along? We're talking about women in this instance.  It's okay to say women.

I wrote about misogyny within ON back in January here and made the point that Occupy in general and ON in particular will die if they continue to deny and refuse to confront the very real abuse of women within their ranks.  If one was an optimist of supernatural ability, you might imagine that having a FemGA could have a transformative impact on the movement.  You'd have to stop going to or watching an ON GA to wallow in that delusion for very long.  The very next GA held by ON after the "Fem"GA was last Saturday, the 19th of May.  If you've a hankering for indulging a display of condescending, dismissive statements about feminism and women who want to talk about feminist issues here in ON, check it for yourself by reviewing the GA here.  If you want the Reader's Digest version, here are some quotes:  "Sexism is created by elites to keep us from focusing on core problems."  After treating us to discourse on the subject of how bad women in other countries have it, we were told, "What happens here looks like fairyland" in comparison.  We're "selfish."  Over and over again, we were reminded there is "a larger goal."  Feminist issues and the women who raise them are interfering with the movement with their "pet projects," their "pet issues."  Presumably to the women who choose to no longer be abused, the point was made that it's most "divisive" of all to the movement to walk away from it.  In what must surely be one of the most ignorant statements I've ever heard come out of any ON participant's mouth, one woman implied that women who have left ON are not there because they've "lost their confidence."

Mah dear, we have not lost confidence, we have lost patience.  Some of us are simply fed up with the abuse and denial and refusal to address the problem.  If the sexist musings in Saturday's GA leave any doubt that the feminist consciousness of those still a part of ON has not yet been raised in any discernible way, checking out yesterday's GA should take care of that.  You can see it here. You won't have to watch long before hearing the sneer, "We're all sexists, is what it is!" When talking about why there are ever dwindling numbers in attendance for an ON GA or direct action event, you can learn, "The only people who hate us are here," and it's suggested (yet again) that those who speak of a problem in ON are "infiltrators."

In GA after GA for the past couple of months, I've heard the whine that people left ON because "evil" people ran them off because they raised issues about misogyny within the movement.  Another time, we were told the real problem is that we haven't had enough violence and that provoking the police to the point where they could likeliest react with violence might get us some much needed attention and support.  Curiously enough, now the spiel is about the violence of language, specifically the matter of protesters yelling "fuck you" to the police.  You'll excuse me, I'm sure, if I allow as how I dang near fell outta mah chair laughin' when this comes from the mouth of one who has repeatedly gone in really close to the camera when something was being streamed to yell "fuck you" to those who weren't at the event.

When Darlene spoke at the Thursday night "Fem"GA, she brought up the subject of privilege and I, for one, was grateful for that.  Time and time again, I've been dismayed to see people within ON act and speak as if utterly unaware of the privilege they enjoy within ON and society at large.  For a bunch of folks who want to be perceived as informed revolutionaries, they're an abjectly uninformed lot when it comes to their own privilege and its ramifications for those around them.

I've pondered at length why it is that so many apparently intelligent, caring, involved people who have been associated with Occupy Nashville have been mostly silent about the misogyny in ON.  If I refuse to believe it's because they're selfish assholes, I can only conclude it's because they're acting on the assumption that their own experience is that of everybody else and that's allowed them to either disbelieve or discount the experiences reported by others.

If you're a student at a private institution of higher learning, you have privilege that the majority of the 99% this movement is supposed to be about do not.  If you're a student at Vanderbilt, your privilege has you in the same school where one now federal judge, Aleta Trauger, once roamed the halls in search of a bathroom.  Ms Trauger and other women occupied a men's bathroom at Vandy in the 70s, several decades before there was an Occupy movement, to protest the lack of facilities for women.  It's women like her (and Gloria Steinem and so many more) who gave you the privilege you enjoy today.  But it's fundamentally flawed to behave as if because some of us have privilege, everyone does.  As Darlene said the other night, we are not all equal.  To act as if we are only perpetuates the injustice by denying it in the first place.  No problem?  Nothing to fix.

If you have enough money to attend GA on a regular basis, whether you're driving and parking or taking public transportation, you have privilege that not everyone who wants to support ON has.  If you go before a GA, repeatedly, to berate those who are not present without understanding that fact, you are abusing your own privilege.  I'll add that when the person doing the chiding about not being on the plaza is the same person heard a few minutes earlier on stream talking about living in a home owned by the in-laws and not having to work for a living, clueless is the kindest way to describe how that person looks.

When do we get to the place in which there is finally an understanding that just because the experience and situation of another differs from your own, it doesn't make the experience of the one who is oppressed invalid or nonexistent?  Is it rocket science to understand that if we're differently en-abled, our experiences are going to be different?

Perhaps most galling of all has been the response of some self-identified "feminists" still a part of ON.  But, can we get real a moment here?  If a "feminist" woman can find at least three felons to be fuckable within about as many months, drawing from the tiny pool of the movement that has been Occupy Nashville, is it also rocket science to think that "feminist" experience might have been different from the experience of other feminist women within the group?  Feminists may or may not fuck better, but fucking more doesn't make you a feminist.  I don't personally care who or how often anybody fucks or why they do it.  I really do not.  What I do, however, care about, is when women who are first denied admission into a male circle gain acceptance after fucking and then deny the experience of other women who choose another way.  It's most especially egregious when that woman then turns around, after feminists within ON stood up for her when she couldn't join the team, becomes a mouthpiece for the boys after fucking some of them.  Is that plain enough?

One ON "feminist"'s Twitter profile pic.

Recent GAs also included some mention of women being "afraid" to come to GA on the plaza.  I know that's true, because I've spoken with some of those women myself.  But the reality is that we could have come en masse as a group last week, perceiving safety in numbers, yes?  We didn't.  I lived in Chicago for 15 years, working daily in the roughest that city can offer, and it would take a great deal more than the punk nonsense I've seen from ON to seriously concern me for my physical safety.  No.  And I'm not seeing in myself or in the other women who were not there any "loss" of confidence either.  No.  They're organizing and doing good work elsewhere.  Listen up.  We are not there because we do not want to work with you.  We.  Do.  NOT.  Want.  To.  Work.  With.  You.  We've tried, some of us since October 7th, and you've demonstrated repeatedly your inability and/or unwillingness, for whatever reason, to acknowledge there is a problem with the abuse of power and privilege within Occupy Nashville.  Our leaving wasn't what was divisive.  We left because you divided the group when you supported the bullshit.

There were seven people at the Occupy Nashville General Assembly yesterday.  Seven.  Off the top of my head, I can call the names of at least eight women who were not there because they do not want to work with you again.  That's not counting the at least a half dozen more women I could name who used to regularly be a part of ON GA but are now busy organizing Vandy, and the housing committee.  Could anybody blame them if they don't want to work with you either?  Nor were the feminist men who used to so often be at ON GA present yesterday.  You had seven people there.  Seven.  And you have yourselves to thank for it.

(NOTE:  I know I promised the next blog entry after the one of May 16th would "introduce" you to the informant who contacted me about Wolfy being a pedophile, but I wanted to get this done first and don't have time to do both now.  I'll do it in the next day or so, but will tell you for now that a lot of you already know him as (first) bigwolf on the ON livestream chat channel, before he changed his name to hide from Wolfy after Wolfy began to threaten him.  Name was changed to elwood88.  More next time.)