Occupy Wall Street Holds First Feminist General Assembly

“What took so long?” was the general sentiment among those gathered in Washington Square Park in Manhattan last night for Occupy Wall Street’s first ever Feminist General Assembly.

Despite being woefully overdue, May 17 was a beautiful and significant night: Not only was it the eight-month anniversary of our movement, it was also the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia and the 181st anniversary of the First Women’s Anti-Slavery Convention. This intersection of issues created a perfect backdrop for discussing the challenges and importance of feminism to Occupy Wall Street–a movement often criticized for being stubbornly multi-issue.

I arrived to find a diverse crowd of around 300 people. Members of the Occupy Wall Street women’s caucus, Women Occupying Wall Street (WOW), were giving a shout of solidarity to Occupy Maine. The people of Lafayette, Ind.; Bend and Portland, Ore.; Chicago and a handful of other cities were also holding feminist GAs. The Raging Grannies sang  “Evolution is too slow, revolution’s the way to go!” and things were off to a raucous start. I pitched in with a paintbrush to help record the shared values we were brainstorming–“Trust!” “Creativity!” “Justice!” “Humor!”–and, ignoring my friend’s smirk, embraced the consciousness-raising exercise as though I were encountering it for the first time. After focusing almost exclusively on women’s organizing for the first six months of Occupy Wall Street (OWS), I was happy for the chance to just participate. More importantly, I was happy to see so many new leaders and so many of the elusive “unfamiliar faces” we had spent meeting after meeting trying to attract to the movement.

When we broke into smaller groups to discuss feminist goals for the Occupy movement, the fresh spring air had a cleansing effect on issues that felt dusty and spoiled. One young person who had never been to an Occupy Wall Street event and didn’t identify as a feminist shared a concern about not being taken seriously when calling out sexist behavior. A woman in a wheelchair spoke about how her disability had led her on a journey of liberation from societal standards of beauty. A member of OWS’ Safer Spaces group reminded us that:

Ally is a verb. It means more than just saying you’re anti-racist. It means doing something.

Someone with a sign that read “Women against Ableism and Sexism” argued that we can’t be feminists without being against war. We discussed how being a feminist means moving beyond capitalist conceptions of productivity to value things like food and family and fun–and how we can model this in our own lives and in our organizing.

The Assembly closed with a moving performance from the Mahina Movement, and I silently checked “fun” off the list of feminist accomplishments for the evening. As I biked home to Brooklyn with two friends from the OWS men’s circle, which had offered childcare for the event, I learned that they spent most of their time “baby-sitting” disgruntled men who would otherwise have disrupted the evening’s proceedings. Figuring their active allying made up for the shortage of actual children, I checked off “family.” My stomach was empty–OWS lost their kitchen space at the last minute–but I figured that for a first attempt at re-imagining OWS as a feminist community, two out of three wasn’t bad. A new world–a feminist world–was definitely possible.

Photo by Christina Daniel.

Comments

  1. OccupyEquality says:

    Of course Ms. Magazine would celebrate women waiting for men to give them permission to have their very own 300-women only segregated general assembly on Homophobia Transphobia day. I see that the usual failed feminism is still selling Ms. Magazines

  2. Yaaaayy! I wish i had been there but i’m dealing with some misogyny bullshit down here.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T1IeBy9CMEY

  3. I am so happy to see this happening. I believe women have the strength now to push through misogyny and make a different kind of society; one that is child centered, woman centered, peace centered, and turns away from war, violence, environmental destruction and monstrous economic inequality. I am not religious but as a great-grandmother who is enormously worried about the future of the young on this planet, I try to hold hands with Gaia. The concept of earth as mother is real and relevant for the entire universe. When we allow Gaia to be degraded by patriarchies search for oil, minerals, and irreplaceable old growth trees while drugs ravage entire countries including our own, she will treat these physical insults with self medication;global warming designed to get rid of her tormenters. I believe that only women can stop this as men are, as a group, (and of course there are exceptions) too ego ridden and pleasure seeking to give up their sense of privilege over women. But men can change. However, in this women must be the vanguards.

  4. Yes it’s time feminists took it to a new level, where women are valued wholly and their wider value to the structure of human evolution recognised. Women are vital for the evolution of humanity. Read more about this in MEN: Are they the biggest problem in the world? by Kay Urlich at Amazon.com http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00658MO0K

  5. PLEASE HELP END MISOGYNY that you speak of above. Link arms with us who’ve been working for free for you for the past TWELVE YEARS, 18/7 with 300 000 members!

    STAMP OUT MISOGYNY via Passage of the Equal Rights Amendment that barely missed passing into the US Constitution by 1982 by JUST 3 STATES REFUSING TO VOTE FOR IT!

    ERA is not only BACK, but full-throated and working for ratification bills in SEVEN STATES AND IN US CONGRESS.

    We are proud to say that WE HAVE HAD A HAND IN EVERY BIT OF THAT FEMINIST HISTORY’S HARD WORK.

    Take a tour of our National Equal Rights Amendment Alliance’s goals and our supporting work at http://www.2PassERA.org. OUR SITE IS THE MOST COMPLETE, CURRENT AND CORRECT; legislators in other states refer to its validated info as they file their own states’ ratification bills for ERA! (then they thank us for the help via handwritten notes).

    We are so proud of our accomplishments and all those who have shouldered the job. Want to shoulder-on with them? I’d be delighted to hear from you at SandyO@PassERA.org. We work but we have FUN too. We KNOW we are doing something very important via ERA, which will make sex discrimination A VIOLATION OF THE US CONSTITUTION. Doesn’t that sound warm and fuzzy to YOU? Connect with us: WE NEED YOU. YOU NEED US. Let’s end misogyny ONCE AND FOR ALL with the passage of the ERA into the Constitution.

    HERE’S WHAT THE PROPOSED EQUAL RIGHTS AMENDMENT PROCLAIMS:

    “Equality under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.”/gender.

    Sound like a great idea? Discuss what you want from ERA with me at sandyo@PassERA.org.
    (I’m founder-president of Natl ERA Alliance; former elected official; Professor Emerita; co-author, internationally distributed pharmacology reference text; Nurse practitioner; Bio’d in Feminists Who Changed America; 2012 recipient, Susan B Anthony award, “Failure is Impossible”. YESSSSSSSSSSS !
    Mom and wife of a great feminist guy VISIT US and WRITE ME, sandyo@PassERA.org Eager to connect!

  6. Sandy, thank you Ms and so many others for the work you do. Taking it to the next level now means looking into the ‘energetic concepts’ of ‘female traits of consciousness’ i.e. empathy, compassion etc. That they exist for the benefit of all humanity.

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