The Occupy Wall Street movement doesn’t exactly have the most shining reputation. It has been criticized for having no concrete goals or any sort of discernable structure, for oversimplifying the complex issue of the economy, and for its treatment of gender and race (among other things).
#OWS’s treatment of women in particular hasn’t been great. From the repulsive Hot Chicks at Occupy tumblr (which I know isn’t a blog sanctioned by #OWS, but still represents sexism in the movement, I think) and the reportedly high rates of sexual assault of women in the Occupy camps, women have gotten the short end of the stick.
Which is why – whether you agree with #OWS or not – we were glad to see Occupy Wall Street’s first ever Feminist General Assembly come to fruition on the night of the 17th. (To clarify: There have been feminist GA’s in the Occupy movement in other states, but this is the first one in New York.) Held on the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia, as well as the 181st anniversary of the First Woman’s Anti-Slavery Convention, participants came to together to discuss the place of women and women’s issues in the Occupy movement.
About 300 women convened in Washington Square Park for the General Assembly, while male members of the group helpfully provided childcare for those who needed it. Sarah Seltzer of The Nation interestingly noted that the majority of the people present were white, cisgender women – and the police presence at the event was notably less than other Occupy assemblies.
The GA seemed fruitful; some points that were brought to light included the need to fight back against the limitation of reproductive rights, the need to educate about misogyny and other forms of oppression, and the importance of making the movement more inclusive trans* people, women of color, women of all abilities, and incarcerated women.
There seemed to be an emphasis on turning thoughts and ideas and feelings into actual action – a central struggle of the Occupy movement as a whole. Seltzer noted that no concrete goals or plans for the future were made; rather, simple discussion about action was done.
Personally, I think it’s fantastic that #OWS has moved to recognize the women within the movement, and hopefully will continue to become more inclusive to more types of women. Unfortunately, I don’t know if that can really happen without concrete goals – something the movement lacks.
(Image via occupywallst.org)