Occupiers all viscerally sense the problem: extreme economic inequality. They all cite a lack of fairness — a lack of opportunity. They also agree that the status quo is failing.
But when it comes to women, Occupy is really a microcosm of the greater culture at large. This should … greatly embarrass those in the movement who see themselves as revolutionaries.
Just as when misogynists claimed the women accusing Julian Assange of rape were in fact part of a CIA-planned “honey trap”, there are misogynists calling the acknowledgment of gender inequality in the “Occupations” a plot by the powers-that-be to delegitimize the movement. Little do they know that any participant’s disregard for the concerns of women in the movement, and their lack of willingness to acknowledge that women face sexism in society, will do plenty more to delegitimize Occupy than anything these alleged powers-that-be could do with their sudden, uncharacteristic feminism. (Society’s power networks have never been known for being particularly woman-friendly, so claims that this is a government or corporate plot seem specious.)
How about this: to pre-empt these nefarious powers attempting to delegitimize the Occupy movement by pointing out how it reproduces society’s inequalities, why doesn’t Occupy instead model what an equal society should look like by being actively feminist, anti-racist, and welcoming to all other marginalized identities?
The argument that we must ignore all inequality except for class inequality is a surefire way to create an all white male movement that benefits white males. The American Socialist Party in the early 20th century did the same thing, and we can see how powerful they are now. Quote:
[The Socialist Party's] female members were not encouraged to join other women’s organizations in the fight for women’s rights ans suffrage. The class struggle was to have priority over matters of gender equality.
Not only does an equal class, unequal gender vision of the future serve to benefit men and turn off women, but it is impossible. How is it possible for unequal people to maintain equal wealth or wages or standards of living?
No one is a single identity. Each of us is a whole person with many different identities around race, ethnicity, (dis)ability, sexual orientation, gender identity, sex, religion, age, etc. An individual’s class is heavily affected by their other identities. Black and brown people have considerably less wealth than white people, women still earn less than men for equivalent work, trans people are more likely to be homeless than cisgendered people, etc. If you can’t bring that into your class analysis, you are doing some shitty class analysis.
To call women, or people of color, or other marginalized groups abettors of the oppressors for raising their particular concerns is to be willfully blind to the real way class works, and to silence those who experience the preponderance of its negative effects… i.e. the best and most motivated potential activists.
Here is some information about wealth disparities for the skeptical.
This post appeared originally on the blog The Czech.
Havolvá has been blogging since 2008 about social justice issues, including women's rights, at her blog, The Czech. In her non-virtual life, she has spent the last 8 years working in non-profits, focusing on the provision of basic human rights to America's most marginalized people.