I had the pleasure of co-facilitating a discussion about feminism and the 99 percent movement on Thursday, November 9, sponsored by the Women’s and Gender Studies department at Syracuse University. My co-facilitator, RisaC'DeBaca, a fellow senior Women’s and Gender Studies major, provided her insight as one of the main organizers within the Occupy Syracuse movement and a longtime community activist.
We talked about the ways the Occupy movement has been depicted in the media and how that representation plays a role in the general public’s perception of Occupy Wall Street and national Occupy movements everywhere.
A number of disparate issues were raised by the participants -- about twenty graduate students, professors, and a few of our classmates and friends.
Here are some of the biggest takeaways:
Risa smartly argued that a key reason why Occupy Wall Street has swept the nation is because we’re coming off a revolutionary year for political discourse and social change. In 2011 alone, we bore witness to a wide variety of inspiring and enraging social uprisings—The Arab Spring protests, defunding of Planned Parenthoods nationwide, and the execution of Troy Davis to name a few—and the initial Occupy Wall Street protest on September 17 was essentially the icing on the cake for those who accumulated a sense of growing anger and passion.
The general public has speculated on what exactly women’s roles are in the Occupy movement. Why do women care? One professor put it simply when she pointed out that women and children make up the majority of people in poverty in this country, so the issues and demands of Occupy directly affect this group of Americans. Social issues aside, females in the US face economic struggles and hardship greater than their male counterparts—salary and payment inequalities, issues of childcare, and maternal healthcare.
Identifying with the 99 percent majority in the Occupy movement is not limited to a financial bracket or economic income. There are more involved and complex ways that individuals do and don’t fall within the 99 percent category, and it’s important to realize that this logic goes beyond literal monetary reality.
If the Occupy movement is going to continue evolving beyond two months of physical protests, there’s a critical need to occupy other spaces as well. This social movement is not limited to people who opt to sleep in tents in parks and plazas—activists can utilize the Internet and social networking tools to organize and effectively change the status quo, individuals can host teach-ins and educate the public outside of Occupy camps, and writers and thinkers can make the conscious decision to focus on and cover news around the social movement. Everyone can be an occupier and every spot can be "Occupied."