Monday, May 21, 2012
I wish I could report back that the Occupy Movement is free of sexist bias, but honestly, I can't. It is undeniable that many young women, as well as young gender non-specific types, are stepping up with competence and assuming power, but an alarming crisis of self-esteem and bias still persists in the meetings I have attended. Women are still hesitant to speak up and will undercut their statements with phrases like,"I don't know that much about this but..." There is often a preponderance of males in meetings and when it comes to stepping up to summarize goals and lead groups, men still dominate the proceedings.
A Workers Assembly meeting I attended this weekend was about two thirds male to one third female in composition. This probably occurred because union membership is skewed to favor higher paid, better jobs, which are primarily held by males. This is not to imply that women are silent at these gatherings. Women my age (fifties and sixties), for the most part, don't seem to have problems speaking out. Some younger women are taking leadership as well. But more pervasive overall patterns of discrimination and even self-suppression are apparent and more difficult to erase.
Last night I attended a second small meeting of an Occupy spin off that was a small group of boomer males with only a couple of women. A very articulate woman took notes at the last meeting and she was drafted again, somewhat against her will, as note-taker at this one. Of course, that was after all the males refused to volunteer and their gazes turned toward me. I replied, just as the men had, that I didn't have a laptop or know stenography either! I didn't address the gender bias because I was caught off-guard. I thought we dealt with this in the sixties when we women walked out of the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) because we didn't want to be secretaries and coffee fetchers.
I guess the more things change, the more they stay the same. The fact of the matter remains; this prejudiced behavior is unacceptable and it will only serve to undermine our movement. At this point I'm trying to pull together a presentation of sexism and homophobia that both young and old can understand. The very lifeblood of our movement depends upon it!