First, I am not a member of the Occupy Austin General Assembly. I communicate with its members via e-mail and social media. That disclosure should lead any reporter—even Katha Pollitt—to the conclusion that I’m incapable of speaking on behalf of any member of Occupy Austin. I’ll do you one better: I’m a contributing writer for Occupy Austin and the Occupied Washington Times and I occupied a tent behind Dallas, not Austin’s City Hall.
I recently read a blog posted on OccupyAustin.org titled What Occupy Is and Is Not. It was obvious to me after reading the blog that the writer (a member of the Language of Unity Working Group) must have began their editorial with the intention of relaying some relatively unknown demographic information: There are republican occupiers. Okay. Proving this is often the defensive response to FOX News’ claims that Occupy is the brainchild of the Obama 2012 campaign or far-left liberals. Fair enough. I’ve met Republican occupiers, and even members of the Tea Party, that frequently join Occupy demonstrations. Lets move on to the differences between the 99% and the Occupy movement itself.
I was once at a protest in downtown Dallas. We positioned ourselves between a Chase bank and a community owned credit union. With groups of protesters on all four corners chanting and banging drums, we were an unavoidable spectacle. One of the buildings adjacent to Chase had apartments above the ground level shops and from one of the fifth story windows a paper air plane was thrown. Almost magically, the airplane landed at our feet and we opened it up. It read: “I love your cause, but please stop drumming. The rest of the 99%.” We obliged.
The reason I tell that story is to show an important contrast between members of the Occupy movement and the so-called 99%. The term 99% is an economic distinction. The number 99 wasn’t derived from a mathematical study of wealth in America. 99 percent is meant to show just how many of Them there are compared to Us; the uber-wealthy and the rest of us, respectively. Many economists (who seem oblivious to the point) have even come out to say it’s really the .01 percent. So, once again, Charles Manson, Joe the Plumber and Antoine Dodson are all members of the demographic, symbolically identified as the 99%, whether they agree with the objectives of the Occupy movement or not.
The blogger also made a false statement that Occupy had thus far intentionally removed itself from abortion related conversations. I say false because I remember a number of large protests both defending Woman’s rights and attacking groups that attempted to pull resources away from healthcare organizations such as Planned Parenthood. In Dallas, Occupy protesters (after establishing consent in a General Assembly) joined with demonstrators from MoveOn.org, CREDO Action and UltraViolet to shame Susan G. Komen for the Cure after they attempted to cut funding to Planned Parenthood.
After informing readers that Occupy was not a leftist organization and told them Occupy kept Women’s issues at arms length, the aforementioned blog, What Occupy Is and Is Not, deteriorated with a number of uncouth and presumptuous remarks about women and abortion. A writer at The Nation quickly picked up on these remarks and incorporated them into an article titled, Women: Occupy the Left. Pollitt, who authored the editorial, obviously took offense to chauvinistic comments that labeling middle aged female demonstrators as, “soccer moms in need of a cause”. You know what? I do too.
I’m an occasional reader of The Nation. Specifically, I am a fan of contributing writer Ari Berman, whom I believe is one of the few great progressive journalists in a dying breed. I’d like to label Pollitt’s mention of Occupy Austin’s blog as feeble. When describing the grievances declared by the General Assembly of New York City, she chose animal rights and colonialism as the two ends of the spectrum. She could have just as easily chosen illegal foreclosures, exorbitant CEO bonuses or job outsourcing to describe OWS’s cause.
Occupy Wall St. didn’t begin their list with animal rights nor did it end with colonialism. Pollitt’s sly attempt to show how OWS singled out animals more than women is laughable. When Pollitt says, “women’s rights… tend to get set aside whenever economics or ‘class” is the focus,” and then later says, “women’s rights are economic rights, too“, she obnoxiously and perhaps intentionally contradicts herself. The first two OWS grievances (not mentioned or linked to by Pollitt) are references to economic injustice. Pollitt seems to infer that while economic rights are women’s rights, it’s necessary for any writer to point out they are including women when referring to said rights or we can’t be sure they are.
In conclusion, I’d like to say that the “Language of Unity Working Group” stated that Occupy has no clearly defined demands and that is also false. We clearly desire the Supreme Court to reverse ‘United vs FEC’ and to outlaw large corporate donations for political means. It’s also evident that the Occupy movement demands equality for women (and men), in the workplace and any other place they choose to be. To suggest otherwise is ignorant when thousands have marched to petition for a redress of those grievances specifically.
When it comes to women, the 99% or the Occupy movement itself, my advise to Katha Pollitt and the Language of Unity Working Group is: Speak for yourself.
My opinions are just that, mine.