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FemGA Reportback: Moving beyond the binary

Posted by Guest -

Mon, Jul 9, 2012

War Dollars Home

By Jillian McCarthy

July 5, 2012

On Sunday, July 1, I attended the Occupy National Gathering’s Feminist general assembly, or “Fem GA.” Having never attended an Occupy event before, I didn’t know what to expect, but it was even better than I expected. Between 100 and 150 feminist Occupiers met in a park in Philadelphia. While women were the clear majority and ran the show, many men were in attendance as well. The group was a bit disappointingly white, although people of color were in attendance. The assembly began with one of the organizers reading out the policies and housekeeping rules in order to create a safe space where all voices could be heard. Near the beginning, one organizer said that the Occupy movement is a feminist movement in that it seeks to break down repressive structures that are detrimental to many members of a population. Feminist values underly the Occupy movement, and to me linking the two creates a powerful coalition.

The next portion of the Fem GA involved making a list of core values that attendees wanted the Occupy movement and our political and economic systems to embody better. Values ranged from love to redefining masculinity to respect for mother earth. Just as I was beginning to think that I would observe the event and not contribute personally, the organizers announced that we would next split into groups of three and discuss two questions as a form of consciousness-raising: How have you felt drawn to or pushed away from feminism? How does being a feminist make your life easier or more difficult? I have always felt extremely drawn to feminism, and there haven’t been many moments in my life when I was disappointed in it or felt excluded from it in some way. However, I realize that my status as a white, middle class, educated, cis-gender, healthy woman make my acceptance in various groups, feminism included, more likely. My group discussed intersectional issues a lot like the intersection of gender and economic status, noting that we would like to see more intersectionality in both the feminist and the Occupy movements to empower both groups by demonstrating that many oppressive structures are linked together.

After the small group discussion, each group paired up with two other where we had three topics to discuss: What are the three goals of feminism today? What activism are you already doing? What do we need help with in our own activism? Many of the women and men in my group brought up issues of reclaiming education and reproductive justice. Another popular idea was making “feminine values” a bigger part of our political and economic systems. I, along with others in my group, took some issue with this idea because I believe that the “feminine values” mentioned, like generosity, self-sacrifice, and caring, should not be associated with either gender because they are universal human qualities that all people should strive to embody. Other members of my group raised similar concerns. As long as we continue to label some values masculine and others feminine, we will continue to limit both genders by making some values more accessible and others less so. In order to move beyond gender binaries in the Occupy movement and elsewhere, we must move beyond the characterization of some values as masculine and others as feminine. Doing so will create more equality between women and men just as it seeks more equality between the 99% and the 1%. This will truly make the Occupy movement a feminist movement.

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