Activist Wednesday: Feminism, Non-Violence, and Occupy Wall Street
Posted June 13, 2012on:
I think people would agree that I am a passionate feminist, but not a particularly intellectual one. That does not mean, however, that I don’t appreciate a vigorous discussion of the women’s rights movement, feminism, non-violent activism and Occupy Wall Street; so let me share it with you. I’m sure you’ll appreciate it too.
I found the article, entitled “Waging Feminism – the Other Side of Non-Violent Struggle” on the site NationofChange.org. (So far I have found very little to dislike on the site, by the way – despite its name, it is not affiliated with the ObamaNation.) In any case, the writer is investigating Occupy Wall Street and its implications, if any, for feminism. The catalyst? On May 17th of this year, the first Feminist General Assembly for Women of Occupy Wall Street was held. I knew nothing about it, but then again, I’m hardly ears to the ground these days. (Sigh.) As you can see if you go to the website, the “WOW” movement is affiliated with Code Pink. I have many problems with Code Pink – they are pretty far out and not friendly to Israel at all – but they are definitely non-violent, which is one of the ways in which their agenda intersects with that of Occupy Wall Street.
Stephanie Van Hook, author of the article in “Nation of Change,” quoted one of the attendees of this year’s GA thus:
My impression is that there is still some way to go before reaching the possibility that OWS would align with feminism. The fact that sexual violence occurred with the encampment attests to the depth of the problem. There is still insufficient understanding of the depth of both the psycho-social and structural holds that patriarchy has on our culture and politics. Nonetheless, this feminist initiative is a very positive development, and I hope it goes forward.
Van Hook muses on the nature of feminism and wonders if it truly can be separated from non-violence – and what the consequences for women are, when activism, even such activism lauded by so many of our friends of all political stripes, is based on violence.
…There is generally thought to be a split between approaches to nonviolence that have been (poorly) labeled as “principled” and “strategic.” The strategic side does not want to touch emotions or ideals because they want to show that nonviolence is forceful and threatening to those in power — essentially, masculine and strong. Advocates of the strategic approach make advocates of principled nonviolence out to be emotional, impractical, unrealistic, somewhat irrational and preoccupied with human well-being — effeminate and passive.
It is a gendered debate, and it has consequences that fall along gendered lines. The movement in Egypt took a “strategic” route in the Arab Spring, for example, but although it encouraged women’s participation for a strategic purpose, it did little to undermine patriarchy and militarism, and the “revolution” was immediately followed by abuses against women and by military rule.
I told you I am a gut-level feminist, and this article was quite eye-opening for me. It elucidates why I felt uncomfortable with the unqualified excitement and support of the Arab Spring that I saw all around the blogosphere. Even now there are so many leftie blogs and papers that talk about how that movement should be emulated to promote various worthy causes. I keep thinking, “But this movement left women behind in a very nasty way…and the result is that an extremely violent terrorist group, one which triumphantly asserts it will make Jerusalem the capital of the Arab world, will most likely take charge of Egypt. What exactly is there to emulate?” Ironically, Occupy Wall Street itself was “inspired” by the Arab Spring’s concept of a leaderless movement. Perhaps Occupy’s good intentions can be turned to support peace and justice for women of all countries.
The article concludes with this thought-provoking paragraph:
I used to call myself a “radical feminist.” In many ways, nonviolence has made me more so. While radical feminism wants to get to the “root” of oppression, nonviolence is the seed we want to sow when we get there.
If you consider the definition of violence as the assertion of domination, human beings over other human beings, then non-violence would equate to the dissolution of the domination of women by men, i.e., the dissolution of the patriarchy.
So, are non-violence and feminism inextricably linked?
My feeling is yes.
This is an open thread.
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