A Day of #Occupy WallStreet and SlutWalk

Rachel White believes that both protests are fighting a similar evil; of the same generation. “A generation who want better. And who are out doing something to get it.”

It is Saturday night in New York City, just after midnight. While most of Manhattan seems to be walking to and from bars, at Liberty Square hundreds of protesters are in sleeping-bags covered with tarps to keep out the rain. It’s hard to navigate the park without stepping on a snoring body; a few are sprawled blanket-less on park ledges meant for sitting. Someone strums a guitar and people sing in a tent by flashlight, as if from inside a paper lantern.

Earlier today I went to SlutWalk, the world-wide anti rape-culture protest. It’s timely in New York, with two cops acquitted of rape charges and police warning women to dress conservatively. But after SlutWalk, I came here, to day fifteen of Occupy Wall Street–the “live in” protest about the disparity of wealth among the classes, the control big business has on the government and the corruption of Wall Street institutions. I should have guessed that tonight the protesters would be exhausted–just hours before 700 people were arrested in a march over the Brooklyn Bridge.

At SlutWalk, I pulled my sunglasses over my eyes, as I felt them filling with tears. It was the feminist rhetoric I grew up with that got to me. All around me were women with signs like “blame the system not the victim” — and “Slut” scrawled on their chest ala Kathleen Hanna. The lonely teenage riot grrrl inside of me couldn’t believe it.

But at Occupy, my eyes were wide. It wasn’t the fight I grew up with, but the one that was happening all around me, the frustrations of my generation unfurled. There were messages like “Wealth is meaningless on a dead planet“  or “United Snakes of America”  scrawled on deflated Trader Joes bags or spotted pizza boxes. I watched in a daze, before realizing I had fallen in line for the march.

At the foot of the bridge,  a sea of people unrolled as far as I could see. It was a sampling of the general population– the various ages, ethnicity and culture you might see on a Metra train. At Slutwalk one of the speakers had said “look around you, look at all of the different people and cultures and colors” and I swallowed back a tiny sob. Here, all the more true, I felt warm and stunned, too shocked to cry.

As we marched onto the Brooklyn Bridge, other protesters went on the street below  which had now been cordoned off. “I want to be down there!” I heard and people began jumping from the bridge to the street. One man positioned himself over, gripping the railing, and a police officer grabbed his legs– he was dangled above a 500 foot drop into the east river. Some protesters pulled him back onto the bridge.

 ♦◊♦

I missed the SlutWalk march. But as SlutWalk marchers rounded back chanting, “hey, hey, ho, ho, rape-culture has got to go” I felt my heart beat, bongo-like. At Occupy Wall Street, we were told “don’t yell at the police, they are part of the 99% too. Be peaceful!” But at SlutWalk, everyone knows, cops are not friends. The acquittal of two NYPD officers charged with rape rung in the ears of New York. The protesters yelled, directly at the police, there were anti NYPD chants and some carried signs like: “We will protect ourselves, get a .45” and “Rape is a Felony even for the NYPD”. When the cops told myself and a few girls to move out of the way, we rolled our eyes.

Soon, at the Occupy Wall Street protest, the cops were arresting everyone in the street. A preteen girl with an Invader Zim cap was among the arrests; and cuffed protesters kept chanting– “the banks got bailed out, we got sold out” — “Whose bridge? Our bridge!”. We were told to march on, and I checked the twitter hash-tag, and retweeted “@CNN Is the Brooklyn Bridge too far from your midtown offices to get a camera crew there? Cover the news. #occupywallstreet”.

I saw reporters at SlutWalk, snapping photos of some of the sparsely dressed girls. While the media image of SlutWalk  has become the topless protester, a number of the girls I talked to told me, “I’m wearing what I was sexually assaulted in”–- A SlutWalker I met at Occupy in jeans and a hoodie told me this. We sadly agreed: “That’s the real SlutWalk uniform”.

 ♦◊♦

As Occupy protesters got arrested, we marched into Brooklyn. Here, there was a rally, using the people’s mic. Without a PA, Occupy announcements are passed through a sort of game of telephone–the speaker speaks one sentence at a time, pausing, as the crowd repeats it to those behind them. It has been called one of the more striking features of the protest, and undoubtedly hearing messages reverberate through a crowd is powerful.

One man named Trevor stood to talk –- “I work 60 hours a week. I get two paychecks a month. One goes to rent and the other goes to food. We can do better than this. This is indentured servitude.”

Later, a veteran of the Iraq war spoke. He talked about holding an Afghan child in his arms, as he died, then holding a Marine as he died. “Some people say we were fighting for one thing. Other people say we were fighting for another thing” people repeated through the crowd. “All I know is I now understand we are dying for the bank accounts of the rich.”

 ♦◊♦

Before I left SlutWalk, there was a rally too. Sarah E. Patterson gave a fiery talk about sex workers rights: “A society that does not treat its most vulnerable members with the respect doesn’t treat anyone with respect” she said to cheers. Ceyenne Doroshow talked about being trans and made story about almost getting raped by two men into something uplifting and light. I  remember SlutWalk this way, colorful, joyous even. But when I  think of Occupy it’s the gray sky bearing down on the Brooklyn Bridge’s stringed arches, ominous.

While most toss and turn in their sleeping bags at Liberty Square, I find some people hanging out in the back of the Wikileaks truck. There are bean bags and mattresses. There is no alcohol or drugs allowed on the premises, and the protesters take this as seriously as they take staying peaceful. They are not here to be violent, they are not here to party. But in the truck, the mood is light. The kids take turns telling bad jokes. “Knock knock” someone asks. “whose there?”… “9/11”. “9/11 who?” someone asks back. “You said you’d never forget!”

Earlier that day, scrolling through the hastag, #occupywallstreet, I saw acclaimed Internet feminist, Sady Doyle on the thread–ranting at the WikiLeaks truck. Bringing up the Julian Assuange rape case, she  tweeted: “Asked the guy at the #wikileaks truck point-blank whether penetrating an unconscious person was rape. He said, not rape “if they’re married” or “if they’ve slept together.”#occupywallstreet.”

At the SlutWalk rally, someone adressed Occupy Wall Street– “We need to talk about whether we should be occupying this land at all. We need to talk about colonialism and imperialism. We are not the indigenous people of this land!” No doubt, there is a place for this discussion, but it seemed to confuse the audience, who were dispersing. Why did it feel like SlutWalk was pinning itself against Occupy? As though one cannot be a feminist and any other sort of activist?

“What the hell happened with Sady Doyle?” I ask the Wikileaks truck guy. He tells me that Doyle came up to the truck and started yelling at him about the Assuange rape case. His answer– that sometimes in relationships it isn’t rape– obviously isn’t great or even cool. But I can’t shake feeling alienated by this clash of the movements, especially considering how egalitarian Occupy is. One of the rules of the people’s mic is that it’s customary to ask: “are there any non male, non white folks that would like to speak first?”

  ♦◊♦

Despite mainstream media outlets like The New York Times making the Occupy protesters out to be faux-intellectual drop-outs, the kids  are witty and smart. The conversation flows smoothly between atheism, feminism, ethics and philosophy. They are college grads, who are living what they learned in school–despite the fact that they can’t get jobs.

Perhaps the misunderstanding of the movement is generational. The protests of the 1960’s or 70’s seem black and white in contrast, but today’s digital age brings with it a kaleidoscope of viewpoints and political shades. And while there are a number of democrats here, there are lots of anarchists, some are syndicalists who believe in unions, a few are capitalists who believe in free markets and most don’t specify.

It leads me to wonder if this is the birth of a new movement–perhaps, a first ever unification of many different political ideologies. If so, it makes sense that it would take them time to find a message that unites them. Or perhaps the mainstream just can’t hear their message.

In truth, the camp is impressively organized, and works as it’s own tiny town. Entering, I’m offered a sleeping bag, heavy coat, and a tarp to pull over myself in the rain. The food table is filled with granola bars, fruit and hot pizza. There is also a lending library and creative project area to keep people entertained.

  ♦◊♦

There is a joke of needing a sectioned off sex area as well. Occupy Wall Street offers impressive sex kits which include condoms, dental dams, lube and finger cots.  “I almost stepped on this couple having sex in their sleeping bag, they just looked at me, laughed and kept going” says one of the protesters.

Late into the night, the fire department arrive at the square — they are flashing lights and blowing sirens. “What’s going on?” I ask. A protester named Max explains that this has happened every night. “They are here to fuck with us, make sure we don’t get sleep. It’s not the firefighters fault, they are ordered to it do it,” he says.

The conversation drops off, and he worries aloud about what might happen, the violence. The protesters are tired and the cops are hardening. This is supposed to be a peaceful protest, but what happens if a cop goes further, what happens if a cop kills a protester? “We will snap. I am afraid of what I would do” says Max. “Everything will change.” The rest of the group agrees, wearily and fearfully, that sometimes it does feel like this is what it’s building toward.

Today, going over the Brooklyn Bridge, I passed a girl who had also just come from SlutWalk, saying about the cops– “they hate feminists!”  Another girl, passing her, turned and said, “it’s not just feminists they hate.”

As the firemen wake more and more people up with their flashing lights, I check the time. It’s 3:00 a.m. and  the people who’ve been arrested should be arriving soon, but it’s hard to imagine where they will all fit. “That’s why we marched to the park in Brooklyn” says Max. “The rumor is, that’s going to be our outpost.” Unlike the cooked Radiohead is playing Occupy rumor, this one makes sense. The protest keeps growing and the kids are here for the longhaul.

On Wednesday night, I watch the videos from that days march, which I don’t attend– I see a cop beating a woman with a baton, swinging to hit as many people as he could. I hope for this extra space.

SlutWalk NYC was an explosion that was over in a few hours. No one yet knows when Occupy Wall Street will end. You can’t compare the two movements, they for different causes, reacting to different things. But both are born of a similar seed -– of fighting a similar evil, of the same generation. A generation who want better, who were promised better. And who are out doing something to get it.

Originally appeared at RachelRabbitWhite.com

photos (main) by CeciliaMajzoub and CECooper / Flickr (insets) by davidjackmanson and sashakimel / Flickr

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About Rachel White

Rachel White is a Journalist and Blogger writing about sex and gender. This story originally appeared on her blog. Follow her onTwitter to keep up with more of her writerly adventures.

Comments

  1. Slutwalk is based on a strawman argument, the police officer didn’t mean what the organisers twisted it to mean. And slutwalk is a rape culture in itself because it protects female rapists of children and men by leading the population to believe that rape is mainly gendered.

    • Transhuman says:

      Rape culture is fueled by women’s fears; it doesn’t matter how safe the streets / night clubs / their own home actually is, fear is an emotion and is not tied to logic. If you have a child, and they are afraid of the monster under the bed, you can console them, even show them the space is empty of monsters and they will be reassured. Usually when a parent does this though, there isn’t a chorus of other adults saying the parent is wrong and there is an invisible monster under the bed that no one can prove is there but *must* be there because these people say it is. There are vested interests who want to keep women afraid, it keeps the rape industry dollars rolling in. When trying to demonstrate to women that rape culture is a fabrication, there are many voices insisting an unproven, invisible monster, really exists.

  2. This is perhaps the most blatant example of a rape rape culture.

    Women’s groups: Cancel law charging women with rape
    http://www.jpost.com/Israel/Article.aspx?id=169522

  3. I agree with Ron in the main. As I said in my last piece at GMP- ‘rape culture’ creates the idea of the male monster, rapist

    http://goodmenproject.com/gender-sexuality/rape-culture-and-other-feminist-myths/comment-page-1/#comment-52367

    But I think the recent ‘slutwalk’ that Rachel attended in NYC was more in response to alleged police brutality (rapes of women) and police instructions to women to not wear short skirts in an area where there had been some assaults. They are valid grievances. It’s the premise of the demos I don’t like.

    • They’re not exactly “valid grievances”. This article suggests that the NYPD officers who were acquitted of rape were guilty, though I’m quite sure she wasn’t there when the act in question occurred.

      A police officer suggesting that women shouldn’t wear revealing clothing in suspect areas isn’t condoning rape, and suggesting that he does is abhorrent.

      • MorgainePendragon says:

        “This article suggests that the NYPD officers who were acquitted of rape were guilty”

        They confessed on tape.

        “A police officer suggesting that women shouldn’t wear revealing clothing in suspect areas isn’t condoning rape”

        S/He is blaming the victim for being rape. That’s WORSE.

        Rape culture DOES exist, as anyone who has ever been raped, threatened with rape, or had to fear rape and sexual assault (and sexual harassment and being judged on her/his sexuality and/or sexual availability, etc) knows.

        Denial of rape culture is just MORE rape culture.

  4. You say “… I can’t shake feeling alienated by this clash of the movements, especially considering how egalitarian Occupy is. One of the rules of the people’s mic is that it’s customary to ask: “are there any non male, non white folks that would like to speak first?””

    Personally, I’m not of the mindset that discrimination is egalitarian or progressive. Especially in this instance where, there will always be more people who might wish to speak than there could possibly be time for; being shunted to the back might well result in one not being able to speak at all, as a result of bigotry. Not great.

  5. MorgainePendragon says:

    “Rape culture is 1 in 33 men being sexually assaulted in their lifetimes.

    “Rape culture is 1 in 6 women being sexually assaulted in their lifetimes. Rape culture is not even talking about the reality that many women are sexually assaulted multiple times in their lives. Rape culture is the way in which the constant threat of sexual assault affects women’s daily movements. Rape culture is telling girls and women to be careful about what you wear, how you wear it, how you carry yourself, where you walk, when you walk there, with whom you walk, whom you trust, what you do, where you do it, with whom you do it, what you drink, how much you drink, whether you make eye contact, if you’re alone, if you’re with a stranger, if you’re in a group, if you’re in a group of strangers, if it’s dark, if the area is unfamiliar, if you’re carrying something, how you carry it, what kind of shoes you’re wearing in case you have to run, what kind of purse you carry, what jewelry you wear, what time it is, what street it is, what environment it is, how many people you sleep with, what kind of people you sleep with, who your friends are, to whom you give your number, who’s around when the delivery guy comes, to get an apartment where you can see who’s at the door before they can see you, to check before you open the door to the delivery guy, to own a dog or a dog-sound-making machine, to get a roommate, to take self-defense, to always be alert always pay attention always watch your back always be aware of your surroundings and never let your guard down for a moment lest you be sexually assaulted and if you are and didn’t follow all the rules it’s your fault.

    “Rape culture is victim-blaming. Rape culture is a judge blaming a child for her own rape. Rape culture is a minister blaming his child victims. Rape culture is accusing a child of enjoying being held hostage, raped, and tortured. Rape culture is spending enormous amounts of time finding any reason at all that a victim can be blamed for hir own rape.”
    http://shakespearessister.blogspot.com/2009/10/rape-culture-101.html

    Rape culture is denying the existence of rape culture.

    • Women benefit in this society tremendously while men die at higher and higher numbers of virtually every cause with no governmental help.

      We live in a far more misandric culture than we do a “rape culture”. Though I’m pretty sure you take it as an article of faith that things are always bad for the wimmenz.

    • Morgaine

      You are talking about rape culture, and lead us to Shakesville, a site that protects feminist rapist and erased their child and male victims.

      “Rape culture is 1 in 33 men being sexually assaulted in their lifetimes”
      That figure doesn’t include female on male rape.
      “Rape culture is 1 in 6 women being sexually assaulted in their lifetimes”
      Its the same figure for men, when female on male rape is included.

      Rape culture, is feminists abusing stats. to erase rape victims, protect rapists and working to keep rape when its female on male or child, legal.

      • EDIT

        “You are talking about rape culture, then leads us to Shakesville, a site that protects female rapists and erases their child and male victims.”

      • MorgainePendragon says:

        ““Rape culture is 1 in 33 men being sexually assaulted in their lifetimes”
        That figure doesn’t include female on male rape.
        “Rape culture is 1 in 6 women being sexually assaulted in their lifetimes”
        Its the same figure for men, when female on male rape is included.”

        Please provide peer-reviewed resources to support this (as Melissa does at Shakesville– and btw, it DOES include female on male rape, which accounts for about .005% of rapes).

        • typhonblue_uncensored says:

          Nope, that 1 in 33 figure does not include female-on-male rapes.

          It’s either based on the NVAWS which didn’t count envelopment as a form of rape (about as honest as not counting penetration as a form of rape) or it’s based on Crime Victimization Surveys (which undercount female-on-male victimization significantly.)

          No one has actually done a proper community survey that compares the rate of rape of men to the rate of rape of women, including envelopment and with a methodology that is not known to undercount male victimization significantly.

          * Almost 3% of men reported forced sex and 22% reported verbal coercion in a romantic relationship in the last year. Almost 2.3% of women reported forced sex and 25% reported verbal coercion. [From: Predictors of Sexual Coercion.]( http://pubpages.unh.edu/~mas2/ID45-PR45.pdf)

          * 95% of sexually abused youth in correctional facilities reported being abused by female staff. [From Sexual Victimization in Juvenile Facilities, 2008-09](http://bjs.ojp.usdoj.gov/content/pub/pdf/svjfry09.pdf)

          * Among inmates reporting staff sexual misconduct, ~ 65% reported a female aggressor. [From Sexual Victimization in Prisons and Jails Reported by Inmates, 2008-09](http://bjs.ojp.usdoj.gov/content/pub/pdf/svpjri0809.pdf)

          * 50% of homeless youth reported being sexually abused by a female. [From It’s Not What You Think: Sexually Exploited Youth in British Columbia](http://www.nursing.ubc.ca/PDFs/ItsNotWhatYouThink.pdf)

          Where did you get that .005% anyway? Even if we just look at the population of college students, 3% of men are raped in the last year compared to 2.3% of women. So even if we assume that no man is sexually attacked when he’s older then college age, to bring that 57% of all rape victims being male in college down to .005%, college rapes(in total) would have to be something like .01% of all rapes.

          Right. I don’t think so.

    • “Rape culture is denying the existence of rape culture.”

      Oh please, really? That is easily the most absurd argument for the existence of *anything* It’s right up there with people who say “Because you can’t prove god doesn’t exist, it means he does.”

      It’s like people saying to someone else “you’re blind to your own privilege” while being perfectly confident that they are fully aware of their own (non) privilege.

      Seriously, that one sentence completely undermines every other point in the post. It’s idiotic.

  6. That was a very well written article that was sympathetic to the folks at #OccupyWallstreet. What about the businesses that are being inconvenienced and losing income due to these people? Granted they’re able to demonstrate, yada, yada, but they’re also costing these businesses money by using their facilities, causing damage and scaring away tourists. ‘Scary’, not because of their message but because they’re protesting in large numbers in a predominately tourist area. They’re also trespassing.

    “What happens when a cop kills a protester” the person in the piece said. The bias in that statement and your not questioning them in that is alarming. The police are not always the bad ones. In the majority of situations they are the good ones. 100% of the time, no. But, the overwhelming majority of police officers are the good ones, who are one the side of decency. That reminds me of the ‘snitching’ code that is prevalent in urban society. That code does nothing but undermine society as a whole, especially the areas that enforce that through their social mores.

    Anybody in modern society can complain about their situation, especially if they’re unemployed. Put on your big boy pants. Every decision you have made resulted in where you are today. Some decisions are bigger than others, but you are here today because of what you’ve decided.

    .

  7. I do not see the two protests as at all similar beyond being protests. One is based on an a fight with a what amounts to a rhetorical scapegoat, while the other challenges a clear system in the people who ruined the US (and possibly global) economy continue to amass wealth as at the expense of the people crushed by the economic downturn. Granted, the feminists have a much more concrete message and a much better name. However, the Occupy Wall Street crowds (or OWLS)have a much more present problem. It is also more clearly mired in politics.

    I would like to see the OWLS get organized and present a coherent message. I do not want them to become the mirror of the Tea Party, but I would like them to build their message because they can play a role in the coming election.

    • The Tea Party has hardend elected official backing them up. They’ve also moved the electorate to the far right. The best I could see in the “OWLS” is a London style riot that will further Demonize the Left.

  8. One aspect of the Tea Party (that seems to be disguised) is the proximity they are to religious fundamentalism. There exists immediate and visible problems in our society that seem to be potentially solved from the Tea Party platform but the rest of their agenda is disaster for the environment (very pro-oil) and disaster for civil liberties and women’s rights. They are very right-wing and try to appear middle ground by jumping on the ‘less government’ bandwagon.
    A fundamentalist government would be setting us back decades, maybe centuries and could potentially become fascist. The US is ripe for such a political takeover. Right-leaning media coverage that depicts protesting marchers to appear like scary-looking hoards that “need controlling” are helping the Tea Party gain favor. These are difficult times for the healing of very real issues. The right to protest seems to have been the only way to get the message out a hundred years ago. I am questioning the logic of it in the Information Age, as it can be used against you.

  9. As a supporter of both the Slutwalk and Occupy movements, I very much appreciated this article. I think there are similarities between the two movements in that both are protesting for a more egalitarian, socially just society. They are protesting apathy and corruption and the current power imbalance.

    The comments on this article are largely disheartening. There are valid problems in both protest movements, such as the lack of minority representation and the representation of less visible narratives (such as men who have been raped or assaulted by women). In my opinion, the identification of these issues should not be used to condemn the movements, but rather to improve them.

  10. DavidByron says:

    SlutWalk was fake activism by the privileged, much like the Tea Party stuff. That’s why they were not afraid of the police, just as the Tea Party brought guns to Congressional town halls. Hundreds or thousands of Occupiers have been arrested or worse. Did even one participant at SlutWalk?

    Why did it feel like SlutWalk was pinning itself against Occupy? As though one cannot be a feminist and any other sort of activist?

    Feminism is fake activism and it should always fear an example of the real thing arriving to show it up.

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  1. [...] READ THE REST Posted by The_Emotional_Orphan   @   8 October 2011 0 comments Tags : #OccupyTogether , #OWS , Activism , Emotional Orphan , Slutwalk , Society , Struggle   0 Comments [...]

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  4. Link Love | says:

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