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Occupy Wall Street: The Other 99% Is Not 90% Men

This protest is about the 99% percent of Americans who have been on the short end of the economic stick, but it appears the media believes it's 90% male.

If Week I of Occupy Wall Street was about surviving, Week II has been about finding our voices. This protest is about the 99 percent of people in America who have been on the short end of the economic stick, but it appears the media believes it's 90 percent made up of men. Some of the organizing and facilitation processes we've developed to make our movement inclusive and participatory have proven not to be enough, and we are constantly adapting and regrouping to ensure that everyone's voice in this broad and vibrant coalition is heard.

During Monday's General Assembly I announced through the call-and-response system of people's microphone that CodePink's Medea Benjamin would be leading a media training session for women and gender queer/non-male identifying members of the demonstration.

Here's what I said--and what they responded (this is how we as protesters can get on the same page):

This morning I watched // This morning I watched

News coverage of this protest // News coverage of this protest.

10 people were interviewed // 10 people were interviewed

1 of them // 1 of them

Was a woman // Was a woman

The 99% // The 99%

Is not 90% men // Is not 90% men

The message was received enthusiastically. When we did our introductions in the training, we realized many people are not only finding it difficult to speak to press but also during the General Assembly (GA).  CodePink members following from across the country via livestream have expressed similar concern that women's participation in the GA seems limited to logistical report-backs from working groups that run the encampment at Liberty Plaza rather than more weighty discussions about our principles of solidarity and declaration. As these important discussions have intensified, so have women's insistence on meaningful inclusion and representation in the drafting of our "living documents."

During the training Medea  Benjamin offered some suggestions on how to make sure everyone's voices are heard. We tell her about the speak-easy caucus of the General Assembly, which is a safe space for women and non-male identifying members of the GA. That evening a new group, the "Safer Spaces" Committee, announced, call-and-response, its formation to address the problem of sexual harassment: 

Please keep in mind // Please keep in mind

Not everyone // Not everyone

Wants to hug you // Wants to hug you

You might need a shower // You might need a shower

If you want to dance with someone // If you want to dance with someone

Or talk to them // Or talk to them

You should find a way to ask them // You should find a way to ask them.

When we got to the practice portion of the training, my partner, Anna, was shy and said she didn't want to try it. I asked her why she's here. She froze up. I told her to imagine she's on the phone with her best friend, someone close to her, who's wondering what all this is about. Without so much as a pause or an "um," Anna told me she was here because she's been unemployed for two years and she's tired of seeing media blaming young people for being jobless. We immediately brought the livestream camera over to record her story, and those of the other people in the group, which are more compelling and personal than any I've heard covered thus far.


Since the demonstration began two weeks ago, I've been coordinating with members of  CodePink, the Granny Peace Brigade, and the Speak-Easy Caucus looking to take the demonstration to the "next level" by staying overnight, and wanting to generate a critical mass of trusted friends to create a safe encampment for the night. On Friday we gear up for our first Occupy Wall Street sleep-out. After last Friday's was rained out, this time we are ready. At least most of us are -- I still don't have a sleeping bag.

I receive an email from Eve Ensler -- she wants to pay a visit and is wondering if there's anything we need that she can bring. Problem solved. I notify one of the founding members of the Speak-Easy caucus. Her eyes well up. "Omigosh! Are you serious? Here? When?" She tells me about how her closest group of friends formed around a high school production of The Vagina Monologues and still lovingly refer to each other as "the Vaginas." When Ensler arrives, she tells her "I wouldn't be here if it weren't for you."

Eve and Alicia (one of the V-girls) arrive at the encampment with bags of supplies, including a wonderful sleeping bag that I gratefully accept. Ensler tours the grounds, interviewing people, and says she will return tomorrow night with the rest of the V-girls. For now, she just wants to take it all in. Her face glows with awe, praise and curiosity: "A second wind is coming."

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