Nov 162011
 

Listening to people yell, “Mic Check!” at Occupy locations throughout the country, it is hard not to observe that those with the loudest voices are the ones who really get heard with this system, and those voices usually are male baritones.  Talking to women here in Washington and also reading reports from elsewhere, it is clear that many women find this system of having to yell at the top of your lungs to be one that is an uncomfortable way to communicate and participate.  Some women report being harassed when they speak, and even of mics being grabbed from them.

We are constantly told it is a system of consensus but was everyone really consulted about how communications would work?  It seems unlikely. While many of us want to work on communicating about issues such as reproductive rights and unequal pay (that have long been on the feminist agenda) and why they are so important to true change,  it is hard to do so when the communications system itself is intimidating.

The other day I listened to (mostly) young men at Occupy DC say that they wanted us to tell them when we found something they said to be offensive so that they could learn and change how they are interacting with women.  It was good that they were attending a session on sexism, but hello?  How many decades have we been pointing this out–YOU SHOULD KNOW THIS ALREADY!  And yes, I’m shouting, I am just flabbergasted and utterly depressed that we are still having this discussion in progressive, revolutionary circles.

It isn’t rocket science even if every movie, ad and video game tells you this behavior is cool, it isn’t. What it is is a manifestation of the system you claim to want to change. Don’t ask us to keep pointing out your misogynist behavior, you really should be able to figure it out yourselves, take responsibility for it and stop it because you know what, you are wasting precious time and energy and keeping us from discussing what feminism brings to a movement that aims to address economic inequities, starting with the most obvious point that women get paid less than men, so those inequities hit us the hardest. There is a lot more to it than that, but that is pretty easy to grasp, so let’s start there and insist that this very basic truth is a crucial issue that must be addressed if we are to achieve real change.

Listen also to Jon Stewart’s interview of Nobel Peace Prize winner, Liberian activist Leymah Gbowee on The Daily Show. Towards the end of the first segment, Stewart compliments her for being “charming and vivacious” despite what she has gone through. Had she been a man, I think we can assume he would not have used those descriptors.  Effectively what he was saying was that oh yeah sure, you led a peace movement that ended a civil war at great risk to yourself and won a Nobel Peace Prize, but hey, you’re still a woman so by gosh I must objectify you.

But no amount of sexist cutesy drivel on Stewart’s part can detract from Gbowee’s powerful words. Especially if you are not familiar with her story and even if you are, listen to her talk about what they found it necessary to do and her call to those of of in the U.S. for action.

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The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
Exclusive – Leymah Gbowee Extended Interview Pt. 1
www.thedailyshow.com
Daily Show Full Episodes Political Humor & Satire Blog The Daily Show on Facebook

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The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
Exclusive – Leymah Gbowee Extended Interview Pt. 2
www.thedailyshow.com
Daily Show Full Episodes Political Humor & Satire Blog The Daily Show on Facebook

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It is time for women to be heard in the Occupy movement and to do so we need to move beyond the mic check system that effectively drowns us out and not waste time pointing out blatant, obvious and clearly offensive behavior.  That is not why we are at Occupy.

What Gbowee and the women of Liberia did, sitting, meditating and going on strike offers us a different model. To sit down and not participate in the systems that oppress us, be they in Occupy camps or elsewhere. We need to be clear that we will communicate what we need to communicate on our own terms and in a way that is comfortable and empowering to us.

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I am writing this as police move in to try to shut down Occupy in numerous locations.  We know what many of us have suspected, that DHS and federal law enforcement is involved in this.  Tomorrow, November 17th is a national day of action.  It would be wise to use this as an opportunity to channel what Gbowee modeled for us in Liberia and to think of the words of Ghandi.

 

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 November 16, 2011  Posted by on November 16, 2011

  2 Responses to “Empowering The Feminist Voice At Occupy–Confronting The Silencing Of Mic Check And Other Misogynies In The Occupy Movement”

  1. From observations via livestream I think you’re wrong. I see many young high pitched voices communicating with a large crowd. Here’s how I think it’s supposed to work. The speaker say “mic check”, not once but several times. The people who heard it, repeat it, like ripples from rock thrown into a pond. That continues until everybody hears. The tendency to yell is human nature in a crowd. This system would work well, but a bit slower, if you whispered.

  2. It’s amazing to me that in the 21st century women still have a problem being heard. To be heard, we must take on the masculine persona. I was recently watching a trailer for the upcoming film on Margaret Thatcher, The Iron Lady, and one scene depicts Thatcher’s advisors telling her she must change this and that to be taken seriously. I remember reading somewhere else that she actually lowered the tone of her voice to sound authoritative. This is an older example, but I think its themes still hold true today.

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