Un-occupy my/our Sexisms: In Solidarity with Tamura Lomax and all Women – The Feminist Wire

Un-occupy my/our Sexisms: In Solidarity with Tamura Lomax and all Women

Tamura Lomax has rightly called for an interrogation of (and action in response to) the sexist, misogynist, and violent resonances lurking within some iterations of the Occupy movement in her important piece, “Occupy Rape Culture.” Tamura is (damn) right when stating, “Rape and all other sexist and misogynist behavior occurring at Occupy events, must be called out and addressed.  Nothing short of Zero tolerance needs to be demanded, by women and menfolk alike, immediately.” The calling out and termination of rape and violence at the hands of some “radical” men who have decided to occupy built and imaginary environs (in the name of the economically marginalized) and women’s bodies (as an act of heteropatriarchy in the name of themselves) is the responsibility of women and men! as Tamura stated.

This moment—as do all moments when violence is enacted upon another—asks of us men moving within the Occupy movement, to see and confront ourselves (our masculinist privileges, our skewed politics, our vehement sexisms) and to vision and call out the same when they are evinced through our actions and unleashed in the lives of women-sisters-friends-comrades. We are being asked to speak up and act out to cease the rape and exploitation of women’s bodies, minds, and spirits. We, men, must raise our voices loudly in response to the sexual violation and violence that other men have inflicted upon the bodies of our sisters. We, men, are being asked to act: to think differently, to critically assess our sexisms, to reconsider and put an end to misogynistic behavior, to un-occupy (as if we had the right to do anything but) women’s bodies. This is our work.! And, let’s be clear: violent acts of rape should not be the only abuse occurring within OWS, and elsewhere, that we must work to end. The insidious tacit sexisms that are enacted through our speech acts (and silences) and behaviors (and non-actions) must also be interrogated and terminated.

Case in point: The first time that I trekked down to Zuccoti Park, my sister-friend, Tynesha McHarris, and I happened upon a heated conversation between two men and a woman in the center of the park. We listened intently thinking that we would get a glimpse into other folk’s thinking on OWS, but instead was intrigued to hear that their debate had nothing (and everything?) to do with OWS. The two men were arguing (one was arguing quite vehemently) against the effectiveness of SlutWalk NYC. They apparently thought that it was okay to position themselves (and their authoritative voices) right there in the “center” of the OWS gathering space in Liberty Park. After some time, the heated brother turned to me and asked, without hesitation, “Brother, where are you from? What do you think about SlutWalk?” I responded briefly by letting him know that I stand in solidarity with the movement to which he responded, “You mean to tell me if your sister walked around looking like a slut, you don’t think that she would put herself in harm’s way?” I gasped and struggled to find the right words in that moment, right there in the “center” of Liberty Park, as I stood next to my sister-friend. The two of us men continued debating as Tynesha attempted to insert her voice. There we were, two menfolk, discussing the bodies, lives, freedoms, struggles of women even while refusing a woman access to the conversation as if Tynesha lacked both voice and agency. Our consolidated male voice decentralized the voice of our sister. When Tynesha finally spoke, she did so with authority and clarity. It became clear to me in that moment that my place in the struggle—as a man standing in solidarity with women against sexual assault and sexism (even my own)—is beside my sisters…that my voice ought to be raised in concert with (and not over) my sisters. Rape is a nasty manifestation and a devastating consequence of the sexist thought that fashions misogynistic behavior. Our work is the calling out and elimination of all sexist actions and ideologies that have been showing up, even in the radical movement work of OWS, even before this alarm was sounded.