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Op Ed

Let’s Talk Brogressives

“Privileged people will demand facts. Statistics. Your stories about oppression? Your experiences? They are not enough to convince privileged people that what you have experienced is real. After all, you are not a white man. Your experiences don’t automatically gain the ‘normal and natural’ status. Your experiences may not be credible at all. They have no reason to believe your stories, because again, as white men, they don’t and can’t share them. Nevermind that all they have is anecdotal evidence, their personal experience to back up their beliefs. They are white. And male. And many other normal, natural things that make their opinions and experiences normal and natural”¦ and yours kind of aberrant and not trust-worthy.”  – Robot Heart Politics 

When I went to Occupy Times Square on Saturday night, I was proud of what I saw. I was proud to be a part of something, despite my many complicated feelings about the movement as a whole.

But here’s where my pride turns into problems and it gets confusing.

I have a problem with having to stop a middle-aged white man away from putting his hand in a woman’s face, yelling at her, because he thought her sign “The 17% (black people) have always been poor ““ when white people catch a cold, black people have the flu- support occupy the hood” was racist. I have a problem with then being told that I am a stupid bitch who is trying to be divisive and that she or I, don’t understand  that “there’s a bigger cause”. I have a problem with accepting that there are causes and then there are identity politics.

I have a problem being told I don’t know what the fuck I am talking about when I address something that I personally find sexist or racist. I have a problem being told I am oversensitive because I say that dudes yelling “Corporate greed is the whore of America” or “I’ll make you my bitch, Bloomberg” is not okay, no matter if I’m just as angry as the men yelling it in regards to corporate greed. I have a problem with the derailing of any topic that might make brogressives uncomfortable because it “isn’t what we are talking about.” I have a problem with being called many things because someone doesn’t “get” where I’m coming from.

I have a problem of this one criticism being my overall representation of how I feel about the OWS movement. I have a problem with people not recognizing the distinction between critique and attack. I have a problem with the idea that things cannot be complicated, and that people can both support something and still feel conflicted about their involvement.

Earlier this week, Steven Greenstreet, self-described “documentary filmmaker” released the video “Hot Chicks Of Occupy Wall Street: The sexy side of protesting corruption.” If that weren’t enough, you can check out the website to match it.

Here’s where my problems continue. I have a problem with “documentary filmmakers” filming women ““ “hot chicks” ““ and deeming it something more artistic than the enthusiastic voyeur masturbation material it is. I, as well as seemingly many others who found the video ridiculous, have a problem with being told to just “deal with it.”  I have a problem with fellow brogressives defending this shit as some sort of exercise in human biology and “boys just being boys.”

“A lot of fantastic media has been created about the ‘Occupy’ movement. I was watching one video in particular and commented to a friend, ‘Wow, seeing all those super smart hot chicks at the protest makes me want to be there.’ He replied, ‘Hmmm”¦ Yeah, let’s go with that.’ We instantly went to Tumblr and made hotchicksofoccupywallstreet.tumblr.com. Our original ideas were admittedly sophomoric: Pics of hot chicks being all protesty, videos of hot chicks beating drums in slow-mo, etc. But when we arrived at Zuccotti Park in New York City, it evolved into something more”¦ It made me want to pack my bags and pitch a tent on Wall Street. And it’s in the light that we created this video.”

Pitch a tent? Ah yes, I see. Pics of hot chicks being all protesty ““ I forgot this is why women came to protests! So that you could make a blog about how hot they are, and that all brogressives can feast their eyes on “chicks,” most whom were not aware they were even on camera. So good to see that it “evolved” into something more, though from looking at both the blog and video, that is a hard shit-pie to swallow.  Especially when women are being sexually groped and assaulted, not only by police but by participants. Much like the female member of the Students for A Democratic Society, who, when she took the stage at the National SDS conference to address sexism within the organization, was booed off, her SDS escort told to “Take her off stage and fuck her,”  I have a problem with sexism being brushed off by brogressives as nothing more than complaining chicks who “don’t get it” and are being divisive. From being down at OWS, I know this behavior, whether from participants or some random guy making a misogynistic video, is not condoned by organizers and by the OWS guidelines.

But I also know that it isn’t being openly condemned nearly as much as it should be.

So to paraphrase the great Flavia Dzodan:

MY SOCIAL JUSTICE WILL BE INTERSECTIONAL OR IT WILL BE BULLSHIT

MY SOCIAL JUSTICE WILL BE SAFE FOR ALL OR IT WILL BE BULLSHIT

MY SOCIAL JUSTICE WILL NOT EXCUSE RACISM, SEXISM, HOMOPHOBIA, CISSEXISM OR GENERAL ASSHATTERY FOR THE CAUSE OR IT WILL BE BULLSHIT

I get it y’all, I really do. This thing is big. This thing is complicated and difficult and is about really, really deeply entrenched issues in our political, economic and cultural system. People don’t want to fuck it up when its gaining traction. Much like Stephanie Gilmore, while I do not consider myself a voluntary occupier, this fight is my fight, even if I don’t agree with some of the aspects of the movement. I am not the only one who feels this way either, as evidenced by the many other folks who know that identity politics are as intertwined and complicated by the many different identities, backgrounds, and issues that structure our lives differently, yet are all intertwined within larger systems of power. This shit is complicated. It doesn’t mean that Occupy Wall Street or any other lefty movement is invalid, unnecessary or that providing any sort of feedback other than “BEST MOVEMENT EVER” is trashing the people who are working their asses off. Or have been camped out since September 17th. Or who have worked hard to put together a movement that is deeply affecting the public. It only means that things are complicated, and that to be better, discussions of these things need to keep happening over and over. There are many involved in OWS who are having these discussions, who are making changes to OWS based on these discussions, who are doing everything to make this movement inclusive to all.  I do not doubt that in the least. I say this with full knowledge of my own situation as someone who benefits at the intersection of many privileges. I say this because own behavior has potential to be  harmful because I believe that most people have internalized the many oppressions they seek to undo. I say it from a place where my experience in not a monolithic representation and it surely doesn’t speak for everyone, but it does speak for me.

But to see a critique, one that comes from lived experience, as some sort of a “threat” to the larger cause, might mean that you have drunk the brogressive Kool-Aid. Just remember, it ain’t ever too late to spit it out.

6 replies on “Let’s Talk Brogressives”

The Hot Chicks of OWS makes me sick… Also noticed that on the blog there were only about 3 minority women on the 3 pages of “content.” I think that says a lot about OWS but even more so about what that creep deems “hot.” Also the fan testimonials seems so fake, at least I hope they are, because they really marginalize/objectify the woman of the movement.

Also, thanks for articulating your discontent with the movement. I feel similarly and its a lot more complicated than anyone with a “with us or against us” mentality is willing to recognize.

What I appreciate most about your articles, Coco, especially those related to the OWS movement, is that you help me articulate the confusing feelings of injustice I feel. As a white lady, I think I’m pretty blind to even the most glaringly obvious injustices toward people of color, and often, I become aware that something isn’t right by a nagging feeling in my stomach rather than certain knowledge. It shames me, to be honest. Seems like my brain struggles to recognize specifically the offending sense of privilege that I can otherwise “feel.” And you help me pinpoint exactly what that sense of privilege is, why it ain’t right and why it makes me feel sick, and how we can all address it together.

I am learning from you, very slowly, the ways in which I am privileged and how I can help rather than hinder the move toward equality for everyone. And I feel pretty certain that as much as I appreciate your commentary, others who are not used to having a voice appreciate your commentary so much more.

Such a great commentary. I strongly dislike how the voices of minorities and women get coopted when white dudes get pissed about inequality too. “Okay women, sit down, WHITE MEN ARE HERE TOO NOW!” Well how is that different from like… every fucking day at everything? I love how you talked me through why and how that pisses me off in a way that will help me explain it to other people later. Thanks for being so articulately outraged!

I really have appreciated your coverage of OWS and Slutwalk here…. protests (at least in Canada, since the G20 debacle) are often sensationalized by the media so excessively that the discussion around them tends to be more fear mongering than anything (here in Canada, we  now love to bandy about the word “anarchist” whether or not it’s an accurate way to describe a protest). I feel like your discussion of things is really nuanced and leaves a lot of room for dialogue, which is absolutely necessary, because if the G20 taught us anything, it’s that this is complicated shit.

 

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