Abbi’s amazing verbatim notes from the first Feminist General Assembly! 5/17/12

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NOTES on the

First Feminist General Assembly
Thursday, May 17, 2017

Washington Square Park

(notes taken by Abigail Ruane)

Opening/invocation (Lorena)

  • Welcome!

Raging Grannies International Peace Brigade

  • Protest songs: (excerpts):
    •  “Oh you can’t scare us, we’re raging workers! Bad jobs enrage us. Equal wages! You can’t stop us with your class ceilings. We have strong feelings for equality”
    • “Zippady doo dah…. 1 percenters want to tell you, “it’s the truth, it’s actual, everything is satisfactual…. Helping the needy is so yesterday!””
    • “Folks should not be bought and sold… Corporations run the world!… Let the people run the world!”
    • “Follow the money, to see why we go off to war… it all goes to corporate greed. … Big money interests dictate our nation’s war plans. It’s time now to take back our country and give folks a helping hand! … Bail out the people, and give them the jobs that they need! To hell with the bankers, who suffer from terminal greed. We’ve got to stop them and all those who profit from war. Yes, we will follow the money, let’s buy peace instead of war!”
    • (CHANT): “Evolution is too slow! Revolution is the way to go!”

Introduction to FEM GA (Dior/Mel/Alix)

  • Dior: Welome! Thanks for coming. We are all here to discuss feminism’s place in our modern world today. As a Latina, I was raised to be a feminist. However the word was never uttered. I want feminism to be a positive word that all people, no matter what race, class, gender, or sexual orientation, can embrace. We are all looking for respect and equality. Let’s focus on how we can help each other, and work together to work forward with power!
    • Shout out to: Portland Main, Bend, OR: Oakland W. Virginia; West Lafayette Louisiana; San Fran CA; Summertown TN, Framingham MA; and Eugene OR:
    • Huge thank you to: Occupy Chicago, who has included this event in its press kit. They are having a FemGA in Chicago as well. May the NATO summit hear the call to feminism, and may FemGAs happen daily, everywhere!
  • Melanie: Background on Women Occupying Wall Street Caucus
    • WOWs came together in early October in answer to a shortage of liberty at Liberty Plaza. At our first meeting, there was a clearly recognized need for mutual aid and support in the face of misogyny, sexual assault, and pervasive sexism in our midst. Since then, the group has evolved into a reliable weekly meetings space. We even have our own text alert network. Though we may not have all begin as self-identified feminists, we quickly realized how much work was yet to be done if we were to achieve true liberty and equality. My hope is that we will continue to support and empower each other in addressing the dominance of patriarchy with which we have all been indoctrinated, both on Wall Street, and in our daily lives.
  • Alix Shulman
    • Has been a feminist activist since 1967. My commitment has never wavered, but the movement has waxed and waned. So it thrills me to see it starting up again. And recognized by women of occupy, which includes some of my generation too. I hope this is the start of another huge wave of feminist wave of feminist activism that will move onto move onto new territory in our long struggle for justice. This is also the International Day against Homophobia and Trans-phobia, commemorating the 1990 date that homosexuality was dropped from the World Health Organization’s disease list. So we get to start our GA by celebrating!

Men’s Circle Intro (Jo)

  • Men’s Circle: Talks about how to dismantle patriarchy. Here in solidarity with feminist GA offering limited childcare, right now.  If you want to help, or have kids who need babysitting, I’ll be over there, by the chalk and yellow.

Announcements

  • We have an ASL translator: If someone needs it, please let us know, and we can use them. Otherwise, we will let them rest.

Consciousness raising/storytelling (Introduced by Judith)

  • Early feminism started by gathering and talking together. From this we realized that we were not alone. That we were not to blame, that we could help each other change things. That our personal lives were political. So, now we are going to do a tiny consciousness raising section. We have two questions: We will divide into groups, of three people. Just around you. If there is someone you know in your group, turn around and talk to someone else. The way it works is that in each group of three, there is one mouth, and two ears, at a time. We have fifteen minutes. Each person can talk for five minutes. And the listeners will listen! They will be curious, but they won’t distract or interrupt the people who are talking. And even if they feel uncomfortable, with what the person is saying or expressing, they will let him or her keep going for 5 minutes. It’s a long time. Here are the two  questions: 1) what personal experiences have drawn you to feminism or alienated you from feminism? 2) how does being a feminist make your life easier or harder? And if you are deeply moved to talk about something else, you are welcome.
  • [Storytelling session]

Shared Values and Safe Space (Lisa)

  • Building a safe space through an environment of cooperation not competition. This is one of the major paradigm differences between voting and consensus. Traditional decision-making uses voting, creates a lot of competition, by its nature winning a major decision by 51%, leaving the other 49% pretty angry. Because the purpose of that is to win. The consensus process is cooperative. The purpose is not to beat one’s opponent, or win by any means necessary, but is to arrive at a decision, through the unanimous acceptance of the decision. It’s to engage in a conversation where questions are asked and answered, and all the concerns are voiced, as a community. We seek to resolve the concerns as a community, because we want community. The reason I am bringing this up, is you can see the difference between the two: how once process creates an environment of animosity, which is NOT a safe space; whereas the other, consensus, having the word “consent” in it, means that you have consented; there is no need to agree, just to accept, for the best of the community. It is where we, as idealistic, passionate activists, make our choices make our choices based on what is best for the community. All the individual voices, mutual respect, and trust, is the new unity. So, in order to achieve this, so that we can express ourselves, without the fear of being ostracized, or confronted with anger, this is achieved by creating and protecting the safe space at all costs. The safe space is built upon the values that we, as a group, have decided on. This is the criteria we use for all the decision making:
  • Think about values that are important to you individually, but also important to feminism and this gathering.
  • Values
    • Examples:
      • Trust
      • Cooperation
      • Transparency
      • Consensus
      • Tenacity
    • Group contributions:
      • Sense of humor
      • Solidarity
      • Equality
      • Compassion
      • Love
      • Imagination
      • Listening
      • Self-image
      • Courage
      • Justice
      • Empathy
      • Liberty
      • Honesty
      • Participation
      • Horizontality
      • Integrity
      • Intersectionality
      • Anti-racism
      • Economic justice
      • Anti-ablism
      • Inclusionary
      • Action
      • Anti-misogyny
      • Patience
      • Anti-militarism
      • Anti-chauvinism
      • Creation
      • Beauty
      • Action
      • Pleasure
      • Ambition
      • Respect

Introduction of break-out groups (Simran)

  • The next thing we want to do is have a conversation about how we can work together on our feminist goals. We are going to break out into groups of about 15 people and have a discussion with these suggested questions:
    • 1) What do you think are the three main goals for feminism today?
    • 2) What are you already doing regarding these goals or what like to do for them?
    • 3) What help do you need from your allies, and what can we collectively do to bring about change toward these goals moving forward?
  • So we are hoping that you not just have a discussion, but have a conversation, that you can actually move forward with.

Question from the crowd: Are these goals (defined) against Occupy’s goals?

  • Simran: NO. We do not mean to separate these goals. We would love for you to talk about feminism and how it relates to the 99%. These are only suggested questions, and if you don’t like them I encourage you to talk about what makes the most sense to you about feminism and your own personal goals.
  • SO as I was saying, I hope this gives you an opportunity to have a conversation.
  • We need each group to have a facilitator. We have the questions on a piece of paper. We ask each group to have someone to report at the end with 2-3 most important points that came out of your discussion. We allocated about 45 minutes for this conversation. But if you think that is too long or too short, we’ll assess as it goes. So, please break out into the groups. Thank you!

Break-out groups (led by: Jill, Simran, Mel, Judith, Natalie, Lorena, Lisa, Marie, Alix, Dior, Margo, and Janet)

  • Number of groups: 14

ANNOUNCEMENT: Make sure to stick around for the Mahina Movement! Thank you!

Report backs (Simran calls people back; Marie/Natalie organize report-backs)

  • GROUP 1:
    • Liza: (more than 15 people in our group; some us passing by, had not heard about this GA and they stayed!)
    • We need more feminist GAs.
    • From a brother in our group: The opportunity of listening to different feminisms and feminist perspectives was a learning experience to articulate his own feminism.
    • Another point: The productive conversation around language: it was in a safe environment where people didn’t necessarily agree with each other, but we had incredibly civil and productive conversations. And with that, we were reminded that we shouldn’t talk about feminism, but feminismS to bring it to the plural. It actually is more aligned with Occupy Wall Street, and all our different missions and goals.
    • One more thing: everyone agreed that feminism today could actually benefit by us reclaiming the women of color leadership, the history of women of color, in feminism, especially, history connection, between the abolitionist movement and the first wave feminism.
  • GROUP 2
    • About 9 people in our group
    • 1) Interesting challenge: we have a facade of rights that we supposedly already have. The challenge being: how do we actually own those rights, actively? We didn’t really come up with a solution for that. We thought that there was a parallel to that, with this belief that we are living in a post-racist society. SO we thought that there was a very similar problem that deserves more chewing.
    • 2) Within OWS and other activist movements: Women having a voice. Not just strong women but quiet women. Many of us identified with this issue, because we have experienced having men talk over us and disregard our perspectives over and over and over and over again. One term that we used was “mansplaining”, which is when a man explains to a woman something that she knows probably better than him. (LOTS OF LAUGHTER!) I would encourage men to please stop doing that! As far as solutions, some of us felt that progressive stack wasn’t enough. Maybe during meetings we could encourage people who usually talk a lot to not talk for one meeting so there is an empty space for quiet people to fill. OK I’m going to wrap it up.
    • 3)  Important: reproductive rights. Why is that men are deciding what we do with our bodies? An actionable thing that we can do is join this group: the New York Coalition for Abortion Defense (NYCACD), who supplies escorts for women who are going to clinics for abortions. Look them up. Another idea was to do guerrilla art projects installing boxes with free condoms EVERYWHERE.

Announcement: We are expecting a visit from “the Illuminator” – will try to project it on the arch. So, if you see that happening, don’t be offended if people stop paying attention for a minute. It will only be a few minutes, and then we’ll pay attention again.

  • GROUP 3
    • Karen
    • Feminism should deal with:
    • 1) Contradictions, in groups to organize. To think through these contradictions, wherever they may arise.
    • 2) Addressing things that primarily affect women such as sexual violence Reproductive rights. Austerity and economic rights. Issue AS THEY AFFECT WOMEN.
    • 3) Highlighting false choices. Why are choices such as military versus health care put to us? Choices such as raise taxes or cut education.
  • GROUP 4
    • Charlotte
    • We had a great joy in using OWS techniques.  We had a facilitator, stacker, note-taker, and presenter.
    • We said:
    • 1) We need to expand the definition of feminism and make it a more inclusive definition of feminism to include all classes, all gender manifestations, and anyone who will come into the tent.
    • 2) We must bring the feminist perspective to every area and to every ally, and realize that these areas include – but not exclusive too – reproductive rights, immigration rights, the peace movement, and the idea that capitalism, by its very nature, oppresses women.
  • GROUP 5
    • Lara
    • There was a lot of resistance in our group to the idea that after only an hour we could possibly come to any agreement about what we wanted to report back to the rest of you. This is perhaps an anti-feminist temporality. Nevertheless, the goals we came up with we agree fall into three rough categories:
    • 1) Psychological
      • Having a vision of a non-patriarchal culture
      • Having the necessity of linking personal psychological liberation to collective social liberation
      • Educating children and high-schoolers about feminists principles
    • 2) Interpersonal
      • Coalition-building with other anti-oppression movements
      • Publicizing the notion that men and should be feminists
      • Universalizing feminism as a form of analysis, a way of thinking and interacting, and of structuring conversations
      • Embracing more contestation, that is challenging the notion of safe space, and making sure that spaces are inclusive of people with a wide variety of discursive styles. In other words: not privileging the idea of safe space over the idea of contestation. Embracing a politics of discomfort.
      • Expressing solidarity with incarcerated women, trans people, people with disabilities, and generally moving across these previous divisions. Also thinking more internationally about feminism.
    • 3) Structural
      • Concrete goals: almost none, because we only had an hour! And the idea that a group of 20 people could come up with concrete goals to report back to a group of 100+ something people in an hour is antifeminist.
  • GROUP 6
    • Gender oppression: The prices of reproductive freedom: of childcare, healthcare… We need to make multiple masculinities okay. We need to loosen up gender signifiers. We need to value women’s work. And the need for women to stop hiding their lights under a bushel to let men shine.
    • Develop linkages with things such as homophobia, climate crisis, disability, and the economic crisis generally. We need to show these links. We need to make linkages clear to find unity.

ANNOUNCEMNT: The Illuminator is here! 990% symbol on the library wall. Chant: We are the 99 percent.
Please keep reports limited so all can report, and so our wonderful entertainers can entertain us.

    • (Report back, continued): We need to find a way to communicate very broadly and very clearly to culturally diverse communities in clear speech so that we can raise the next generation differently.
  • GROUP 7
    • Kathy
    • We would like the Occupy Movement Support fighting the War on Women, and promoting the quality of women, within the Occupy movement as well as in life.
    • We would like the OWS tweets to include more women’s issues.
    • Many of us believed we need to transform this sexist, racist, classist, imperialist system in order for women to have true equality.
  • GROUP 8
    • As feminists, we need to look through the lens of intersectionality, so we can recognize how our struggles are interconnected and talk about how feminism is about much more than gender equality, and instead about equality for all people. We need to challenge ourselves to take action, whether it is at home, at work, in our groups, on the street at protests, at speak out injustice and oppression that we see and are experiencing. WE talked about safety. When and why do we feel unsafe? And what can we do to feel stronger and support each other? How can we organize in creative and playful ways, counter to the ways that capitalism and patriarchy try to influence us to work?
  • GROUP 9
    • 1) We need to deal immediately with the War on Women
    • 2) We need to continue to both learn and educate others and ourselves about feminism, and how history and current events relate to it. We need to work WITH the Occupy movement.
    • 3) We need to have fun and enjoy ourselves, so that we can achieve these goals.
  • GROUP 10
    • We talked about many of the same things that you did. We talked about breaking down capitalism, because capitalism encourages inequality. WE talked about building communities, in places other than downtown New York. We want to do more of this. We want to reach out to other people, to other communities, but also in our personal lives. We want to make activism cool! In order to fight complacency, we need to be vigilant, to not get caught, and tricked, by the bait and switch of when we are told that “everything is getting better.” We need to remain critical in our ideas and supportive of our communities.
  • Group 11
    • Vanessa
    • I think our conversations touched on a lot of what has already been said. One thing that we focused on that hasn’t been said as much yet, is how we need to make sure that our activist spaces, and our organizing groups, always are holding themselves accountable to being anti-oppressive, anti—patriarchal and feminist. And in these waves understand themselves as also anti-capitalist.
    • We need accountability around these issues for everyone we organize with. Because if we can’t, within our activist spaces, do these things, how do we expect the world to change outside of us?
  • GROUP 12
    • Kate
    • Connecting feminism to the values of the 99percent. One way is through our gender identification. By not just focusing on the movements effect on men and women only. We believe that by identifying ourselves and others in various ways, we can frame the message in others than in patriarchal notions.
    • (Another group member): Our group discussed many different things. But there was one overlapping theme, one focal point that we reached: Education, action, outreach.
      • Education: not only our internal revolution, but an external revolution. We must leran to look around us and educate ourselves by reaching out to each other, and gaining strength.
      • Action: In terms of reaching out to everyone, in terms of not only verbal, but physical, through programs, classes, marches, protests, meetings (LIKE THIS), we can gain support, we can cause a movement to do action that will change our society, and outreach to not only remember that it is not only us that are suffering. Not in America, but worldwide, from Africa to the Middle East, to Europe. We are all affected! And we must never forget that we are all equal and we are all suffering.
  • GROUP 13
    • Goals:
      • Overarching goal: live in a position of true equality where our position, power, role is not determined by gender.
      • Specific goals:
        • Organize with labor
        • Have feminist principles and values infused more into media and education
        • Have more representation in government of women in those roles
        • To use mutual aid and have a more values-based society. For example: where we value care-giving and men and women can be in that role of care-giving, and that will be valued.
        • Also talked about the need for space: for public space to talk and meet and have these conversations. We are not buying into or supporting mass media. We are having conversations with each other and sharing our stories. WE are bringing feminism to education (we had several educators in our group). Creating space for feminist conversation, and building community.
    • What do we need?
      • Actions on a daily basis, space, speaking out, creating a platform, for anger to be expressed and instructive. Create beauty out of conflict, rather than just out of our similarities.
  • GROUP 14:
    • Abbi
    • Four points:
      • 1) Remind Occupy: The face of poverty is female.
      • 2) End Violence Against Women in All forms, including domestic, trafficking, elder abuse, and cultural and media violence.
      • 4) Caretaking may soon be the only un-automated work left that people do, and it should be compensated.
      • 2) When we assess the costs of a given policy we need to assess the impact of what happen to peoples’ lives: Will there be unnecessary suffering?

Exhortation to keep meeting/scheduling of next event (Lisa)

  • Between now and next time, do not believe ANTYTHING anyone says, and create for yourself an idea of a future that is UNLIMITED. Come back with an action that is both fun and uncomfortable!
  • I would like to know, let’s do a temperature check: When do we want to meet again? Once a month? Every two weeks? Six weeks?
  • [Temperature check]
  • OK: Every month!!!!!
  • WOWsNYC Tonight: Joint It, and let’s talk, figure out what day, and ideas for actions. AWESOME!
  • Out of this meeting tonight, way came away with something to do for next time. Thank you!

Announcements from orgs and thank you (Lorena)

  • We are now going to take the time to take announcements. Please be aware that are very limited on time, if you could keep it no more than 30 seconds. If you would like to make an announcement, please line up over here and come up. I ask you all to stick around. After announcements, we have the Mahina Movement performing.
  • Announcements;
    • Dance parade: Saturday, meet 11:30AM at 21st & Broadway. Anyone can join Occupy Dance to dance, hold a banner, puppet.  One thing we’ll be doing is “move check”
    • Occupy Student Debt Campaign: See me for  fliers/website
    • Peoples Assembly: Occupy Theory, every Sunday, noon, fountain right here.
    • Coalition of Feminist Resistance: Meets this Tuesday, 7PM, Puck Building. What does it mean for the feminist movement to be anti-racist? Discussing Audre Lorde’s speech, “The Uses of Anger: Women Responding to Racism”
    • Radical Women: 7:30, Freedom Hall, Harlem, Thursday, celebrating Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. Discussion: “Invisibility as an Unnatural Disaster: Reflections f an Asian American Women”
    • Radical Women: Endorsed socialist campaign of ? & Lopez, because we believe that Democrats are half the problem, and feminism needs candidates that address the issues that concern all women: full reproductive rights, housing, free education, free childcare. Pick up a leaflet.
    • Occu-Evolve: Meeting with Occupy Staten Island at the South Ferry terminal at Friday at 5:45. We work with every GA in the city and look forward to promoting feminist GA with every other GA!
    • National Women’s Liberation: Holding a class on Saturday, June 9th. This class is about Radical Women’s Liberation History, and how we can use that history for our movement today. Please pick up talk to me/flier/ email: mwl@womensliberation.org
    • Feminist Radio Show: On the FM band coming out of NYC: WPAI: Listener supported, noncommercial radio! Also hosting Occupy Show every evening at 6:30PM. The show that I  produce is called “The Joy of Resistance: Multicultural Feminist Radio at WBAI” We are on the first and third Wednesday at 9-10PM. Please tune in and support the show and come on it if you have something to say! On June 6th will be our next show. Fliers!

ANNOUNCEMENT: Cut announcements short and moving into Mahina Movement. More announcements afterward.

MAHINA MOVEMENT!!!! Plays
Represents indigenous women around the world. Preparing for their Soul Journey Troupe Tour.

  • “Sugar land” song: excerpt: :We got the gold: … bodies been sold but we keep on rolling..”
  • Poem dedicated for every single girl in the world, called “Winter in Harlem”.
  • Exhortation: “White people: you are indigenous, too! We are all indigenous people! We are from the earth, we are from the ocean. This is where our ancestors came from. We all come from the same earth.”
  • Shout out to the Lenape people: This land was called “the land of the Blacks”, and then it was taken away and given back again. This land was occupied, and we are reclaiming that.
  • From Palestine to Congo, from South Africa to Fiji, all the way to Washington Square Park in New York!
  • Poem excerpts: “I will take nuclear waste, plants, atoms, and grind them to a waste to an olive tree may grow…. A tree grows… A girl grows….And our passion and our beauty and brilliance, and war and poverty and fear and love grows. And love grows. And love grows!!”

Thank you Mahina Movement!
Back to announcements:

  • This Saturday, May 19th, 8PM: Screening: Crime After Crime: Explores how victims of abuse get trapped in the prison industrial complex. Everyone in the world should see this movie. Details at: OccupyBushwick.org.
  • O4O Meeting: Monday, 6:30PM, at 55 E. Third Street. Please join us and be there!
  • I’m from The New School for Social Research. We are doing a project on Social Movements. We’ve done projects on Africa and the Middle East. WE are interested in what motivates people in OWS to protest. I’m going to read out loud our brief statements, before I pass this over… Please speak to me after if you want to be interviewed.
  • December: historical Court Shut down: 12 members of Occupy Bellingham Washington were arrested for defying laws in favor of environmental destruction corporations. Please help us in fighting for their rights by donating to the legal fund.

Thank you again (Lorena)
Thank you, thank you so much for coming!

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