Feminist General Assembly 6.18.12

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Lorena: Introduction

Mel G: Yesterday we learned that Rep Lisa Brown was asked to leave the floor of the house for reading the word “vagina” inside the state house.  Today, in fact, right now, Eve Ensler is on the steps of the Michigan state house with many female legislators reciting the Vagina Monologues.  Lets give a great big shout out to them because what better way to open a Feminist General Assembly than to shout “VAGINA”!   (group shouts “vagina” louder and louder, round of applause!)

Consciousness Raising Triads: Facilitated by Jill:

Those of us working on the FemGA and others struggles have had problems with language. Terms like sisterhood, slut, feminism, queer, gay are sometimes challenging. So we wanted to bring this to the FemGA and ask you what your experiences have been and what are some ways to address these issues.

The question we bring to you is: What words names or terms have you had trouble using or receiving or been criticized for using. So with this question so just turn to 2 people near you in groups of three. You have 5 minutes each to respond to the question.

Notes from our CR breakout group: Lorena, Margo, and Dior

Lorena: Feminist: hear that word: anti everything, anti-men, lesbian, anti-penis

More connected with my inner feminist. Weird to hear women not wanting to be associated with. Socially ostracized. We have to rush to defend it. Others go into the stereotype. People say things are so gay. People use it so freely without thinking about it.

Margo: Sometimes I feel anti everything. I’m mad at this, I’m mad at that.

We are live streaming. If you are not comfortable being recorded. Please raise your hand.

Chepe: UStream, which we use to make sure that people faraway can participate or hear what’s going on, is still a corporation. I hate corporations. This particular corporation won’t allow me to tweet vagina. They told me it was inappropriate language. So feel free to help us promote to say vagina on the screen because I can’t anymore.  People shout “VAGINA”.

Larger breakout groups:

Please join with the group next to you. And have no more than 10 people for our larger breakout groups.

Now these breakout groups are going to address 2 questions not in the cr format. So you may talk about your experience if you want but these are questions that are about today’s theme, which is about the LGBTQ and that means lesbian gay bisexual transgender and queer.

And we are going to talk about the connection between feminism and these other or same movements because this is pride week. In each group, when you get together, please sign the sign up sheets, which we will pass out to the groups. Please fill out all the columns and then choose a note taker, a facilitator if there isn’t one, a timekeeper, a stack taker if necessary, and someone to write and report the report backs.

Here are the 2 questions and these will be 45 min discussions. The questions are:

How did the feminist and LGBTQ movements influence each other?

How can we collaborate towards goals of gender and sexual justice and freedom?

Now Janet is going to tell you what we hope will go into the report backs.

We’d like each group to share some insights from your discussion. We have two ways to do this. First, in the report backs. Using mic check, share some language and understanding your group reached together and also a new possibility to collaborate to help us move forward from here. Second, on the Internet. The most important points of your discussion. Please post on the web at wowsnyc@gmail.com

My breakout group:

Question 1:

I think it was mutual. 60s and 70s. The feminist group didn’t want to accept lesbians. They wanted lesbians to keep quiet. They were criticized and lesbians put pressure. They helped to encourage lesbians to come out.

They encouraged each other. Made them more vocal.

It was also the children of the civil rights movement. That was the model. People of our generation. Reproductive rights are important to any woman. Women can be raped. No matter what your sexual preference is.

Certain issues were put to the forefront while other issues were put to the side. Inclusion came at the price of assimilation. We are still pushing the borders.

In the civil rights movement leaders like MLK was in the front instead of Myron (last name?) who was outed. It was not accepted at that time to be gay. Even as a black gay man. Assimilation has taken its toll. There is a level of radicality.

Lesbians had to be pushed to the back of the bus so the women’s movement would be more mainstream.

Gender and sexual identity is interrelated. It is a double way of controlling people. Being gay was bad. It was about control over people and punishment around sex and gender.

Criminalized abortion. Made sodomy a crime. We share a history of criminalization.

This inspired other legal challenges.

Its about learning from each other’s movements. Like in a court. The legal argument that people can make.

This question seems very historical so some may feel ignorant. We don’t know what to say

Question 2:

All sex (heterosexual or homosexual) needs to be protected. Roe v wade was about sex and family.

That’s a difficult question.

It bothers me when young men, enough to be my son, are calling me Dear. I dont like it. Call me miss or something else!

People look at me condescending. Point out my youth.

It happens when you’re young and when you’re old.

What does it take to quit a movement?

If people respond to you negatively?

People dont mean to offend. When you intervene in someone else’s language. It is scary. You commit to being progressive. Disarming. Yet, people get defensive. Then later on, they hear your view. Like, oh I thought about it again. Youre assuming everyone’s good will. Not anything files in a space like this. We assume we are working on the same problems.

Young men haven’t looked at this. This is an issue for her.

Dear is towards women.

Dear is condescending. You want respect. Its not polite. They dismissed your opinion.

Should be aware of the importance of vocabulary.

Some ideas:

Start at a young age. You don’t have to say you smell like a girl or anything gender related. Dont connect things to femininity.

Be more inclusive.

Focusing on health insurance. Economic issues. Life insurance. Will charge you higher premiums if you’re female. Even connected to race.

Trans people are turned away. Or treated unfairly. That is one place of connection.  ALL people need healthcare.

Feminism is about choice.

Choice is secondary. Feminism is about men and women being equal.

Do it culturally. Do it through popular culture. Its for those most at risk for being antagonistic.

Has Will and Grace helped?

Howard Zinn: There can only be change when it happened though mass social movements, which have demanded change. Enormous pressure is needed.

Talk to people on a one on one level.  A dialogue. All types of people learning to love each other and understand each other.

All types of oppression are not all the same. Attempting to parse different peoples experiences.

Conflict emerges and brings up economic movement.

Funding for research both HIV and breast cancer.

End goal: focus on salary and economic equality.

Men expect women to clean up. It should be an equal responsibility.


Before we start the report backs, Tess and Becky have an announcement that is of concern to all of us.

The DC17 trials are where 8 people were standing trial. 7 of those people were sentenced to 4-year community service. One person is our friend, our comrade. Mark Adams will spend up to 45 days in Rikers. We are sad about this. DC17, for those of you who don’t know stands for Dec 17 when there was an action at Duarte Square. There was an attempt to take space. Charges involved trespassing. Tonight some are organizing a march to Rector Cooper’s house.  He is the reverend of church who owns the property that was trespassed.

You are all welcome after this wraps up to join them at 37 Charleston St. for a speak out about how we feel whether personally or politically about Mark being imprisoned today.

Report backs:

1. Our group talked about how the African American civil rights movement gave rise to the feminist movement. There needs to be more cross-generational movements.

We need more discussions about common issues that are not just about identity. We should pose questions around gender. There should be more discussion about the relationship between gender and trans and queer people. It is important to discuss how minority feminists led to discussion during the 2nd wave of feminism about white privilege and racial issues within feminism.

2. Vagina! We went off script because the questions supplied assumed queer and feminist activist groups were separate. We asked our own questions: What are the practical things happening in people’s lives like queer youth who are homeless. How we can work together as intersectional feminists? How does poverty and gender experience connect?

How can the occupy movement have an analysis behind class and poverty issues? Who is here? Who isn’t here? Why isn’t all of occupy here? Why is the crowd smaller today? Is it because of the LGBTQ focus? Some people work on LGBTQ issues all year and don’t want to come here to educate others.

3. Hi! There is a history that isn’t exactly well known and we’d benefit from a reading list compiling of different views.

There is a history that’s being suppressed including black women leading.  As if they are taking the roles of the women. We need allied movements. Not combined movements. We need to support each other’s actions. Whether male or female identified organized actions. We also need to dig deeper in our self-interest for doing so. We want to call out social dynamics while we are in the group. Not in a way that attacks people. Making a situation of care. Positive and productive.

4. Movements inspire each other. We need more privilege workshops. More outreach. We need to break through. We need rights. Be who you are without having to defend your rights and not by marriage.

5. We began with a discussion of history or movements that we were not experts on so we decided it would be better discussing about how we felt. How these movements interact now. Some felt these movements cannot and should not be separate. Also, we talked about the great and positive impact that feminism and LGBTQ people have on others who don’t identify as either. We thought about how the younger generation takes these movements for granted.

We talked about movements of capitalism and its impact on feminism and LGBTQ movements. How it appeases many.

Some solutions are assembly discussions like this that open the topic to more people. Challenge capitalism. Movements must stay together. It is important not to compartmentalize injustice. Use social media networks. Promote feminism and LGBTQ ideals together. And call out people who stigmatize others who do so.

6. We spoke about the fundamental problems of the economic structures that separate the 99 percent. There are inequalities among gender and other identities. We need to address interconnectedness. Support each other. Address questions that can unite us in discussions and find a way to influence others to join with the new values GA and to bring a feminist voice. We should incorporate theatre of oppressed.

7. We began by discussing the ways that feminism has questioned sexual roles. How it has challenged authorities. It opened up areas of critical analysis. We asked for the difference between equality and justice. What it means to those who we are critiquing. How do we become our own to set our own agenda? What brings us to OWS? Collective and individual experience of oppression. Fight against the rights that restrict our ability to free ourselves. Our organizing, we suggested, must be horizontally based. That is how we will collaborate toward these goals of justice. We need to increase the roles of art and artists because we are frustrated with reaching more people. We want to see revolution. We want to hear each other’s voices. Engage and direct action. Re-inspire solidarity. That’s why we came to OWS. We will continue to come to GA’s and spread the word.

8. We talked about the meaning of inclusion. We need to consciously think about it and what it means. Economic issues connect everyone. We talked about the need to focus on shared values like minimum wage, insurance. We believe that others use hot button political issues to keep us from organizing on our shared issues.

What is the root of the problems? Why these things are happening?

We are aware that we have the privilege to be here. Some can’t be here because of incarceration, some are afraid of deportation. Some have to be at work.

Done with report backs.

We have these signs supplied by We Will Not Be Silent and we will NOT be silent! If you would like to hold a sign, please come get one. They’re very beautiful. We would like everyone to hold one. These pictures are going to be at a lot of places so please join us and take a sign!

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