I spent several hours today listening to a friend tell me, with much anger, sadness and frustration, the story of how her marriage of more than 20 years has crumbled.
Then I went up to see my son’s soccer game, and could not bring myself to say more than “hello” to my own ex-husband, who chose freedom and autonomy over his 25-year relationship with me, and the satisfaction of living in the same house as our children.
When I got home, I checked the Occupy Wall Street website and found a statement from the “sexual assault survivors team,” describing and condemning the recent attack on a female protester by a man who apparently already had a record of sexual assault.
I also got a blog post from a student in my gender studies class, about an organization called About Face, which strives to get viewers to question the fashion industry norm of presenting emaciated women as “beautiful.”
What connects these dots?
A culture in which men feel more interested in following their own selfish desires for personal fulfillment (aka, sexual fulfillment) than in upholding their roles as fathers and husbands.A society that makes it easy for them to choose this route: why struggle to please a demanding wife when you can have sex with someone else with no strings attached?
A society where women have to be guarded, even at protests that supposedly entertain no gender disparity, because there could be sexual predators around any corner.
A society that makes it terribly difficult for women to find independent means to self-respect.
Too often, in previous revolutions, women have supported the movement but found that the men in charge were not willing to give women’s issues equal footing with class issues.
If the young men and women of the Occupy movements are serious about creating true social change, they must put the issue of entitlement squarely on the table.
Not just the entitlement of the 1%, but specifically male entitlement, and white entitlement.
We will not be able to bring a new social structure into being unless we hit these areas of privilege and entitlement head on.
And no, we are not substituting women’s empowerment for men’s.
We are after another world entirely, in which gender, class and race are not the arbiters of power. In which power flows from the collective wisdom of the group, rather than top-down in hierarchical fashion.
The Occupy movements are on to this shift with the general assemblies and the consensual mode of decision-making. Breaking with the gendered conditioning of Western society, which gives men all the power, all the time, is not going to be easy. But if anyone could achieve it, it’s the young men and women of the Occupy movements.
I want to see these young people make this an explicit focus of their movements. Because otherwise, on a certain level, it’s just business as usual, no matter if the masters of Goldman Sachs come out to lick your boots.
Change the disrespectful attitude of men towards women, and you REALLY change the world.
Let’s give it a try, and see what happens. Things could not get much worse, and they could get a whole lot better if men and women worked together for the good of ALL.