Grasping at Straws: Comparing Slutwalk and Occupy Wall Street

Recently, there have been a slew of articles written about women and Occupy Wall Street. Particularly, the need for a feminist presence in the movement and the recognition that women are often the ones who suffer the most under an inequitable economic system.

In an unfortunate, but hardly surprising, male-centric lapse of judgement, some dudes decided that the best way to get folks out to protest was to turn women into sacrificial lambs, with a site and video called “Hot Chicks of Occupy Wall Street.” I mean, why bother paying any attention to women if they aren’t turning you on? In fact, why bother doing anything at all if you can’t reinforce your male power by objectifying women?

Though this kind of attitude towards women in progressive movements is nothing new, this particular brand of douchebaggery doesn’t seem to at all be representative of the Occupy  movement as a whole. This is, in fact, a movement that is very much relevant to women and very much needs a feminist perspective within it. As pointed out by , in a piece posted at the Ms. Magazine Blog:

Because we are already starting from a disadvantaged position, women are often among the hardest hit in economically troubled times, and this is especially true for women of color. Women are also disproportionately impacted when states slash public services, as so many have done in recent months. Because they are far more likely than men to be single parents struggling to provide for a family on a single income, many women are devastated by cuts to family assistance programs. And as we have seen repeatedly with the threatened federal cuts to Planned Parenthood funding, as well as several individual states’ recent cuts to family planning programs, women’s health services are considered by many politicians to be expendable.

This is a movement that is very much about us, the 51%. Not only is corporate capitalism a system that is tied to and thrives via a deep connection to patriarchy and a hierarchical  system of power that is racist and sexist at its core, but it thrives on the backs of women, literally.

A flier created by New York feminists, Rebecca Sloan, Cathy Barbarits, and Kathy Miriam that is being handed out at Occupy Wall Street, points out that the unpaid (and underpaid) labour done by women are the legs of the capitalist system:

Global capitalism is made possible by women’s unpaid work in the household…In Canada unpaid work is estimated to be worth up to 41% of the GDP.  The shifting the burden of domestic labor from elite women to the domestic laborers (maids) culled from subordinate groups of women (immigrants; women of color; poor women) is another part of this same process of exploitation.

Women of colour, in particular, are most often the ones who are left behind and stepped on in a system that functions on economic inequality.  They are the ones who end up doing the work that white women of privilege don’t want to do and they are the ones who are least likely to be able to climb past the glass ceiling and into positions of power.

It is also imperative that we recognize the way in which these exploitative systems lead to and encourage sex work and trafficking, another industry that impacts marginalized women and women of colour particularly. As pointed out in the same flier:

Trafficking occurs in a context of global economic inequalities and a failure to respect the human rights of a majority of the world’s population. Enormous amounts of people find themselves unable to provide for their families and are forced into situations of extreme desperation.

Women who are poor and women who are vulnerable are often the ones who have no choice but to resort to sex work, who are prostituted, and who are trafficked.

Indeed, the Occupy movement, is about us, the 51%.

So, how does this all relate to Slutwalk, as the title of this article implies? Well, it doesn’t, really, although in what is perhaps an act of desperation on the parts of Slutwalk organizers and participants who are watching their briefly novel movement drift into the background in the face of a movement that is truly radical and potentially revolutionary, a couple of people have tried very hard to link the two movements.

An article by Bryce Covert, at Alternet, imagines that Slutwalk and Occupy Wall Street are linked via ‘raw emotion’, and because both movements are ‘calling out the culture at large.’

In another piece written by Hanqing Chen, entitled: NYC SlutWalk Gets OWS Fever, the author writes that SlutWalk’s activists “said the Wall Street protests have paved the way forward in building attention for their own movement,” imagining that they will “partner with Occupy Wall Street to spread their own message.” So first Slutwalk tries to co-opt feminism, and now they want to co-opt the Occupy movement? Well, good luck.

The differences between the two movements are numerous. But perhaps most important is that which was recently pointed out by Eve Ensler:

The genius of Occupy Wall Street is that so far it is not brandable and that’s what makes its potential so daunting, so far reaching, so inclusive, and so dangerous. It cannot be defined and so it cannot be sold, as a sound bite or a political party or even a thing. It can’t be summed up and dismissed.

The key to Slutwalk’s popularity was that it was brandable right from the get go. It was salable. Slutwalk was loved by the media and by many because it provided exactly what mainstream culture wants and needs in order to sell a product: women’s bodies. It replicated images and messages that are easily consumed by the dominant culture, that is: women are consumable and they are to be looked at. It told us that which we already know: don’t bother looking at or listening to women unless they are up on a stage, dancing around in their underwear for an audience.

Whereas the Occupy movement is a direct response to a neoliberal capitalist system, Slutwalk was a ‘movement’ (if you want to call it that) that sprang from and embraced neoliberal capitalism. It sold women and it sold sex work as empowerment. Slutwalk bought right into to everything that we are being sold, turned it around and told the world that this was the route to liberation. Most of all, it sold a message of individualism – the key to the success of the capitalist system. Capitalism is all about the message of indivualism vs collectivism, man is an island under a capitalist system, and we are all to believe that if we work hard enough, as individuals, we can be successful. Health care, social safety nets, affordable housing? Those things are all a pain in the ass if you’re already wealthy and privileged. Those things don’t affect you if you aren’t poor or marginalized, so why bother? Other people aren’t your responsibility if you are a capitalist and if something makes you feel good then gosh darn it, you should do it!

Sound familiar? Slutwalk argued, right off the bat, that this was a movement all about individuals and that, if what they were doing, as individuals, was impacting other women negatively, well, too freakin bad. If you think sex work is great, then it’s great, regardless of how it impacts and hurts and exploits other women; women with less privilege than yourself. If you want to call yourself a slut and encourage men to call you a slut (because now that’s empowering!), then do it! Even if it throws other women under the bus in the process.

Slutwalk followed the rules. They bought into a patriarchal, neoliberal, capitalist message and tried to sell it back to us as revolutionary. But it wasn’t.

The Occupy movement never followed the rules. They did not partner with the cops and they didn’t ask for permits.The Occupy movement, rather, is challenging and confronting  ‘the rules’ and is taking on the ideologies of capitalism and individualism. They are not asking for permission.

Occupy Wall Street did not build a movement that would be salable to the mainstream media. They did not build a movement with the specific intention to attract the attention of the media. They did not need a shocking and controversial name to sell themselves and they certainly did not need pole-dancing women to build momentum.

This does not mean that the Occupy movement is free of, or should escape criticism.

Peter Gelderloos notes, in an article for that this movement must be careful to build on what has been learned from past progressive movements:

All of these [past radical] movements constitute lessons learned that can be passed down to aid future struggles. So often, the mistakes that defeat a revolutionary movement are repeated.

Gelderloos goes on to say:

In general, people in the United States face severe disadvantages in fighting power. The popular struggles of past generations were brutally crushed and critical lessons were not passed on. People have to start from scratch in a society constructed to meet the needs of money. In part because of this, people in the US have a unique opportunity to influence struggles worldwide, should they overcome the obstacles and turn these protests into something powerful.

And we, as feminists, must ensure that this movement includes an analysis of the way in which women are particularly disenfranchised under a capitalist system and ensure that women are not relegated to a position that requires they are ‘seen and not heard’ as the ‘Hot Chicks of Wall Street’ video does.

Yes, there are flaws in the Occupy movement, but it hasn’t begun from a position that is complicit in the very systems it claims to confront. It has not sent a message of individualism and it hasn’t told those who dare to critique it that if they don’t like it they can sit down and shut up.

Any comparisons between Slutwalk and the Occupy movement are desperate, if anything, as the focus moves away (finally) from half-naked women with the word ‘slut’ plastered across their faces and bodies, to a movement that demands the system change, and doesn’t simply aim to re-frame oppression and encourage women to make the most of  what we’ve got. What we need is something new, something drastically different – and that is going to take more than media coverage and personal catharsis.


Meghan Murphy
Meghan Murphy

Founder & Editor

Meghan Murphy is a freelance writer and journalist. She has been podcasting and writing about feminism since 2010 and has published work in numerous national and international publications, including New Statesman, Vice, Al Jazeera, The Globe and Mail, I-D, Truthdig, and more. Meghan completed a Masters degree in the department of Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies at Simon Fraser University in 2012 and lives in Vancouver, B.C. with her dog.

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  • Great Post 🙂 I think there should be more female representation in Occupy, but I think it is a lot of the media not really highlighting it all. The one I was at had a lot of men doing the talking but many women took the stand and discussed women’s rights, first nations rights and homelessness. I am bothered by the recent posts about these “hot chicks at wallstreet” tumblrs…that’s just crap. But i don’t think these dudes should wreck what is building around the world right now for everyone.

  • and yes slutwalk = capitalist driven, occupy = anti capitalist.

  • profeminist

    There is no such thing as a “white women of privilege”.

    • Meghan Murphy

      Ok. Do you mean that I should have simply said ‘white women’? I meant to point out that white women have privilege, and particularly white middle and upper class women….

      • Of course there are white women of privilege. There are women who have power over others and are in situations where that power is endorsed by society. It is not feminist to refuse to see that.

  • joy

    This is a very good point, Meghan.

    As I remarked on Twitter, I think my perspective on OWS has been informed by my background in protest politics and the rampant abuse of women I’ve directly observed in the movements most heavily involved in this one (anarchism, Students for a Democratic Society, etc).

    A lot of what they’re selling is the status quo, repackaged as rebellious and “authentic.” There’s a reason people often call anarchism “manarchism”, and the shit I directly observed within the SDS (although I was not a member) also suggests little about them has changed since the second wave first called them out.

    These movements often allow women to participate only if they act like third-wavey, SlutWalkey caricatures of human beings, ready for “Days of War” only if they’re eager to give their bodies away for “Nights of Love.” Real contributions by females are often talked over and ignored, while women are relegated to silent positions in kitchens, enthusiastically loud positions in bedrooms, and as smiling support staff for the men. Like it’s still 1965.
    “Sex positive” discourse has heavily influenced “radical” politics, and objectors (women who insist on being treated as human, but have no real interest in supplying sex for even one or often more of the men) are outright punished. If that sounds like hyperbole, I could tell some stories that curl even my own hair. Rape is rampant and calling the police (as little help as they are) is an excommunicable offense. Often even speaking up about sexual assault means abandonment by entire social circles, and several communities have even name survivors instead of offenders.
    Suffice to say that, while I remain committed to the politics, the actual movements are a shitshow and a total joke.

    So naturally, I’ve been really cynical about this one, especially after the “Hot Chicks” site, the reports of “free love” (ie, potentially rape? at the very least, compulsory sexuality) “in Zuccotti Park”, and the absolute ridiculousness of the OWS condoms (which proclaim on the packaging, “We’re Tired of Being Screwed Over!” and “We’ll Come First!” with absolutely no trace of irony).

    But indeed: protest, especially anticapitalist protest (although many of the protesters, interestingly enough, are absolutely adamant that they are NOT anticapitalist), is desperately needed and such action is nothing like SlutWalk.

    If we could have a true revolution, led by women, then I could definitely get behind that.

    • Meghan Murphy

      I completely agree with you about the way in which women have been treated within progressive movements. Anarchist tend to get pissy if you bring up feminism or even gender as a factor in oppression because, well, they like to see themselves as a more universal kind of movement. I’ve certainly been ex-communicated by communities of people who consider themselves ‘anarchist’ for calling the cops on a man.

      I’m really sad to hear that this ‘free love’ crap is being thrown around at ows and hope that this is challenged. I do feel that, whether or not some deny that they are anti-capitalist, this is a movement that confronts capitalism and demands a radical change to the system. I hope that women and feminism can be included in this movement as well, so far, the movement seems open to it.

      Slutwalk came off as more anti-feminist than anything else, with complaints that women showed up with *gasp* anti-pornography fliers and their refusal to engage in radical criticisms or radical ideology.

      Thanks for your comments!

      • joy

        I agree, SlutWalks come off as completely antifeminist.

        So do a lot of anarchists, many of whom openly proclaim that they are NOT feminists, or at the very least are “third wave”, “sex poz”, “queer, not feminist”, and/or “post-feminist.”

        The “we’re not anticapitalists, we’re anti-unregulated capitalism!” thing is what first put me off. Right, so they want to return to a time when only, say, 50% of us were being fucked over instead of a whole 99%. Sure. Aim high, youth of America! You wouldn’t want this revolution to take away any of your privilege, or possibly show up on your future resumes!

        But the “free love” shit, as well as reports that women are being groped, harassed, etc., at protests is what put me over the edge. Like at SlutWalk, if you show up at an OWS (like at any ‘radical’ action I’ve ever attended) and conduct yourself as a woman who is *not* there for sex, you’re gonna catch shit. At the very least, no one will listen to you. At the very worst, some asshole (or assholes) are going to harass and possibly assault you. And meanwhile, the HotChicks guys are taking pictures without your knowledge and Condomania is handing out prophylactics so you really have *no reason* to say no anymore! (you prude) See, these men are progressive, they will at least use a condom while they rape you.

        I hope women call them out. But many women within the movement are convinced that they are “sex-poz”/post-feminist, so they may be willing to just roll over and take it. Or laugh it off, or say it’s flattering, because at least they’re getting press for the movement!

        All in all, I do feel that protest is what we need, and hopefully any shift in the status quo will be positive. (At this point, it’s painful to imagine otherwise.) But in order to positively impact the lives of women, radical anticapitalist feminists need to get involved and I’m just not sure how many of us there are. Or if we could possibly keep the rest of them from raping us into submission.

        Thanks for letting me yak on about this, and I’m sorry to be a downer.

        • joy

          (Also, Meghan, I don’t mean to come across like I’m disagreeing with you! I’m definitely not. I’m just extremely jaded and cynical.)

          • Meghan Murphy

            Well, it’s hard not to be, isn’t it!

          • I’ve been occupying in my town of Dunedin, on the south island of New Zealand – we are a small city in a small country, and so the occupation is proportionately sized. Maybe this has something to do with what we’ve been able to accomplish, but for me, the last five days of occupation have been the most productive, educational, difficult and necessary few days I think I’ve ever spent. We had an incident before the occupation even started where a man called a woman a slut and said some fairly ignorant and dangerous things about the kinds of women who he would prefer to be raped (i.e.: ones wearing slutty clothes, as opposed to ‘normal, innocent’ women). Obviously, these are extremely problematic statements. In response, a group of five or six women, myself included, sat this man down and talked our heads of at him about the nature of male privilege, the insidiousness of sexism, and how dangerous his views are. He started off resisting and defending himself, then he stopped and got silent and listened; by the end, he was crying and looked visibly shaken. This incident has lead to an endless stream of discussions among the entire occupation about the place of women in revolution and the capitalism nature of sexism, and how to bring feminism into a fight about equality. We have had lectures, workshops, and teach-ins, and women’s rights are quickly taking a close-to-centre-stage in all our conversations about our particular occupation’s demands. It is exhausting, and endless, and painful, and frightening; it makes me feel brave and strong to go through it. And slowly, one by one, people are starting to open their eyes. It has been extremely heartening; so much so, in fact, that if our town’s occupation accomplishes nothing but these conversations, I, and the other women here, will feel it has been worth it.

          • Meghan Murphy

            Wow! Thanks so much for sharing your experience, J.A. Wonderful to hear.

          • Brooke No Nonsense

            You forgot to mention that this guy was one of the *organisers* of Occupy Dunedin, and that a few months earlier he had harassed the organisers of Dunedin’s 2011 Slutwalk, and told one of them he hoped she got raped. You forgot to mention that a *lot* of women stopped being part of Occupy Dunedin because for some crazy reason he was allowed to camp there despite his rapey views. Safety risk much?

            I also understand that *you* told one of the organisers of Dunedin Slutwalk that she was a puppet of patriarchy because she wore a miniskirt to a radio interview with you. Despite the fact that she works at Rape Crisis as our Community Educator. I’m not sure if the word ‘sisterhood’ means anything to you?

            I have little knowledge of the Slutwalks held in other cities, but the focus here in Dunedin has been victim-blaming, and raising awareness of its harms. People can wear what they want to Slutwalk, they are not obliged to wear revealing clothing. Last year I wore jeans and a jacket. A secondary but related focus of our Slutwalk has been *standing in solidarity* with women who have been slut-shamed. No matter how we all feel about the word ‘slut’, I would assume we agree that the policing of female sexuality under patriarchy is a problem.

            Finally, you are right, Slutwalk isn’t ‘anti-capitalist’ per se. That is because it is primarily a march against rape. Most of the people who attended here are socialists and anarchists, and many are involved in a variety of different types of left wing activism activism.

          • j.a. martino

            hey brooke – I posted that while we were in the process of discussing things, before I knew that ABSOLUTELY NOTHING would come of it. The affected women were part of the conversation that I referenced in that paragraph, and I couldn’t possibly speak for how they felt, but i felt like I was seeing the blueprint for how we would move forward – we would all talk, and talk, and talk, and then we would all learn something and grow a little. It all seems very idealistic now, as I came away from the occupation feeling like that guy (who I did forget to mention was one of the organizers, but not on purpose) and the views he represented became the mainstream around that camp. Lots of people there talked the same way he talked, and though the women in that conversation had the best of intentions (as per my original post), it all amounted to just another unsafe space. I was extremely disappointed, and ended up feeling very unsafe, and removed myself, as did a whole bunch of other women, along with the many women you pointed out didn’t take part at all. But in the beginning, after those first couple conversations, I really did feel very, very hopeful. I was wrong.

            As for me calling our mutual friend a puppet of the patriarchy for wearing a miniskirt to a radio interview with me .. that’s preposterous. I absolutely, unequivocally did no such thing. The only thing I can think of that you could be referencing in that interview is that I raised my concerns about Slutwalk as a phenomenon – concerns that involve the wearing of a particular kind of revealing clothing and calling oneself a ‘slut’, which strikes me and many other people as not being particularly subversive – and, I should add, that this critique of Slutwalk is not the same as policing women’s clothing. Women can and should wear whatever they like. Meghan’s written a lot about Slutwalk, and I don’t think I disagree with anything she’s said about it, so see her work for a more detailed breakdown. The Dunedin event turned out to be great, and I was really glad it happened and that I attended – the focus was absolutely all on the anti-victim-blaming message, and I thought it was great. But I’ll just emphasize that those concerns had nothing to do with what our friend was or was not wearing when I interviewed her, and I would never have made comments about her clothes, and actually I have a great deal of respect for her and what she does, and I have no idea where your information is coming from. I don’t think you and I know each other personally, so I suppose this ends up being the words of women you know versus the words of a woman you don’t, but I promise, I would never have said something so dismissive and hurtful. The word sisterhood does most definitely mean something to me.

          • j.a. martino

            I also forgot to mention that that guy was removed as organizer, and was barred from staying in the tent city, conditions to which he and all the women involved agreed. I left when it became obvious that the conditions were not going to be adhered to.

          • Brooke No Nonsense

            In response to J. A. Martino: You forgot to mention that this guy was one of the *organisers* of Occupy Dunedin, and that a few months earlier he had harassed the organisers of Dunedin’s 2011 Slutwalk, and told one of them he hoped she got raped. You forgot to mention that a *lot* of women stopped being part of Occupy Dunedin because for some crazy reason he was allowed to camp there despite his rapey views. Safety risk much?

            I also understand that *you* told one of the organisers of Dunedin Slutwalk that she was a puppet of patriarchy because she wore a miniskirt to a radio interview with you. Despite the fact that she works at Rape Crisis as our Community Educator. I’m not sure if the word ‘sisterhood’ means anything to you?

            Meghan: I have little knowledge of the Slutwalks held in other cities, but the focus here in Dunedin has been victim-blaming, and raising awareness of its harms. People can wear what they want to Slutwalk, they are not obliged to wear revealing clothing. Last year I wore jeans and a jacket. A secondary but related focus of our Slutwalk has been *standing in solidarity* with women who have been slut-shamed. No matter how we all feel about the word ‘slut’, I would assume we agree that the policing of female sexuality under patriarchy is a problem.

            Finally, you are right, Slutwalk isn’t ‘anti-capitalist’ per se. That is because it is primarily a march against rape. Most of the people who attended here in Dunedin are socialists and anarchists, and many are involved in a variety of different types of left wing activism.

      • Mike

        This graying ‘manarchist’ shares many of your frustrations with the fairly widespread embrace of consumer-choice in something lacy passing as ‘feminism’ among the many tendencies of anarchists, but my involvement in anarchist social circles (your use of “communities” was very generous, but that’s another rant) was critical in helping this then working-poor (currently disabled), not formally educated guy to even consider feminist thought.
        There are only a handful of anarchist women that I know who are reliably critical of the global sex-trade and porn-culture and I am so grateful for them (as well as the work of this collective) because I feel like I’m on some bizarre drug when sex-work is treated as the one, special, magical form of liberatory wage labor, unlike the rest. The males tend to be silent or fall back to the “choice” position when these industries are criticized.

  • Natalie

    hear, hear.

  • kathy

    So sharp Meghan!! right on. I’m writing about the *branding* of Slutwalk right now. and as you know i’m trying to investigate OWS to see what is really going on there. If any women have direct reports about the stuff Joy is talking about –Joy are these direct reports? i”d love to converse more with you!– please contact me through This is the NYC feminist project that Meghan posted about.
    So far after interviewing women on Saturday I’m not getting a clear picture of the sexual politics there–So more time is needed.
    At this point I see–or hope for– OWS as an opportunity for feminists (of the radical sort) to jump in and do Consciousness-raising, feminist teach-ins, and galvanize women. But everything is still inchoate. One thing seems true in the United States–namely that aside from the core contingency of underemployed mostly white students, there is a presence of other constituencies– labor, and people of color- and these are clearly coming from organized grass roots community groups of some sort. The fact that there is still almost no feminist presence to speak of signals, I think, the absence of grass-roots community groups focused on women’s interests and needs–let alone specifically *feminist* agendas. Organized feminism seems organized into mostly coopted or establishment- liberal, Dem Party lackey- forms. No mainstream women’s organizations have shown a presence/made a statement of solidarity- etc… So this is an interesting, if disturbing, moment to read the temperature of feminism in general. It also presents an opportunity for something entirely new to be created. Is the stuff there for this creation? I don’t know. Slut walk represents the extreme of the cooptation- and obstacle… in many ways, so does bureaucratized mainstream women’s organizations .. Again, please join us in NYC or let’s collaborate across geographic distances using social media or what we can to create a feminist presence here…

    • joy

      Kathy, what I have written about here is a combination of extrapolation based on direct actions I’ve been involved with previously (the RNC protests in 2008, the G20 protests in 2009, etc) and of firsthand accounts directly observable on blogs about the OWS.

      Some of the sources are (links broken to bypass spam filter):
      Another source is the website stfuconservatives, which is a Tumblr account featuring many photos and videos from the protest.

      Google “free love in Zuccotti Park” for some unfeminist reporting; more firsthand accounts are available on Feministe, but minus any radical critique (the writers are mostly just enthusiastic that protesters are having “safe” [ie, prophylactic] sex).
      Also, in YouTube videos about police abuse, watch who is targeted first. The infamous pepper spray incident (of which there have been several) targeted women. In the video of arrests at CitiBank, a woman is forcibly lifted off of her feet for attempting to enter the bank on unrelated business; she is then shunted off and completely surrounded by police officers, one of whom stands guard with a billy club. This is pretty good evidence that women are not safe, from either cops or other protesters, at OWS.

      However, one of the reasons that radical feminism does not have a prominent grassroots sector is that radical feminism has long alienated its grassroots coordinators. I know that is a radical feminist stereotype, and I am in fact a radical feminist myself, but I have observed firsthand: many radical feminists disown and otherwise alienate working-class, poor, and otherwise radical (ie, socialist, anarchist, etc) radical feminists, as well as radical feminists of color. I have been outright told that grassroots, woman-run programs I’ve been involved with are *not welcome* in radical feminism, that we should be quietly focusing on legislature instead.
      Since there are so few of us to begin with, we mostly keep our heads down and stay away. And why should we suddenly support people who have offered us no support when *we* need it, and have in fact told us to “STFU, stop making us look bad (eg, nonconformist and dangerous)”?

      Women have been critiquing elitist (largely white) radical feminism for some time, and yet nothing has changed. Denial seems to be the name of the game, much like the reactions white women show when women of color critique SlutWalk. “No we don’t do that! You’re just imagining it! Maybe you should work harder and stop being so sensitive!”

      What can we do to change that?

    • joy

      Oh, another source, just from today!

      From Occupy Phoenix:

      “@ :35 sec. a woman grabbed and pulled by throat and face by police officers.”

      As with other tactical events in the past, women are not safe at OWS protests. Especially if one is a woman with triggers from a sexual assault history, and/or a woman with an arrest record (particularly from previous political actions). A woman may be unable to attend a protest to begin with because she is unable to take time off of work, find childcare, or arrange transportation. A woman may also have physical limitations which preclude her from spending hours on her feet, as well as hinder her if she needs to run from an attack (from either another protester or a police officer) and put her at significant physical risk if confronted with violence (especially police violence, including but not limited to beatings from nightsticks, pepper spray assaults, and inhumane arrest conditions [such as being abandoned without food, water, or medical attention in a vehicle or holding cell for hours, possibly while physically restrained and/or blindfolded]).

      All of these factors further limit a possible radical, feminist, women’s presence at these protests. Frustratingly, I am personally unable to come up with a good solution off the top of my head.

  • Debbie

    We on the left have, of necessity, had to develop our critical faculties. Traditionally we are the ones without power looking at the powerful, demanding change. We are experts at critique. We often address the world from a place of weakness.
    I find it troubling when we use our expertise to attack our own. And this sort of “my movement’s better than your movement” comparison is ultimately divisive and disempowering. We need to learn to say “yes, and” instead of “no you’re wrong”.

    I support the Slutwalks. Slutwalk grew out of a response to law enforcement officials betraying a deep seated bias. What victim blaming by law enforcement does is say that a segment of the population is less deserving of protection under the law. Not because of any real evidence of wrongdoing, but because of the subjective perception of the law enforcement official. Slutwalk, at its heart, says when you call my sister a slut you call me a slut. We are all sluts or we are none of us sluts. We all deserve equal treatment under the law. Some women at slutwalks choose to dress provocatively: they are provoking a reaction at the same time as saying I dare you to react. These women walk next to grandmothers in tweed suits who also declare themselves sluts. Together they are defending women’s right to choose how we will express our sexuality.

    I share your frustration with the douchebag element that turns everything into an opportunity to objectify women. But that element is just one more outside element that all left-wing movements must contend with. Douchebaggery isn’t encouraged by the slutwalk any more than it’s encouraged by OWS. But if we approach it from a place of strength and have the courage to stand together, embracing our differences and celebrating our shared goals, we will all benefit.

  • T

    “At this point I see–or hope for– OWS as an opportunity for feminists (of the radical sort) to jump in and do Consciousness-raising, feminist teach-ins, and galvanize women.”

    Until I read that, I was going to say, “this post just gives a reader like me reasons NOT to participate in the two of the largest Western movements (of the moment).” Phew.

    Will anyone else reading this blog be out there trying to carve out some meaningful space for women at OWS events? If so, please share–I’m looking for inspiration, but I’m not sure how far I’m going to get organizing radfems on my campus by saying, “Hopefully they don’t rape us into submission.” I’m trying to go into this thing with a positive attitude.

    • joy

      I’ve been doing direct actions for about five years. Rape is par for the course for activists. I’m sorry I’m not more “positive” for you.

      Look at it this way. If you have money and go to a university, you may have more luck than working-class, poor, and full-time activist women. You will also have better luck getting a lawyer if you are assaulted. Good luck.

      But if anyone does get assaulted or raped, don’t expect them to come to you for help. It’s not very “positive”, you see, and it might demoralize everyone who hasn’t been raped.

  • T

    Yikes, Joy, you’re so far beyond ‘not positive’ that it’s downright negative.

    We’re *maybe* watching the emergence of a global transformative social movement, so I’m coming from more of a point of view like Debbie’s, i.e. “approach it from a place of strength and have the courage to stand together, embracing our differences and celebrating our shared goals.” I’ve been doing direct action for years now too (some w/ anarchists), and though it’s not always sunshine, I have always been welcomed and respected–just some food for thought before other readers pre-judge male OWS activists as rapists and douchebags.

    I’ve had some of my activist energies sapped by a tough summer, and maybe I came to the wrong place for ideas to work radfeminism into OWS, so sorry for that. Hopefully Joy’s experiences aren’t too widespread (they’d probably kill whatever is left of my enthusiasm too), but I do want to say that they are all the more reason for strong radfem participation in OWS. Thanks.

  • Bonnie

    Deja vu! That kind of frat boy behavior is why radical feminists split off from the anti-war movement, and formed our own identity in the late 60’s. Yes, time for some more consciousness raising, and, I hope, a “teachable moment.”

  • Omnia Vanitas

    This article needed to be written, so thanks Meghan. Totally right on. I was just thinking the other day how ironic it is how so many can get behind the 1% vs 99% for the Occupy movement, and yet so many of those same people come up against a wall when reminded of that other 1% vs 99% — the sexually exploited, 1% of which say they like it and 99% of which do it only to survive and want to get out. When presented with this 1% vs 99% suddenly the world turns upside down, black becomes white, and in a sudden and inexplicable reversal, out come the mantras, the excuses, “personal choice” “individual empowerment” etc. How come they don’t apply the same logic to all 1 percents? How come they don’t defend the personal choice and individual empowerment of the wall street bankers? The parallel couldn’t be more glaring. I find it so sad that so many people can be so belligerently dissociative; so determinedly, willfully ignorant. I am glad to see you were thinking of these important disconnects as well, and shining light on them.

  • “Not only is corporate capitalism a system that is tied to and thrives via a deep connection to patriarchy and a hierarchical system of power that is racist and sexist at its core, but it thrives on the backs of women, literally.”

    Would it be possible to substantiate this claim? It’s a huge claim and there is no evidence offered for it in the article.

    • Meghan Murphy

      Capitalism functions on a hierarchical basis that benefits those with power and privilege and marginalizes those with less power. Capitalism isn’t about what is fair, it is about competition. What further evidence would you like besides looking at the world around you?

      • Ok, even if no evidence is offered, in the very least some definition or description of capitalism should be. Looking around me shows that there are some things wrong with the current system, but it does not show that, for example, the current system is capitalist to begin with.

        As for the points about hierarchy and competition: firstly, this does not show any connection between patriarchy and capitalism. Assuming everything else is correct, this would only show that two hierarchical systems co-exist in some way. But we do not even have to go there, since hierarchy is not inherent in capitalism. And competition is just brilliant, so I don’t know why there’d be any complaints there :P.

        • Mitsouko

          Hi Komal, I’ve read your blog and see you’re coming from an honestly inquisitive place so I want to try and meet you there.

          I don’t understand what economic system you believe dominates business if not for capitalism and was hoping you could offer the alternative primary economic system you see in operation. When I think on such things I always go to the inherently free act of people sharing sex and how capitalism has propagandized people (mostly men) out of billions of dollars of their own money for something any of us can do for free.

          You wrote an astute post titled “Violence Against Men and Subordination as Essential to Womanhood” that I want to quote from because from where I sit you’re on the cusp of connecting the micro circumstances of human lives to the macro economic situation. It’s easy to think presidents, prime ministers, and popes are driven by more noble, worldier concerns than the rest of us, but really they’re just spoiled rich men playing out pissing contests with each other on the global chess board.

          Your first sentence in the post connects patriarchy with the violent re-allocation of resources, aka war, “I just read a shocking article in the Guardian exposing the extent of violence against men as a weapon of war.”
          You continue, “This is precisely what I meant earlier when I said that patriarchal ideology undermines women at an existential level, by defining our very existence in terms of subordination and femininity.”

          What is war except forcing others into subordination instead of working together? Your post centers on men raping men as part of warmaking, so it surprises me that you don’t then make the leap connecting the gendered nature of imposed hierarchies to the economic outcomes built into those hierarchies.

          Consider as well that no armed force I’ve ever heard of was made up mostly of women gathering to attack another group of mostly women and what that might mean.

    • Hi Komal;
      I have some evidence for you: the International Association for Feminist Economics, in 1995, rigourously examined the paid/unpaid labour structure of the global economy, and estimated (necessarily, as there are few numbers, due to the kinds of questions asked by econometric surveys) that 16 trillion dollars of work is unaccounted for by the market, and that 11 trillion of that is done by women. That’s roughly 50% of the global GDP, and that’s in 1995 dollars. You can listen to one of those feminists economists, Dr. Prue Hyman, talking about this idea here:, and Raj Patel talks about it, here: In fact, one of the main slogans of La Via Campesina is that food sovereignty is impossible without addressing violence against women, including the violence of unvalued labour which, under a culture that entrenches economic philosophy in everything, is the violence of silenced voices and unheard demands.

  • Thank you for writing this article. I thank you because living in Russia and being part Ukrainian, I have a beef with this feminist organization called FEMEN, and I was wondering if you have heard of them. First the good news- they are abolitionist when it comes to prostitution, which is VERY important in Ukraine. The bad news? They protest for women’s rights by stripping in public. The worst news? They get a LOT of attention from the European media which just adores this kind of protest. To give an extreme example, they had one of their demonstrations against prostitution in front of the Turkish embassy. Now I love Turkey but if you understand the typical attitude in Turkey towards Ukrainian women you can see that the embassy workers must have been thrilled at the free strip tease show they were treated to.

    When I voice my criticism of FEMEN many European fans say, “But they are getting attention!” Maybe so,but they are getting attention because they are stripping, and what they are essentially doing is perpetuating a disgusting stereotype of Ukrainian and Russian women- specifically, “Russian and Ukrainian women must use their bodies and looks to get what they want.” If any of you have been following their exploits I’d love to hear your commentary.

    As for the comments about capitalism, subjugation of women pre-dates capitalism, going back all the way to the development of class-based society. Having said that, subjugation of women remains an integral part of class society up to and including capitalism. Capitalism is a particularly sharp form of class society which means that you cannot extricate it from the subjugation of women. You can’t speak about women’s liberation without taking on class society and that means capitalism.

    • Meghan Murphy

      Hi Arsian,

      Thanks for your comment. I have heard of FEMEN, yes, and I find it EXTREMELY problematic… say the least. I’d considered writing something a while back but didn’t…Perhaps will reconsider that decision. Interesting to hear they are abolitionist? And yet they don’t see how objectification of female bodies is tied to the commodification of women / women’s bodies?

  • I should warn you that they may not have any personnel fluent in written English. I wrote them a letter in English to get more information under the assumption that their very “Western” tactics suggested the presence of either members who lived abroad or foreign expatriates among them. One of these days I’ll get around to writing them in Russian.

    Anyway, as far as I know they are still abolitionist but they have a very confused strategy. Naturally the media gives them a lot of attention; I see dozens of stories about them in our local paper and I’m not even in Ukraine. If they were really a threat, they wouldn’t get that kind of attention- it would be either blackout or backlash.