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Occupying Women’s Issues: Gender and the Occupy Movement

To those who believe that the gender gap is a thing of the past, take a look at this Time article from 2010: in 2008, American women only earned 77 cents to the male’s dollar. In today’s “Occupy” terminology, men are more likely to make up the "one percent" than are women.  So could Occupy be especially significant for women?

                                                                                                           Photography by Grace Ortelere

Although there is currently no committee specifically dedicated to women’s issues at Occupy Philadelphia, English Professor Ania Loomba believes that it must be women who harness the Occupy movement to promote their own interests.  “Women have to be participants in very large numbers because I think it really does affect them,” Loomba said.  “We know that issues of poverty effect women disproportionately…at the bottom, there are more women than men.”

Loomba has been involved in the Occupy movement since she drafted a solidarity statement signed by approximately 100 Penn faculty members and has been to the occupation at City Hall numerous times.

One issue that has been raised in regards to women’s issues and Occupy Philly was the alleged rape at Occupy Philadelphia reported on November 12.  After the incident, Mayor Nutter declared that Occupy Philly “has changed.”  Loomba, however, was quick to counter that.

“The thing is that, in the city of Philadelphia, there were 28 other rapes that day,” Loomba said.  “If you start saying a woman was raped at occupy, that might be used to scare women away … for me, it’s very heartening to see women in public space.”  She likened women occupying public space to feminist movements such as Take Back the Night.

UPenn senior Alex Nic, a member of OccupyPenn, wrote in an email that the Occupy movement has actually helped “develop safe spaces [and] value consent and sexual assault survivorship.”  He added, “The development of protective communities and prefigurative critical feminist politics within the movement demonstrate that it has the potential to create safer spaces better than the state and its police enforcers do.”

Loomba also mentioned that the issue of women being economically disadvantaged also breaks down into issues of race, which is supported by the Time article: in 2008, African American women made 68 cents to the male dollar, and Latina women made 58 cents.

Loomba continued by adding that getting women involved in the Occupy Movement could not only make Occupy focus more on women’s issues, but it could get women more involved in politics as a whole. 

“Instead of getting more women from only the top, we [must] get it from the bottom…if we get women in the movement, we’ll get women from the bottom into politics,” she said.

The US ranks number 69 among countries with the highest percentage of women in government.  Currently, women only 16% of Congressional seats.

Loomba continually reemphasized the need for women’s participation. “For now, women…need to be part of the occupation to make sure that it doesn’t take a form in which women are ignored.” 

Sarah Smith is a junior at the University of Michigan, Class of 2012, majoring in Communication Studies and Political Science. She is the Editor-in-Chief of The Forum, Michigan's Greek Life Newspaper, and the secretary of Michigan's chapter of Ed2010. Sarah is also an active member of Alpha Delta Pi Sorority, and she currently serves Michigan's Panhellenic Association as the Vice President of Public Relations.  A native of Sterling Heights, MI, she has been a Michigan fan since birth and loves spending Saturday mornings cheering on her Wolverines. Some of her favorite things include The Office, Audrey Hepburn, women's magazines, and microwave popcorn - preferably with lots of butter and salt!
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