I had the opportunity to attend an Egyptian Women Solidarity event today at Occupy Oakland. There was supposed to be a march, but an encounter with the police turned it into a lecture atmosphere. I listened to a number of different women (a few Egyptian themselves) talk about the history of oppression but also how women have become some of the main movers and shakers of the Egyptian revolution.
The “leaderless” nature of the occupy movement has provided a number of insights to me as I’ve observed GA’s. One of the most common occurrences of the early stages of the movement included women calling out men as privileged and patriarchal. In pretty much all cases, they were right. Being a “white/straight/male” essentially disqualifies myself from speaking up as much as I would like to at GA’s. However, when asked my opinion I happily share.
The necessity of “occupying patriarchy” is obvious. Patriarchy has a rich history of keeping women’s voices marginalized and repressed. Meanwhile rape and domestic violence occurs with appalling frequency throughout our culture.
Misogyny has become an unspoken norm for too many people. It’s prevalence in the media and in music is inexcusable. I know that artists justify their use of it as simply holding a mirror up to society. That is no excuse. Artists must begin holding themselves and others to a higher standard. Misogyny has no place in the society so many of us want to create.
I believe that women should inherit the world (I also believe that that is a male-centric and privileged statement – and yet necessary to make). I believe that women have healthier habits of communication and relationship. Women often will seek understanding before judging. Women’s ability to care-take is a strength that is underutilized in positions of leadership. Women have a way of building consensus that subverts any attempts at autocracy.
Men have much to learn from women, and yet men quickly default to prideful stubbornness.
If equality is truly a value, then I think it is in society’s best interest for men to repeatedly and lovingly elevate women’s voices on all issues. Equality can only be manifested if men make the effort since it is primarily men that are in the positions of power.
I encourage women and men everywhere to actively shout down anyone who is using elitist, patriarchal or misogynist language in public. I would also encourage women and men to make signs for their houses and neighborhoods that declare the area a “Rape Free Zone.”
There are numerous studies that talk about this stuff. Here’s one: http://womensissues.about.com/od/intheworkplace/a/WomenLeaders.htm
In 2005, a year-long study conducted by Caliper, a Princeton, New Jersey-based management consulting firm, and Aurora, a London-based organization that advances women, identified a number of characteristics that distinguish women leaders from men when it comes to qualities of leadership:
Women leaders are more assertive and persuasive, have a stronger need to get things done and are more willing to take risks than male leaders….Women leaders were also found to be more empathetic and flexible, as well as stronger in interpersonal skills than their male counterparts….enabl[ing] them to read situations accurately and take information in from all sides….These women leaders are able to bring others around to their point of view….because they genuinely understand and care about where others are coming from….so that the people they are leading feel more understood, supported and valued.
The Caliper study findings are summarized into four specific statements about women’s leadership qualities:
- Women leaders are more persuasive than their male counterparts.
- When feeling the sting of rejection, women leaders learn from adversity and carry on with an “I’ll show you” attitude.
- Women leaders demonstrate an inclusive, team-building leadership style of problem solving and decision making.
- Women leaders are more likely to ignore rules and take risks.
As far as I’m concerned these are plenty enough reasons to follow women. The glass ceiling needs shattering.
Here is one more white/straight/male perspective: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/02/10/opinion/10kristof.html
On a different level: I believe that we are going through some massive social transitions at present. The process is similar to childbirth. In fact it’s practically the same thing. The baby is coming whether people like it or not. It’s an organic happening and is transforming reality as we know it. It will be painful.
However, we can all minimize that pain by committing to nonviolence. That’s something I’ve already done and something that I would urge all of Oakland and the occupy movement as a whole to do. Forgive me for being presumptuous but somebody has to make this stuff obvious. We can’t wait. The birth process is all about the timing.
As the birth process continues – my main question to all women remains: Will you always prioritize people before profits?