In Consideration of Occupying Wall Street

October 05, 2011

With the Occupy Wall Street (almost) movement gaining traction, the best question so far has been: Why would you occupy?

The answers I’ve seen so far are heart wrenching. On the Tumblr dedicated to the protests, people are sharing their stories of dignity lost — no access to affordable health care, no meaningful jobs, and a broken promise of opportunity for the “99 percent.”

Who is the 99 percent, you ask? Well, unless you run Wall Street’s biggest firms and make money hand over first, it’s you. It’s the rest of America. It’s women, who bear the brunt of this economy. It’s the people who gave it their all and played by the rules only to find out they still lost.

The Occupy Wall Street protests express these frustrations. But more important, they provide a space for women and others who feel disenfranchised to talk and dream about a better America, one that works for 100 percent, not just a few.

I haven’t decided to hop on a bus to New York City to join the protesters. But I’ve certainly thought of three reasons why I would.

To demand jobs — good ones

People don’t want welfare. They want jobs that are meaningful. Too many women take home unfair paychecks and lack access to paid sick days — problems that could be rectified by stronger pay equity laws or earned sick days legislation. Lawmakers need to stop wasting time and pass laws that make employment meaningful. They also need to make moves toward job creation — something that appallingly hasn’t happened yet — and job training.

To demand affordable education

I don’t need to quote President Kennedy to remind everyone that education is the key to opportunity. But education is no good if you can’t pay for it.

Pell Grants — which help more than 9 million students afford college — are facing massive cuts. The students who receive these grants, disproportionately women and minority students, are at risk of being among the victims of Washington’s current budget battle. Cuts to these grants will devastate the futures of the students who rely on them and will further hurt our economy, which desperately needs more college-educated workers to rebound.

To demand a continued commitment to Social Security

Social Security is a great American promise, a commitment that we as Americans make to care for one another across the generations. It’s particularly critical for elderly women — more than half of whom would fall into poverty without it. Cuts to these programs will further strip away people’s dignity, and unnecessarily so. Right now there are smart laws proposed that offer ways to keep our commitments to fighting poverty. Let’s pass them and keep our promises.

So why aren’t these reasons enough motivation for me to head up to New York? For one, the protests are taking heat that I can appreciate. Critics point out that without direction or leadership, the noise anyone makes on Wall Street can never become a call for forward progress. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t potential, especially since influential unions are joining the demonstrations today. And besides, what do you expect when more than 14 million Americans don’t have jobs? Wall Street demonstrations don’t exactly qualify for funding from the Koch brothers.

In the end, I count myself as one of the 99 percent with the hope that we take our anger and direct it toward imaging a better future, one in which women and other disenfranchised groups have the opportunities we were promised.

I am the 99 percent. What about you?

By:   |   October 05, 2011

1 Comment

  1. Guest1 says:

    Having tried recently to finish a degree in computer science, only to have professors (and those they mentor) tell me women should be at home and taken care of and not in the workplace, sexually harass and stalk me for the purpose of preventing me from completing my coursework, I have to wonder if Ira Levine’s Stepford Wives book is some kind of theme book for those men in power. At least since our recent recession (or starting about 2008). I have been told that women were “allowed” to graduate in science/engineering disciplines without the prevalence of this type of intimidation.

    I’m wondering if some men in power now use discrimination, intimidation, sexual harassment or sexual assault as a way to force women out of potential jobs since our recent recession, because the job market has been so tight. Possibly that, if they force qualified, talented women out of their discipline, then there would be more good jobs for men.

    At least at the university level, my reasoning is this: I and my female classmates were making almost perfect grades and understanding the material well. My female classmates said they loved the work; yet most all were forced to drop out. Also, a female faculty member who said she was aware of the sexual harassment/discrimination was intelligent and highly talented. Because of this, I believe women are capable of doing science/engineering. In the past year, I have also seen myself and other women “administratively” excluded from science/engineering, where there was no basis to do so.

    What I find sickening is the universities bragging about receiving millions in private and federal dollars to bring in women into math/science/engineering when they do nothing to discourage these practices. At my college, over the past 3 years, coinciding with a sudden spike in very high reported sexual assault rates, the female student body graduation rate has also suddenly dropped (25%/year). I don’t have enough information to infer, but the female student body had been the highest graduation group before 2008.

    Last week, I was encouraged to see AAUW reporting K-12 female students excited about their opportunities in science/engineering. But at the college I just left, if these same young women went to summer camp, they would have come face-to-face daily with a professor forcing them to watch uncensored porn of girls age 15 – 16 in the learning center. The university felt nothing was wrong with this, although it would have been a felony if it occurred off-campus. The university called it “academic freedom”.

    It is my stance that every student should be allowed to learn — most especially those male/female students who are so excited about going into science/engineering. No student should be forced with sexually harassment, assault, or stalking as a condition of learning.

    If anyone has a similar experience, I would like to know how you dealt with it.

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