June 20, 2013
Posted on Nov 3, 2011
This week on Truthdig Radio in association with KPFK: Code Pink challenges Occupy movement “manarchists,” Oliver Stone talks history and Tariq Ali argues that President Obama is a continuation of President George W. Bush. Plus the winner of our protest song contest.
A full transcript is available below.
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Peter Scheer: This is Truthdig Radio in collaboration with KPFK in Los Angeles. I’m Truthdig.com managing editor Peter Scheer. Today on the show we’ve got a general strike in Oakland; manarchism in New York; and a Bush clone in the White House, says Tariq Ali, who we’ll be hearing from later in the show. Also, Oliver Stone, Jodie Evans and Melanie Butler, and later in the show we’ll announce the winner of our Ry Cooder-inspired Power of Protest Music Contest. You’ll definitely want to catch that. But first, Code Pink founder Jodie Evans has an update from Oakland’s general strike, and New York-based activist Melanie Butler tells us how to handle manarchism in the movement.
Josh Scheer: Welcome to Truthdig Radio. I’m on the phone with Jodie Evans of Code Pink and Melanie Butler. Thank you, ladies, for joining me.
Melanie Butler: Thank you, Josh.
Jodie Evans: Thank you, Josh, for having us.
Josh Scheer: So we’re going to go right to Jodie. What’s the situation in Occupy Oakland today with the general strike?
Jodie Evans: It’s the most beautiful thing you’ve ever seen. There are just so many people, thousands and thousands, no police in sight. Every march totally takes over the street; people just march; they shut down the Wells Fargo branch this morning, and on the outside pasted a lot of stickers that said “You Owe the 99 Percent.” The people’s mic is going all the time. And there’s just people coming and offering, this morning about a hundred people did a flash mob, “I will survive capitalism”; there’s interfaith ceremonies; there’s a wailing wall that the Jewish Circle put up, and one of our Code Pinkers just put inside “Occupy Wall Street, Not Palestine.” The weather is gorgeous, and as Melanie sometimes calls the Occupies manarchies—it’s the opposite; it’s diverse, it’s women, it’s children, it’s glorious. And later this afternoon the goal is to shut down the port and that’ll start at around five o’clock; their shift changes at 7 and the longshoremen are onboard. And you know, the last general strike was in 1946, and that was before all the big changes in Wall Street happened that helped level the playing field in America until the ’80s, when Reagan and the onslaught of Republicans gutted all of those.
So today is an exciting day. Melanie, who you’ll hear from later, has been occupying Wall Street for six weeks. And through her presence there and our presence around the country in Maine and Texas and Florida and Boston and Philadelphia, and all the things that we learned, is we really came to understand that there needed to be a way the women could share their stories. And so we’ve created WomenOccupy.org and WomenOWS on Twitter, to help women be able to share their stories and best practices because of the issues that come up in the Occupies around women. I’m going to let Melanie talk more about that.
Josh Scheer: OK, great. Melanie—and, yeah, the Nation magazine wrote a piece on October 26 about how great these movements are, but women have found some issues. And can we get into that a little bit? What are the issues that women are facing?
Melanie Butler: Sure. Well, what’s important to remember first off the bat is that the issues women face at Occupy Wall Street are the issues that women face everywhere in the world, unfortunately. But the main difference that I see with our movement and what makes it, for me, so exciting, so new and so worth pursuing and worth fighting for, is that within this community that we’ve created there is a genuine willingness to tackle these issues and to truly make this a space where all voices can be heard equally, where there’s … representation from all sectors of the community, and where people can really be involved and have a voice.
So in the early days of Occupy Wall Street—and I just wanted to point out, women have been involved in this movement since the very beginning, since the very early planning stages back in July, back in August. We have been there, we have been on the front lines, and we continue to be on the front lines every day. Unfortunately, that is not always what is reflected by mainstream media, and it’s not always what you see when you go down, just like Jodie was saying, you know; sometimes on the streets it does seem like an angry mob of manarchists. And part of that is that the roles that women have been fulfilling, and the committees that they’re on, aren’t always the most glamorous or the most visible roles. But we are working on that, and we’re working on having more women’s involvement in every single committee, whether it’s media or medical or security.
So that’s the main difference, and that’s what I see that is so exciting. And in the early days of the occupation—just like I was saying, it’s gotten a little bit better now—but what I noticed was that, as I was watching the news coverage, there was such an underrepresentation of women. And you know, I went to the general assembly and I said—I had just come from seeing a media piece that interviewed 10 people, and nine of those people were men. And I said the 99 percent is not 90 percent men. And that was the message that really resonated with people. So what Code Pink has been doing, and some other groups have been doing, is we’ve been doing media trainings to help women get out there and have their voices represented in the media. And when we had that first media training to combat what I saw happening in the media, what we found when we did the sort of go-around of why people were there was that it wasn’t just a problem in the media; it was also a problem within the larger group of women really struggling to have their voices heard. And part of that is just because this is a reflection of the larger society, and even though this is a participatory and inclusive and horizontal movement, if you’ve never been given a platform to use your voice, you’re not going to be the one stepping up to use it; you’re not going to be the one that says ‘I have an idea worth sharing.’
So the work that we’ve been doing is to just work with women to talk about their stories, to get them feeling more confident and more comfortable speaking in the general assemblies, speaking to press, and to know that their ideas are important, and to encourage them to step up. And we still need more, you know; we still need more women coming down.
One of the other challenges is making sure that we are creating safer spaces for women on the ground. So I’ve been working a lot with the Safer Spaces Committee, in conjunction with all kinds of other teams; we have support circles; we have, within the Women’s Caucus that I’m a part of, we’re working on awareness of some of the issues that women face. And tonight we’re having a Safer Spaces sleep-out. We’ve done that before; it’s been really successful. So these are some of the things that we’ve been doing, and we’ve also been having, just basically creating forums for women to speak to one another—discussion circles where women can get together and just simply talk. Because what we found was that the space has become very male-dominated, and women are experiencing so much frustration with that that it’s really, really important sometimes to just sit around with other women in a safe space and just talk.
And actually I just wrote a piece on this, which is up on the Code Pink blog; I called it “Are We Bonobos or Chimpanzees?” And it draws inspiration from a story someone shared at the first meeting of our discussion group, where they compared our society to the bonobos and chimpanzees, which are two different kinds of monkey. But they’re almost exactly the same, and what sets them apart is that bonobo society, which is very, very peaceful, is characterized by strong female bonding, and the female bonobos spend a lot of time together; whereas female chimpanzees live in isolation and spend their days gathering food and, as a result, chimpanzee society is terribly violent and hierarchical. So we kind of took that model, and said women just need a time to talk.
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