Saturday, January 14, 2012

Regarding Last Week's General Assembly (Occupy Boston)

The reaction I had to the safety proposal not passing last week was
not just about the events of last week.  Since the encampment at Dewey
began, I and countless other women and men have been made to feel
unsafe at the heart of a space we were using to effect positive social
changes.  I experienced small instances of sexual harassment but
acknowledge that I am generally a more assertive and insistent female
when it comes to fending off predators. At one point at the media
tent, a man I engaged in friendly conversation tried to shift the
conversation to what I was wearing, commenting on the neckline of my
shirt, and reaching out as if to grab me, at which point I backed
away, extended my hand to shake goodbye, and left the area.  At
another point, I was headed towards a Women's Caucus meeting at Dewey,
and as I was watching some pretty talented rappers on the front stage,
I started listening to their lyrics about "fucking bitches," and I
yelled thank you to them for all of their empowerment. I too had a
bizarre encounter with Raquelle, the level 3 sex offender in question,
in which she came up to me at a GA, ignored the friends I was talking
to and greeted me.  She asked for my name without introducing herself,
which I found odd, "Do I know you?"  I don't recall her fielding that
question, but I think I was standoffish enough for her to leave me be.
 It was the next week when a member of our community told me who she
was.  I got it. She was ID-ing me and possibly grooming me. The male
allies I had around me at the time agreed.

I may have been the only Women's Caucus member present for every
single General Assembly at which Sarah Barney's safety proposal was
read.  I sat through hours of intense discussion that triggered my
sisters into leaving the room crying more than once.  I spoke to so
many women who were dumbfounded at the height of ignorance in our
community regarding rape culture and feminism and the lack of tact
members of the community displayed when discussing sexual assault and
abuse.  I understood both sides of the argument, although I found the
reformation of sex offender laws side to be more petty than the real
fears and vulnerability of my fellow Occupy Boston women, men, and
children.  What affected me the most throughout this painful process
was not even the proposal itself, but the things that members of our
community were saying in opposition to the proposal.  I wanted a massive
megaphone for women and men who were getting up and talking about
PERSONAL EXPERIENCES of assault, which takes so much courage, rather
than intangible theories of blah blah blah.  I was wondering over the
past few months when we failed to hold destructive members of our
community accountable, if Occupy Boston and my priorities in activism
aligned.  By the time the safety proposal failed to pass, I started to
think not.

I was one of the people who walked out of the room when around 20% of
our community joined Paul Shannon's, a member of the Reform Sex Offender Laws, block.  

I wish I could say that I walked out of that room because I felt ideologically compelled to, but
I can't.  I left that room because I was on the brink of a panic
attack by that point. I left that room because my hands and face were
white, because I was starting to hyperventilate, and because no matter
how strong my will was to try and fight at Occupy Boston, my body was
telling me it was at its limit.  The atmosphere itself of our GAs made
me physically ill.  Leaving that GA was based on principal but also
self-preservation.  I wanted to lie to myself and tell myself that I
felt safe, supported, and cultivated at Occupy Boston, but it's
dangerously clear to me at this point that I don't.