Wednesday, December 14, 2011


By Carol Downer

Wall Street and Michael Bloomberg must be in a dither of downright desperation about the Occupy Wall Street movement, which has risen up to protest against the gross economic inequality in the United States and the utter lack of power that we 99% have. Why else would a Bloomberg News’ New York bureau dispatch Esmé E. Deprez to interview Gloria Steinem, a notable feminist to explore any potential division there might be between the feminist movement and the Occupy Wall Street movement?

Ms. Steinem did not make any criticism of the Occupy Wall Street movement, but she did make use of opportunity to cite statistics about the continuing economic inequality between men and women. Undaunted by Steinem’s refusal to re-frame the glaring disparity between the super-rich and the rest of us as simply the result of male supremacy, Deprez characterized Steinem’s complaint about unequal wages for women as tantamount to saying “the international conversation that the Occupy Wall Street protests sparked about economic inequality is, at its heart, about gender.” (Deprez’ quote, not Steinem’s)

Much as I, or any feminist, agrees with Steinem that the inequity between men’s and women’s wages are one of the most serious inequities in the U.S. economic system, Occupy Wall Street is protesting the current rule of the super-rich, because they use their riches to decide who gets elected, which laws are passed, upheld and enforced, and robs the 99%, (of which the majority are women) of any economic, therefore political, power to deal with the absolute crises this nation and this planet are facing.

The signs that the American people are getting fed up with how things are run is way, way overdue. I’m guessing that Bloomberg, the mayor of New York City, fears that Occupy Wall Street is the start of an epidemic of protests that can’t be quelled so easily. Therefore, Bloomberg, the billionaire and publisher, is using the mega megaphone of Bloomberg News to distort Occupy Wall Street’s message by showing a newfound concern about the plight of women.

Occupy Wall Street and its progeny are shining a light how the American capitalistic system is producing calamitous results. We live in a country where the Gulf of Mexico can be polluted and the shale in New York can be “fracked” for the profit of oil companies. Bloomberg, a multi-billionaire, was elected to represent the citizens of New York City, but he’s not rushing to stop this dangerous process that has been shown to disrupt underground geological structures and may threaten the city’s water supply. If the citizens of New York have the accurate information and political machinery, they will stop it. We live in a country where the capitalist rule of “survival of the fittest” has been replaced by the “survival of the biggest”, and this mismanagement of Wall Street results in ever greater profits for the giant “too big to fail” companies and the foreclosure of mortgages on millions of Americans’ homes.

This is not the first time that feminist demands for equality have been used to derail criticisms of our system. In the late 60’s, the women’s liberation movement, along with the civil rights movement and the anti-war movement, demanded that we “change the system” under which women, people of color, and people in less powerful, economically dominated nations are being oppressed. Somehow, in the 70’s, that breathtakingly ambitious demand was watered down to campaigns for timid reform, such as “equal pay for equal work”, without ever questioning who owns or controls the place we work, or “breaking the glass ceiling” so that women can head up corporations, without questioning why a corporation should have so much power and how corporations are using their power to destroy our democracy and our environment. I’m sure that Ms. Steinem and every other feminist agrees with me that our goal is not to “have an equal piece of the rotten pie”, as we used to say in the heyday of the movement, but to make a bigger, better pie where all are equal.

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