by Furry Girl
In the last week, I've seen lots of tweets about the Occupy Wall Street protest currently happening in Manhattan. It's a protest camp first proposed by the glossy I'm-a-Whole-Foods-dwelling-yuppie-but-I-like-to-pretend-I'm-an-anti-capitalist-revolutionary magazine Adbusters. The "occupation" of "Wall Street" has thus far seen a few dozen to few hundred people hanging out in a park down the street from the New York Stock Exchange. (What you don't hear often is that this "occupation" is taking place in a private park where the protesters were given permission to stay. The whole thing makes me think of an angsty teenager "occupying" their parent's living room in an act of defiance.) The Occupy Wall Street protest doesn't have aims beyond some kind of vague "stop bad things," "end capitalism," and "no more corruption." Earlier this month, the protest organizers were using an online poll (open only to people with a Facebook account) to vote on what the protest was trying to achieve. Something like 80 people were arrested on Saturday, but the group has insisted it will continue. A friend of mine reported this morning that the "occupation" is currently a few dozen anarchist kids sleeping outside.
Whereas supporters see Occupy Wall Street as a leaderless revolution on par with the Arab Spring that overthrew oppressive dictators, I see a small, confused group of white people who have no idea what they're protesting, what they want, and how to go about getting that end result. I'm not at all against leaderless protest movements, but you can be leaderless, diverse, and democratic and still have some plans, goals, and strategies. Getting people to show up in a small park isn't a revolution in and of itself.
It's all good and well to make a sign that tells people to "fire your boss," but how exactly is the average worker in America going to go about doing that? Telling people to "fire your boss" is easy when you're flexibly-employed or privileged enough to be able to participate in "occupations," or a young traveling protester who is happy eating out of dumpsters and being filthy. The group has been organized under the banner of "we are the 99%," but I really doubt the average working class person struggling to survive in this economy could either find the free time and financial resources to travel to Manhattan to attend, or, once there, gain anything useful from listening to the protesters. Why not try to give all those regular working people tools to create actual change in their lives? Why not use all the geek power behind this protest's social media presence to create an open database of people by area and occupation to help them find other workers to form collectively-owned businesses? And use the streaming video feed from the "occupation" to give workshops on how to start a worker-owned co-op or small business? And that's just one idea I had after seeing a photo of a "fire your boss" sign. Sure, "work hard and start your own ethically-run company" isn't a very sexy tagline, but it actually does mean firing bosses.
If you want to overthrow something big - a government or capitalism or whatever - you're not going to do so as a scruffy "outsider" group of people sleeping on the street without a plan or tools for implementing change. Successful revolutionary movements provide people things that the state isn't, plain and simple. Revolution is about stepping up and showing the masses that you can do things better, not dropping out and sitting in a park, hoping that those beleaguered working class people you've read about in Adbusters will show up en masse and let you lead them to their salvation. One of the most revolutionary projects across the 60s and 70s protest movements in America were the breakfast programs set up by the Black Panthers. Lifting up your community with a long-term strategy like giving poor kids free food so they can pay attention in school might not be easy like holding a sign that says "smash capitalism," but it's stuff like that that really counts. Remember, you have to demonstrate that you know how do it better, and you have to offer people things the current regime does not. Occupy Wall Street uttery fails by that test. Sadly, even the stupid Tea Party does a better job at getting large numbers of working class people on their side.
Whenever I air criticism of things like this, I get the common response: "at least they're doing something!" There's this idea that so many people who consider themselves activists have that "doing something" is of paramount importance, and it doesn't matter what you're "doing," so long as you can tell people it's "better than doing nothing." Yes, the people hanging out at Occupy Wall Street are "doing something," but what, exactly? That's what no one can explain to me. They've gotten some media attention to the idea that some Americans aren't happy with the current state of the economy, I suppose, but that's hardly news.
"Doing something" isn't doing something unless you're actually doing something.
Here's how to do something:
* Decide what you're against. Make it well-defined, not "I'm against greed."
* Decide what you want. Make it a clear goal, not "No more corruption."
* Explain what exactly you're going to do to get from point A to point B. Look at the history of other social change movements and figure out what tactics best suit your cause, and which tactics are likely to fail. Remember that just because you're "doing something," it doesn't make that something effective.
* Follow through and modify tactics as necessary until you achieve your goal.
It's pretty amazing to me how few people who consider themselves activists can't master these simple steps for how to have a campaign. So many people seem to think that endlessly restating what they're against, or what they want, will somehow magic those things into happening. I see this with sex workers' rights activists a lot. There's a lot about "Stop violence against sex workers" and "We want decriminalization," but there doesn't seem to be much of an overall plan other than continuing to repeat those demands within our echo chamber.
With my project, SWAAY.org:
* I am opposed to marginalization and violence against sex workers that is the result of bad laws and social stigma.
* I want full decriminalization and for sex workers to be an accepted part of society.
* The only way to get any of these things is to get the public on board and educate them about our issues. You can't change an ingrained social stigma and laws when the majority of the public is against you. It amazes me that there is almost no sex workers' rights activism that does any sort of public outreach or education, since that is generally the foundation of any social change movement. (And no, having a blog that a member of the general public could conceivably find does not count as "public outreach.") With SWAAY, my goal has been to get people interested in the topic, using both DIY campaigns like the "respect sex workers" stickers, and paid media campaigns like the upcoming billboard to draw viewers to a web site that gives people the basics in an accessible manner.
See, it's not that hard. Coming up with a goals and a plan is the easy part of activism, the tough work is in the implementation. If a group or person can't handle putting together a reasonably well thought out foundation, I don't give their cause much of a chance of succeeding.
I've turned off comments on this post because I'm tired of reading stupid nonsense from people who couldn't debate their way out of a wet paper bag.
Furry Girl: a good time not yet had by all.
- I operate SWAAY.org, an accessible sex workers' rights site that educates the general public about our lives and our issues.
- I've been vegan for 13 years because it's the easiest way for an individual to contribute to less violence, suffering, and exploitation.
My adult sites
- Cocksexual.com: Strapons
- EroticRed.com: Menstruation
- FurryGirl.com: Unshaved
- TheSensualVegan.com: Store
- VegPorn.com: Herbivores
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New to my blog? Some favorite posts
- "You have no right to dislike feminism after all it's done for you!"
- "You misrepresent true feminism by focusing on the bad feminists. They're not real feminists anyway!"
- An argument for more sex workers to be out?
- Degrading, violent desires
- Do you have what it takes to be an empowered sex worker?
- Feminism is the shitty relationship you had in your early 20s
- Feminist porn isn't a branch of sex workers' rights, it's an obstacle
- How are we branding sex workers rights in the US? (Let's focus more on *worker*, less on *sex*!)
- How to do your homework on trafficking, "rescue", and the affected communities
- Let's stop pretending that "objectification" is a thing that exists
- Musings on ethical porn and the red herrings of "feminist porn" and "violent porn"
- My call for a "working" class uprising against inaccessible discourse and the over-representation of dabblers
- Sex trafficking is the new crack: manufactured "epidemics" as political tools
- The common logical fallacies deployed by anti-sex worker activists
- Things I've gained from being a sex worker: an anti-paternalistic perspective
- Vigilantism and 'crushing bastards': in praise of anger, hatred, and taking joy in the smiting of one's enemies
- Want to play BINGO with the antis?
- Watch out for psuedoscience: my long-time nemeses of concern trolling and "teaching the controversy"
- What do I mean when I say "sex worker"? Why I'm against an overly-broad definition
- Why I call them "anti-sex worker" rather than "anti-porn" or "anti-prostitution," and why you should too
Favorite sex/ho blogs
- Amanda Brooks
- Asia Pacific Network of Sex Workers
- Belle de Jour
- Born Whore
- Bound, Not Gagged
- Dan Savage on SLOG
- Danny Wylde
- Jiz Lee
- Kat's Stories
- Laura Agustín
- Lux Nightmare [2006-2007]
- Maggie McNeill
- Our Porn, Ourselves
- Sequoia Redd
- Serpent Libertine
- Sex Worker Pie Charts
- Sexonomics by Brooke Magnanti
- Shit They Say to Sex Workers
- Stuff Sex Workers Eat
- Whore Madonna