Revolution #263, March 25, 2012
Correspondence on International Women's Day 2012
Revolution received the following reports on International Women's Day actions organized around the call:
There was something fresh and bold and new about the IWD protest Saturday in L.A. that dared to "connect the dots" between the different ways that a war on women is raging in this country, and throughout the world, today. The protest began at HER Medical Clinic near USC, (University of Santa Cruz) where abortions and other medical care is provided for women, and which has been regularly targeted for protests by Christian fascist anti-abortion forces. From there the march caravanned to the Catholic Archdiocese in mid-town L.A., headquarters of Archbishop Gomez, who echoed New York's Cardinal Dolan by calling birth control "immoral and unconscionable." And finally the protest moved to the Sunset Strip, where it set up right in front of the Hustler Porn Store.
At each stop along the way the demonstration electrified the atmosphere with its banners and signs, and its loud, rude, and totally unapologetic chants! Many drivers honked in support, while others flipped protesters off. Many women and men welcomed the fact that pornography and patriarchy were being called out as ideological weapons in the enslavement and degradation of women—at the same time, this was disturbing and challenging to many more.
At noon the corner near HER Medical Clinic came alive as women and men, younger and older, held banners and signs and shouted slogans like: "Control over women is what you want, furious women is what you've got." Teenage women stopped to find out more; a Latina in her 20s tried to sort out her opposition to abortion but not to birth control, and her disagreement with her church which opposes both.
At the end of the day one teenage protester said: "Actually, we had a really fun day! Going around the city, getting honked at by people who support our cause, yelling chants, saying a lot of obscene words in those chants, and just speaking my mind. And I got to go to HER abortion clinic and give the doctors flowers and tell them how much we appreciate what they're doing."
She talked about reading about the war on abortion providers: "They have to wake up every morning, say good-by to their families, and before that they put a bullet-proof vest on just to go to work. Just to make an income and help people. And practice what they've learned in school. I think that's what inspired me to come out here. Cause not many people have the balls to do that, honestly."
When the protest reached the Archdiocese, it was joined by several people from Occupy L.A. who'd gotten flyers and Revolution newspaper at their downtown event early in the day. One woman said she came because women are going to lose their ability to have birth control if people don't stand up and stop it right now, because that's where it's heading. If you become pregnant she said and you'd really rather be in school than be a mother at that time, then women need the right to control their body however they wish to. She described being taught in Catholic school that if the choice is between the life of the mother and the life of the baby inside you, then they will let the woman die so the baby gets born. "And that's killing women. I'm sorry, that's the way it is; they will kill women to save babies. That's insanity to me."
Several people were compelled to come after hearing Sunsara Taylor speak on Michael Slate's radio show on KPFK the day before. One woman said: "I'm here because I recently discovered that the feminist movement is being eroded by all kinds of different things in this world; pornography, religion, government. It's like waking up after 20 years thinking that women had made all of these advances and now I find out its slowly coming out from beneath our feet. And I just decided that this is where I need to be now, to be out here fighting for women, women not only in America but in the world."
She said when she first heard Sunsara: "I was like 'Who the hell is this?' 'Boy, she sounds pissed off'... but I couldn't stop listening, because she started touching on subjects that I hadn't heard touched on in a long time. And my idea of porn, I thought it was dying, on the way out. And then she talked about when she took these women who felt the same way I felt, she took them into a porn shop, and showed them the wall of torture, and my jaw dropped. I was like oh, my god. It's not about sex any more, it's about torture. And men are getting off on it."
The final stop of the protest was in front of the Hustler porn shop. This is not an area that sees many protests, and the traffic includes many who are more upper middle strata and wealthy. The signs and chants made it clear that this had nothing in common with the religious reactionary targeting of pornography as part of promoting religion.
The expressions of support came less often; but there were people who rolled down their windows to get flyers, buy Revolution newspaper, or honk their support. Most drivers just stared straight ahead.
At one point a car stopped, a woman put down her window and said "I've been making porn for 28 years—fuck you." Ten minutes earlier a driver in a Rolls Royce had stopped, rolled down his window, and handed a protester a $20 bill.
The protest ended with food at Revolution Books, where people stayed to watch the talk that Sunsara gave at New York Revolution Books a week earlier.
On Saturday, a small but loud group of people celebrated International Women's Day in the streets of Houston. We started off by rallying and marching in the uptown Galleria area. When we stopped to agitate outside the mall, people stopped and listened and several people took bundles of flyers to get out at their jobs and schools.
A few blocks away, we stopped in front of a fundamentalist Christian church that preaches the literal interpretation of the bible where we read from Deuteronomy, and exposed today's Christian fascist reality. Not two blocks away from the church, we stopped at the Men's Club, a prominent strip club that caters to executives and businessmen. Some people taped the outside of the club with yellow tape and stickers that read "porn fuels rape", to the sound of people chanting "Women are not chicks, women are not things, women are not dogs. Women are human beings."
Our last stop was protesting in front of American Apparel in the Montrose. Here we got into more engagement and debate with people. A lot of this centered on the question of "individual choices" and using BA's quote helped change the dynamics of this discussion. One guy said that he sees the oppression of women as systematic, like capitalism; and the question is so big and how can it be changed? One woman said that being out in the streets, like we were, is how conversation changes and women are empowered to speak out. Other people spoke out about sex trafficking and the role of the U.S. military in it, and how we can stop the intensifying war on women.
Most of the response we got throughout the day was positive. There was a lot of horn honking in support and several people in their cars stopped to buy copies of Revolution. The breadth of the slogans on the signs brought out the different fronts of the war on women and it shocked a lot of people. One person in the march said that the message was not just about one issue and that it raised people's sights to fighting for the emancipation of women all over the world. Several people stopped to thank us for being out in the streets.
We encouraged them to join us but no one did. The people who came out to protest were excited about having been out in the streets, even though small in numbers, because they thought it was so bold. A couple of the younger folks started taking turns taking the bullhorn halfway through the march. Throughout the protest, the people who came out also began to put together in their thinking the totality of this war on women. Many of them had come out based on strongly uniting with one or another element of it and in the course of the march, began grappling with questions like abortion and what is it going to take to stop this war on women.
There is only one statue of a woman in downtown Chicago—a 26-foot Marilyn Monroe with her dress blowing up so everyone can see her underwear and crotch. When such a huge glistening symbol of the objectification of women gets promoted as a "tourist attraction," something loud and defiant clearly needs to be said. So that was where we launched the campaign to "End Pornography and Patriarchy: The Enslavement and Degradation of Women" with a militant rally and march celebrating International Women's Day 2012. Around 30 people—students, a professor, revolutionary communists, activists from World Can't Wait, men and women, old and young, gathered in front of this statue to kick off this national campaign.
In the heart of Chicago's Magnificent Mile, we boldly challenged tourists and shoppers to take a stand against the all-out war that is being waged against women. In front of the Monroe statue, a banner proclaimed "End Pornography and Patriarchy: The Enslavement and Degradation of Women," "Abortion on Demand and Without Apology" and "Fight for the Emancipation of Women All Over the World." A large banner from members of World Can't Wait demanded "Abortion on Demand and Without Apology." Signs with the slogans dotted the sidewalk and drew responses from people passing by. A Black man stopped and said he knew that a third of the women in the U.S. military get raped and he denounced the dominator mentality that permeates the army. A large chalk outline of a body lay on the ground with footprints all around it containing details of the terrible crimes committed worldwide against women. One young man stopped in amazement over the fact that men spend $4 billion on baseball and $16 billion at strip clubs!
Speakers challenged people—especially the youth—to resist this war on women. "It is long past time that this new generation stand up and reject and RESIST this culture of rape and pornography." Excerpts from the statement from 8 March Women's Organization (Iran and Afghanistan) were read. A young Black woman delivered a fiery spoken word piece denouncing the oppression of women that resonated off the surrounding skyscrapers—as did the following chants of "Control over women is what you want! Furious women is what you got!" Speakers focused on how a rope is tightening around the necks of half of humanity—strangling women in nearly every dimension of their public, social and intimate lives. Horrific statistics from the war on women were read. Women were called on "to get the fuck out of the military." And the need for resistance was accompanied by a call to dig deeply into how today's attacks are linked to thousands of years of patriarchy which can only be uprooted and ended through a revolution aimed at emancipating all of humanity.
As the rally progressed, two general responses among passersby emerged. Some people tried to ignore the demonstration and just snap pictures of their friends and family under Marilyn Monroe's dress. But others stopped to take pictures of the rally, with some openly wondering what kind of society was being left to the next generation. One man agonized over why the Republicans are attacking women's health care and contraception. It made no sense to him. "Wouldn't we save more money in the long run if women had these services?" Another young man thought the struggle over birth control was a diversion to take people's minds off the economic hardship they face. Deeper discussions with Revolution newspaper sellers led many people to buy the paper. Seventy papers got out. One group of young white women checked out Revolution and responded: "I like the way you think!"
Then the march took off down Michigan Avenue. Some people stood in amazement; some looked away. But a significant number nodded their heads or honked their horns in agreement. One elderly Chinese woman gave the power salute. Some of the chants really snapped people's heads around and brought smiles to the faces of many women.
I don't know but I've been told,
Women are getting mighty bold,
We won't shut up, we won't submit,
We won't stand for this women hating shit.
Women aren't breeders
Women aren't toys
Women aren't objects
For the boys
From Michigan Avenue, we headed over to Holy Name Cathedral—the home base of Cardinal George who is a major player in the Catholic Church's women-hating attacks. A line of people spread across the front of the church chanting: "Get your rosaries off my ovaries!" and "Not the Church, Not the State, Women will decide our fate!"
The march ended with a call to take the rebellious spirit of the day and use it to build a mass movement against this war on women. In particular—hook up with the national campaign; dig deeply into Sunsara Taylor's recent speeches; and take this out to the campuses and the basic masses.
As people left, two young women stayed to talk about how much they had enjoyed the day. They really liked boldly exposing what is being done to women and challenging people to confront that. They said that they were not afraid to go up in people's faces because what they were talking about was the truth—and a lot more truth is sorely needed. They talked about the suffocating culture on campus that keeps women from speaking up about the abuse and degradation they suffer. They described a culture so saturated with sex and paranoia that a young woman can not have both a boyfriend and a male friend because the boyfriend will never believe that she is not sleeping with the other guy.
On Friday, March 9th people formed up in downtown Cleveland with a banner "International Women's Day/ Stop the War on Women" and lots of placards, such as "Stop Pornography and Patriarchy" and "Abortion on Demand and Without Apology." The rally was made up of Occupiers, some readers of Revolution, a woman from a Black community group, and some Black youth and others who joined the action. The rally began across from the Horseshoe Casino in downtown Cleveland. One of the targets for the day, the Casino will be opening soon and there are already concerns from anti sex trafficking groups that women will be trafficked to supply the Casino with prostitutes.
A paper with an outline of a woman on it with foot prints with such oppressions as "rape", "anti-abortion" and more. A young Occupier wrote "Anorexic standard of beauty" on it. Hundreds of mainly youth gathered at a bus stop where we started, so we agitated to the youth, calling for them to join the action and to debate the issues and not stand to the side and look as though the horrors against women don't matter. In fact, a youth walked up to the paper and wrote "I love ho's." The agitator took it on and called on the youth to come out and debate it. He did not. The agitator and others went among the youth and called on them to join and discuss the issue on the spot. A few dismissing comments were made by several youth, others ignored what was being said but also a few young women joined the rally and carried a placard, "Stop Pornography and Patriarchy." A Black female high school student held up the flyer calling out, "Yea, porn fuels rape!" Other youth, boys and girls, did listen to what the rally was calling for. A woman said she had some things to tell the youth and she got their attention, calling on them to respect women and stand out to stop the oppression of women.
The rally began with a woman speaking from the heart about all kinds of assaults on women from pornography to rape to attacks on abortion and birth control rights. Then someone read parts of the Statement from 8 March Women's Organization (Iran-Afghanistan), "The Separation of Religion from the State and the Overthrow of the Anti-Woman Islamic Regime in Iran is the First Step Toward Women's Emancipation!" A distributor of Revolution newspaper spoke about how all the abuses spoken about are part of an all out war on women, tightening a rope around every dimension of the public, political and intimate lives of women. He called on people to dig into the work of BA and Revolution newspaper, and to fight the power, and transform the people for revolution. He said that from now on the war on women will be two sided. He ended by calling on people to join him in taking out Revolution newspaper to build the movement for revolution.
The MC for the event said the Horseshoe Casino is a place where women are playthings of men, sex objects, degraded by men. Then people took to the streets, chanting "Stop Pornography and Patriarchy Now!" and as we got closer to St John's Cathedral , "Not the church, not the state, women will decide our fate!" Standing in front of the cathedral, the MC said the Catholic Church condemns abortion, birth control, homosexuality and recently urged "non-compliance" with new regulations requiring health insurance to cover birth control, all part of the chains on women. The march took off from there to a strip club. There was loud agitation about how these strip clubs serve up women as dominated by men in living flesh, how men spend $16 billion on these clubs, 4 times more than what they spend on baseball. At one point, a manager walked out followed by a stripper. He took a picture of her in a degrading position and then walked away. A woman went and spoke to her about what we were doing there protesting what she is put through. She seemed to be interested but then the manager made her go in.
As we were marching back to Public Square a woman came up to us and said how much she liked us opposing the strip club, and at lunch she and her co-workers were discussing how women are degraded and something needs to be done about it! A couple of women saw our banner and signs and said, "That is what we need" and they bought Revolution papers and one contributed money.
At dinner, after the march and rally, people felt we had begun to take on the war on women and from now on, it will be two sided.
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