If you’ve been living in the real world the past few weeks (read: with access to any form of media), you’ve seen the thousands of activists standing up for the rights of themselves, their neighbors, and people they’ve never met. I traveled to the heart of the movement this morning, Zuccotti Park, where the troops were told to clean up or ship out. I arrived in a sequined cocktail dress, sky-high gold stilettos, a multipack of tampons, and a glittery picket sign that simply said, “free tampons to stop the economic bleeding.” I knew it’d be a bold statement to be dressed as the 1%- joining the movement of the 99%. News spread like wildfire that Kanye West showed up the other day in a shirt by Givenchy (retailing for just shy of $400), but what did he really have to say? Who did he really talk to? What did he contribute? Everyone is covering the political side. The economic side. The fiscal policy side. The legal side… but no one has stopped to talk to the women.
For weeks I’ve been imagining who the women that brave the elements in the name of societal “injustice” are. Have they left their children and families to camp out in the name of a greater good? Where do they go to the bathroom? I mean, forgive me for pointing out the obvious, but peeing on a street corner for a woman is seemingly more complicated than for a man. As I stood in the middle of the sad crowd (they were rallying together to be able to keep their tarp tents in the park against new city regulations), women of all walks of life approached me. I first met a woman named Asha from the Bronx- a put together young single mom of 3 children under the age of 5. She told me she was offering her support because her welfare has been whittled away to nearly nothing, and there are days when she simply has no idea where she’ll get food to put on her table (in fact, from what she explained of her home, I’m not convinced she has a table). She was well-spoken, beautiful, and clearly devoted to her children… how could this happen? In America?
When Asha marched on to another part of the crowd, we met Lauren, an ultra-American girl from New Jersey. Lauren’s patriotism runs so deep that her hair has actually been dyed purple to represent, “the blend of red, white, and blue.” She was sweet, empowered, and well-intentioned. She was actually the first person willing to give us a REAL account of how life in the tarp city has been. She told us that women have been raped and assaulted, and the park full of tired women has become an easy target for sexual predators. There are no walls or doors to keep angry, violent men away from the sleeping bags of young women. The internal security (run by a man named “Big Bird”) simply doesn’t have enough man power to adequately police and enforce realistic laws. The movement has become the wild west. Lauren spent the better part of an hour in tears with us- detailing the first molestation she experienced as a child to her high school abortion because of a violent rape, down to the man that attacked her in her sleeping bag two nights ago. The women, simply put, are not safe in Zuccotti Park.
There’s something incredible about the women standing in Zuccotti Park. They’ve given up the comforts of shelter, hot food, dry clothes, and even the most primal instinct: physical safety. They’re not safe, the cause isn’t totally unified, but the women are all strong- they’re there, and they’re staying there.
And yes, our sign really said “Free Tampons to Stop the Economic Bleeding.”