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TheRootDC
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Posted at 05:00 PM ET, 02/01/2012

Occupy DC feeling the emptiness of the American dream

McPherson Square’s angry and frustrated young women of Occupy DC took to the streets last weekend alongside their angry and frustrated young men to bare their breasts and bleat in protest against the nation’s elite politicians and businessmen partying at the Alfalfa Club’s posh annual soiree.


Christopher Seerden, left, and Johnny Mandracchia, right, dance to music after Occupy DC protesters in McPherson Square on Monday January 30, 2012. (Matt McClain - FOR THE WASHINGTON POST)
While President Barack Obama and the First Lady Michelle Obama topped the Alfalfa Club’s guest list, young men and women went top-free in a massive street party, carnival-style protest of approximately 200 demonstrators.

Breasts and nipples of all shapes and sizes swayed like pendulums to the beat of tribal drums and the sounds of NWA and Twisted Sister. Just days before an eviction was to be served on Occupy DC by the National Park Service, the Occupiers protested what they consider the nation’s growing and shameful economic divide.

While expressing righteous indignation about perceived collusion by the government and corporations against the 99 percent, the DC Occupiers were jubilant in the protest. That included sprinkling Senator Joe Lieberman with handfuls of glitter. So what forces sowed the seeds of the Occupiers boisterous discontent as accented by glitter bombs?

Outsourcing, automation, corporate greed and even illegal immigration have been blamed for depressing real wages and for job losses over the past few decades. However, could the seemingly liberal feminist movement and laissez faire capitalism have colluded decades ago to transform women into the same hapless “wage slaves” as their male counterparts?

So says one of the feminist movements pioneers, Fay Weldon, told the London Evening Standard in 2009 who contends that, “Once it was only the men who were ‘wage-slaves,’ and now it’s the men and the women too….I’d really rather blame capitalism.” Weldon professes only what more and more of us have come to realize, that it’s the well-off who are able to cope with the increasingly exhausting nature of modern-day life.

And it’s exactly that rugged brand of individualistic capitalism and take-no-prisoners “wage slavery” that’s at the heart of the youthful Occupy’s discontent. Although it may be more taboo to assess than the economic impact of let’s say automation and outsourcing, women’s 1970s mass entry into the workforce has had its own distinct social and economic impact.  For many middle and upper class white women, entering the labor force was largely a political statement. Since slavery, working outside the home for black women was a means of survival.

For good or for bad, the family household never really recalibrated for mother’s often full-time additional work outside of the home—leaving many women exhausted from having the primary caregiving responsibilities along with full-time jobs. Our economy and culture does not give just value or support to caregivers of any sex.

The majority of African-American women find themselves single-parents and heads of household, according to a The Washington Post nationwide survey conducted by and the Kaiser Family Foundation. The Center for American Progress finds that poverty hits unmarried women the hardest, with the ranks of the poor swelling with single women, particularly single mothers.

The clock will never be turned back, nor arguably should it. However, deep down within their bare breasts, those young women and men of Occupy may have used  primal nudity and ritualistic drum beats to protest modern-day hardships and excesses - so few having so much while so many toil for so little.

Saturday night’s bare, young breasts have in a way become defeminized and subjugated by a hyper masculine, unforgiving - and not all that nurturing - corporate structure, in which young women are often hyper-feminized pawns.

The promise of the American dream rings hollow for many as both genders lead increasingly frenetic, perilous and indebted lives. Neither of my grandmothers worked outside of the home. Both of my grandfathers--one a building engineer of modest means and limited education, and the other a solo-practitioner--paid off mortgages, educated children and bought cars on a single income.

They never went bankrupt.

Today, such a notion has become an unattainable luxury for most families. Perhaps the Alfalfa Club protesters were questioning whether younger generations in the guise of progress and prosperity, have just been sold a pipe dream?

Joy Freeman-Coulbary, a Washingtonian, is a pacifist, lawyer and blogger. You can reach her at freemancoulbary@gmail.com and follow her on Twitter @enJOYJFC.

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By Joy Freeman-Coulbary  |  05:00 PM ET, 02/01/2012

Categories:  The Root DC Live

 
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