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Women at Occupy SF: They Are Few But Mighty 

Wednesday, Nov 23 2011

The nationwide Occupy demonstrations intended to shine a light on inequality by rallying against the "1 percent" of people who control America's power and wealth. But that doesn't mean that the people who have settled into tents for the long haul always mirror regular society. At the Occupy SF encampment in Justin Herman Plaza, for example, the gender disparities are stark.

Debra Lujan, who runs theOccupy SF information desk outside, estimates that 80 percent of the residents are men.

"We need our ladies to come out and show support," Lujan tells SF Weekly. Most women, and especially single mothers, she says, aren't comfortable living in such bare-bones, unpredictable conditions, especially with the imminent threat of a police raid. She, however, adjusted immediately. Unemployed for two years, she was overcome with emotion upon seeing the encampment, and moved out of her Daly City apartment the next day. "It was beautiful," she says. "It's time for change. This is what I was born to do."

At the camp, women are in short supply, but they're key to keeping occupiers' energy up. Lujan often attempts to engage passersby: "Happy Monday! You're 99 percenters, and we love you." In the mornings, she helps distribute printed schedules jam-packed with activities, giving the place the feel of a grimy summer camp befitting of activists and vagabonds.

Early risers take yoga with visiting membersof the Purusha Project. Instructor Marria Evbuoma, 30, maintains composure despite the din of guitars, dogs, traffic, and Mrs. B., an elderly woman who fashions herself a camp matriarch. She sweeps with a vengeance, expresses disdain for white people, and serves up apologies right after her insults.

"There's a white man trying to cause problems!" she shouts as some guy offers to help out.

"No one controls Occupy!" Lujan reminds Mrs. B. "If my bipolar, depressed ass can keep it together, you can, too."

After yoga, it's off to school. People can attend lectures at the Zinn School at 11:30 a.m., a silver tent also known as the Learning Center. Monday's lesson: "Libertarian Municipalism." Other courses slated for the week: "Native American Social Systems," "Restorative Justice," and "Anarchism (Maybe?) or the Federal Reserve."

More organized activities pack each day. Fittingly for a leaderless group, no one will take credit for this lively schedule, though the women doacknowledge that their presence contributes to group harmony — which is vital in a camp that has welcomed San Francisco's homeless.

This being Occupy, steps have been taken to make sure everyone's comfortable. At 8 p.m., Occupiers can pick between drama club or a gender-issues workshop.

About The Author

Taylor Friedman


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