When my friend and I met up last week to go to Occupy Wall Street, I wore my long flowing pin stripe skirt, a black-and-white vintage blouse, and a nude pair of shiny ballet flats. After the police brutality at the start of the occupation, dressing chic seemed both a fun and safe thing to do. If the NYPD tried to arrest me for marching, I would simply say, "Excuse me, I was on my way to Tiffany to buy a watch." If you look like you can spend money -- even if you can't -- they're more likely to leave you alone. I learned that from homeless people I used to write with.
I used to meet homeless people while registering voters on the streets of downtown Portland, Oregon in the 2004 election. The most striking thing I learned was that some dressed up for their own safety and dignity -- Sunday church best. And years later, I saw the same simple sophistication while facilitating a writing group in New York for a homeless outreach program in a church uptown; the participants dressed to fit in so as not to be bothered by punks or police.
When the police close in along Occupy Wall Street, their minds naturally do what humans do -- look for patterns. When this natural human reaction overacts we call it profiling. If the protesters occupying Liberty Plaza all dedicated a day to looking like Mae West or Cary Grant, we would turn the lazy profile thinking on its head. And it would be one sharply-dressed Liberty Plaza. How many photos do you see of Martin Luther King, Jr. in jeans?
We've reached a boiling point in needing to avoid the kind of world Orwell warned us about. And drastic times call for chic measures. Security officers will judge you as quickly as Vogue editorial assistants by what you wear.
I found out the annoying way. As an intern for Senator Barbara Boxer, I got to attend lectures on the Hill, including one by then-Vice President Dick Cheney. At the open mic, in my shaggy Northern Californian best, I got in line behind three finely dressed interns who all asked generic questions as bland as their ties. Meanwhile, I waited to ask him how Halliburton could even be involved in the Iraq War in any capacity given his years at the company and how that would support the international community's protests that the U.S. went to war for corporate profits -- it was the most polite way I could think of asking. When it was my turn, suddenly question time was over. And the security aid who cut me off did it with such a sly knowing smile. It couldn't have been because of my long messy hair -- a Northern Californian specialty -- or laid-back office casual among an audience of ties and pantsuits? They got me.
I appreciate that long sleeves and jeans are better for when being dragged by police and that bandanas around the neck are useful in case of tear gas. But have a little fun in this historic moment for our country and dress up for Liberty Square as you would your best friend's wedding, with the weather and dragging in mind. The NYPD wouldn't be able to tell the difference between the protesters and the commuters. It would create a Neo vs. multi-Agent Smiths effect.
What's happening at Occupy Wall Street is an universal movement, an inclusive movement to save corporations from themselves (because they're people now and require an intervention). If their greed addiction and power isn't reigned in then they can have their way with human life, the environment, your home, my home -- unchecked power comes with unchecked imagination. So instead of having the usual army of protesters in the usual fatigues, more people need to come out from all walks of life to show this is about all of us, not a marginalized group with enough free time and passion to stand up for what's right--the "dirty hippies" who leverage what's left of our democracy.
Since the growing inequality gap and corporate take-over of our democracy affects all Americans, citizens of the world, and the environment, then all glamazons across this great capital of fashion, entertainment, and the arts should join Occupy Wall Street. Yes, glamazon, I'm talking to you. Yes, you are a glamazon. We all are when we want to be.
Art/Air Supplies Needed:
In addition to the protesters camping out in Liberty Square needing blankets, tarps, gloves, socks, Tupperware, warm clothing and sleeping bags, they also need solidarity, and the arts exist for that: to offer hope. New York fashionistas, burlesque dancers, Moth regulars, drag queens, NYU film students, Improv Everywhere, set designers, performers. More artists should come, hang out, collaborate, and demonstrate. The American Revolution was launched by creative people hanging out, sharing ideas born in coffee houses. That's what Liberty Plaza sometimes feels like: one great big coffee house, with branches opening up faster than Starbucks.