Are We the 99%?

The Occupy Movement, Feminism, and Intersectionality

Heather McKee Hurwitz
Book Cover

PB: $25.95
EAN: 978-1-4399-2022-0
Publication: Dec 20

HC: $99.50
EAN: 978-1-4399-2021-3
Publication: Dec 20

Ebook: $25.95
EAN: 978-1-4399-2023-7
Publication: Dec 20

208 pages
5.5 x 8.25
2 tables

Intersectionality lessons for contemporary “big-tent” organizing

Read Chapter 2 (.pdf)
Curriculum/Study Guide Available [pdf]


The protestors that comprised the Occupy Wall Street movement came from diverse backgrounds. But how were these activists—who sought radical social change through many ideologies—able to break down oppressions and obstacles within the movement? And in what ways did the movement perpetuate status-quo structures of inequality?

Are We the 99%? is the first comprehensive feminist and intersectional analysis of the Occupy movement. Heather McKee Hurwitz considers how women, people of color, and genderqueer activists struggled to be heard and understood. Despite cries of “We are the 99%,” signaling solidarity, certain groups were unwelcome or unable to participate. Moreover, problems with racism, sexism, and discrimination due to sexuality and class persisted within the movement.

Using immersive first-hand accounts of activists’ experiences, online communications, and media coverage of the movement, Hurwitz reveals lessons gleaned from the conflicts within the Occupy movement. She compares her findings to those of other contemporary protest movements—nationally and globally—so that future movements can avoid infighting and deploy an “intersectional imperative” to embrace both diversity and inclusivity.


In Are We the 99%? Heather Hurwitz provides original ethnographic research that illustrates the diversity of the Occupy movement and the relevance of the intersectional positionings (and praxis) of its participants. Her theoretical framework and rich data help us to better understand Occupy and its ongoing legacy, with empirical insights that extend to the current political moment. It is an important and timely book.”—Celeste Montoya, Political Scientist and Associate Professor of Women and Gender Studies at the University of Colorado, Boulder, and coeditor of Gendered Mobilizations and Intersectional Challenges: Contemporary Social Movements in Europe and North America

In the most nuanced analysis to date of the gender and intersectional dynamics of the Occupy movement, Hurwitz probes the contradictions beneath the slogan ‘We are the 99%.’ Beautifully illuminating ‘the tyranny of structurelessness,’ she argues that preexisting hierarchies privileging white male Occupiers over women, people of color, and sexual minorities fractured the movement and hastened its demise. Yet, as Hurwitz also shows, efforts by feminists and others within the Occupy movement to dismantle those hierarchies ultimately strengthened the movement. A must read!”—Ruth Milkman, Distinguished Professor of Sociology, CUNY Graduate Center, and author of Immigrant Labor and the New Precariat

"Are We the 99%? demonstrates how the Occupy Movement disregarded various identities and issues of its constituencies to its own detriment…. (Hurwitz) develops the novel concept of ‘discriminatory resistance’ to demonstrate how people’s prejudices about minorities and women encourage them to ignore their voices…. Hurwitz’s research validates the calls for movements to purposefully engage in intersectionality education of members and the wider public and to develop structures to monitor themselves for the replication of cultural hierarchies." Social Forces

" A strength of this study is Hurwitz’s commitment, as a feminist researcher, to find empirically informed lessons for mass movements going forward so that they don’t fizzle due to their failure to embody her central concept: the intersectional imperative.... (T)he rehearsal that was Occupy and her keen analysis of it in Are We the 99%? lend insights that have no doubt nourished the next acts both currently underway and yet to come." Mobilization

" (Hurwitz) draws from a rich trove of data to develop a sophisticated analysis of how the (Occupy) movement contended with an 'intersectional imperative' to include the voices, perspectives, and leadership of people who were not explicitly included in the broad class frame of the movement.... A central lesson of this book is that the very organizational design enabling the success of the Occupy Movement also spelled its demise.... The book is full of invaluable lessons not only for activists, academics, and feminists but anyone who cares about organizational inclusion." Gender and Society

" Hurwitz undertakes an intersectional analysis of why the Occupy movement, which emerged in 2011, did not embody the 99 percent it claimed to represent.... Summing Up: Recommended." Choice

" There have been numerous trade and scholarly books written about Occupy, but few have engaged with the topic as systematically as Are We the 99% . Indeed, this is a book in which scholars will be justified in taking a great deal of interest. Leveraging important insights from feminist sociology, the study of women’s movements, and intersectional politics, Hurwitz masterfully demonstrates how these various literatures and perspectives shed light on the movement’s more particular dynamics.... It is an extremely nuanced, carefully written discussion of how the Occupy Movement’s dynamics interacted with its internal contradictions." Contention

Table of Contents


Introduction: The Intersectional Imperative
1. Are We the 99%? Conflict about Collective Identities
2. “Sorry for the Mess. New Paradigm Under Construction”: Inclusivity Frames in the Movement’s Media and Culture
3. Discriminatory Resistance: Gender and Race Dynamics in a Leaderless Movement
4. Women Occupying Wall Street: Mobilizing Feminism within Occupy
Conclusion: Intersectionality Lessons for Mass Movements

Methodological Appendix

About the Author(s)

Heather McKee Hurwitz is a Lecturer of Sociology and feminist scholar at Case Western Reserve University and a Visiting Researcher at the Cleveland Clinic.