women's strike

Why we’re suspending posting tomorrow in solidarity with the strike

On Wednesday, March 8— International Working Women’s Day—women around the world, including Feministing, will go on strike.

Which means that women from dozens of countries will take an hour —or a whole day—to put down the broom, exit the office, hand over the kid, and shut that email in order to demonstrate the undervalued labor, both paid and unpaid, that women do everyday to make this world run. Of course, strike as a tactic involves different risks for women depending on their class and racial positions, and critiques of the strike have highlighted this fact. Yet the March 8 Strike is also part of a long legacy of women’s organizing for economic justice, a legacy which we can all learn from.

Over here at Feministing, we’ll suspend posting for a day in solidarity with the strike (we know, you’ll miss us…so why not throw us a few bucks to show that you value our work?). There are lots of ways to participate, so why not get involved?

The strike has been jointly called under the platform International Women’s Strike/Paro de Mujeres, and in solidarity with numerous women’s groups and movements worldwide. The United States strike platform includes an end to gender violence, reproductive justice for all, labor rights, full social provisioning, anti-racist and anti-imperialist feminism, and environmental justice for all. And as Alida Garcia writes, it should also be a day to fight for justice for the many immigrant women who are not symbolically but literally absent due to the violence of deportation.

Some have pointed out that leaving work for a day is a heck of a lot easier for women who have more privilege, who have flexible hours, who can take the financial hit, or who have others at home who can care for children and take over domestic work. This is an important point, and we should be critical of the disparate effects any feminist platform or tactic will have across race and class experiences. A collective feminist action requires that we prioritize the needs of women most structurally oppressed, including in the choice of tactic. It also requires that organizing occur on the grassroots level by women collectively choosing tactics that work for them.

So why a strike? As organizers Cinzia Aruzza and Tithi Bhattacharya write in Jacobin, this strike draws from a long and frankly awesome history of socialist feminist organizing.

We can understand the Women’s Strike within the legacy and current reality of strike as a tool used by workers who face low wages and dangerous working conditions, yet who choose to take political action to demonstrate the indispensability of their own labor—from workers at car factories to domestic laborers.

In the United States, International Working Women’s Day is most often called International Women’s Day, and while liberal feminist rhetoric does include the pay gap, the erasure of the word “working” from the holiday in the American context is not an accident. It reflects the greater American repression of labor, labor unions, and strikes as a tactic, and the erasure of labor and class demands from popular feminism.

In the United States, unlike even many of the countries we deride as “undeveloped,” general strikes are effectively illegal; strikes by civil servants are illegal; and labor unions which call for general strikes are liable to be punished—thanks (but no thanks) to the Taft-Hartley Act.

How has this affected our feminism? The notorious Lean In is a case in point. This popular brand of liberal feminism focuses on wealthy women’s economic conditions almost exclusively, and champions individual personality-driven actions rather than focusing on collective, grassroots organizing. Of course, the devaluing of women’s labor won’t be solved by a few female CEOs demanding pay raises while underpaid (usually brown or black) nannies watch their kids—it will be solved by collective action by and for all of us, in which the needs of the most economically oppressed are foregrounded.

And International Working Women’s Day preserves this legacy. In fact, International Working Women’s Day began as a socialist holiday. It was first observed by the Socialist Party of America on February 28, 1908 in honor of the garment worker’s strike in New York. In 1910, the Socialist International, meeting in Copenhagen, unanimously called for the holiday to be made international. Women in Communist Russia also celebrated the day, and Lenin himself wrote in support of it. (So let’s take a second to look beyond the Sessions drama and appreciate the contributions of revolutionary Russian ladies, y’all.)

And while the US has its own history of badass women organizing for economic justice, we can learn a heck of a lot from strikes—and particularly women’s strikes—around the world:

In India this past September 2, between 150 and 180 million people went on strike. Million, people. That’s half the population of the United States. That’s the largest strike in the history of the world, from a country whose labor force accounts for much of the world’s low-wage production of commodities (and emotional labor — hey, call centers!). That should be huge news.

And women’s strikes? You’d better believe it.

October 24, 1975, Iceland: 90% of Icelandic women stopped work, got their husbands to care for the children, refused to make dinner, and left the factory and office. 25,000 women gathered in Rejkyavik to listen to speeches, sing, and generally raise hell—which is wildly impressive considering that Iceland’s population at the time was just 220,000.

But women’s strikes aren’t just for the 70s. On October 3, 2016, Polish women observed “Black Monday,” a national strike in protest of a bill threatening to outlaw all abortions. While abortion was already illegal in Poland except for cases of rape, incest, danger to the mother’s life, or irreparable damage to the fetus, the total ban promised a jail sentence of up to 5 years for any abortion and up to 3 years for miscarriages if the miscarriage could not be proved to have occurred naturally. In protest, thousands of women went on strike, with 17,000 people gathering to protest in downtown Warsaw itself. The bill was rejected.

On October 20 of this year, thousands of women went on strike for an hour in Argentina protesting violence against women. The strike was triggered by the rape and murder of a 16-year-old girl, but it occurred in continuation with anti-violence protests that have been sweeping Argentina.

In keeping with this tradition, the color of March 8’s women’s strike is an unapologetic, leftist red.

So, women of the world! What are you waiting for!? Here’s a list, provided by the organizers, of ways that you can participate in the strike.

Join a local group that’s taking action in your area. Don’t work, or don’t work for an hour so you can go to a protest. Don’t cook for your husband; get your brother to watch your kids while you and your girlfriend take a walk; don’t shop (or only shop at women or minority-owned small businesses); wear red; have sex if you feel like it or (as Dayna Tortorici writes in n+1) don’t have sex if it feels like work (and then have a conversation with your partner because that stinks!). Don’t answer that goddamn email. Do whatever you can do—hey, even a Facebook post helps.

I’ll be striking by going to Pinjra Tod (“Break the Cages!”)’s protest for the implementation of anti-sexual harassment guidelines in Indian university spaces—’cause education can set us free, baby.

How will you be striking? Let us know in the comments below!

Reina Gattuso is passionate about empowering conversations around queerness, sexual ethics, and social movements with equal parts rhapsody and sass. Her writing has appeared at Time, Bitch, attn:, and The Washington Post. She is currently pursuing a masters degree in Indian cinema, theater, and visual art at Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi.

Reina Gattuso writes about her sex life for the good of human kind.

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