Strike for women’s rights – sexual, racial and economic justice are at stake
8/3/17; Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor
The call for a day of action in support of a radical agenda that recognises all women has resonated with thousands let down by mainstream feminism – Mainstream feminism has failed. Perhaps the most shocking example is the life expectancy of black trans women: 35 years. The brutality of that statistic was on display again when two black trans women in New Orleans were killed within a matter of days last February. Since the new year, there are reports that seven transgender women across the US have been killed.
The reality of poverty, violence, and discrimination in the lives of trans women of colour is just one reason why organisers of today’s Women’s Strike have mobilised to revert the innocuous “women’s month” back to its radical predecessor known as International Women’s Day.
‘Something’s happening …’ How the Women’s March inspired a new era of resistance Read more
The massive outpouring of women and men on to the streets on 21 January was a powerful rejoinder to the violent sexism and bigotry of Donald Trump. More importantly, it demonstrated that millions were moving on from the shock and despair of Trump’s ascendance. It was a critical moment in the opening hours of the Trump presidency, but there was also much to build on.
The organisers had been reluctant to declare the women’s marches as “protests” against an authoritarian regime, thereby lowering the bar in ways that would guarantee the participation of the maximum number of people. It was a wildly successful strategy, but if we are to build an opposition or resistance movement that is not just large but can also fight for the kind of world we want to live in then we have to clearly fight for what it is we want. The organisers of the women’s march have called for a Day Without a Woman, and we have called for a women’s strike. These actions are different in their origination and platform, but we are united in the need for ongoing struggle and political action.
The call for the US to join the international women’s strike is an articulation for the kind of feminist politics that can provide a way to fight for a political agenda that represents the interests of the vast majority of working-class and poor women, in this country and abroad. We have termed it “feminism for the 99 %”.
There have been some who have suggested that in calling for women to “strike” we are jeopardising those who do not have the “luxury” to call off work. Indeed, organisers of the women’s strike have even been described as privileged. This is as ridiculous as it condescending to both the organisers and working-class women, who apparently are not viewed as capable of making decisions about their own activity on 8 March. Aside from ensuring there are multiple ways for women and their supporters to participate in the strike – including taking part in actions at work such as wearing red, as a gesture of solidarity – we have been inspired by the genuine grassroots nature that is animating cities, colleges, and communities across the country.
The call for a strike and, more generally, a more radical International Women’s Day has resonated with thousands across the US. In Chapel Hill, North Carolina, and Alexandria, Virginia, the school districts have decided to close schools today because of the number of requests for the day off. The “bodega strike” that brought out thousands of Yemeni shop owners and their supporters to oppose Trump’s Muslim travel ban has also endorsed the action.
Teachers in Chicago have joined with community members and organisers for a rally “to fight for the global economic justice we’ve always needed”. In Seattle, the focus is on reproductive justice, and in New York City there will be a rally in Washington Square Park and then a march to Zuccotti Park, where the Occupy Wall Street movement erupted in 2011.
In total, there are more than 60 events planned as part of today’s strike. We have no idea how many people will participate. I don’t expect the same millions who came out on 21 January to take part. But I do suspect thousands will be involved, and that is significant.
The point was never to just hold a successful event, but to begin to knit together a network of ordinary people who can revive the struggles for racial and economic justice, sexual liberation and reproductive freedom that have always been at the nexus of the struggle for women’s liberation. We have a world to win, and the women’s strike is an important step in that process.