And the Fight Continues: What on earth is a “women’s strike”?

Elliote talks about just how some women are commemorating IWD…

Every year, the 8th of March marks International Women’s Day. Like Mothers’ Day, and similar observances, many see the 8th March as a day to celebrate women in all our shining glory and to congratulate us on the ‘special’ role we play in the lives of our families and in society. But this year, a coalition of feminist activists from around the world has come together to declare that the 8th March will be a day of mourning, mobilisation and upheaval, with the International Women’s Strike (IWS). So— in true feminist killjoy style— I’m warning you: don’t wish me a “happy International Women’s Day” today.

 

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Image shared by Elliote Long- The Global Women’s March in Paris, 21st January 2017

 

Why a strike?

Striking is usually the weapon of the working classes, so why have this alliance  of women from all walks of life adopted it? First of all, it is important to remember the roots of International Women’s Day: it was founded by the The Socialist Party of America to honour the 1908 uprising of women textile workers in New York. Since then, many groups have spent the 8th March commemorating working class women’s struggle for better conditions, fair wages and the right to unionise. Since 1975 women in Iceland have pioneered the idea of a national women’s strike, using walk-outs to protest the gender wage gap and the undervaluing of women’s work, both inside and outside of the home. Following on from last October’s Black Monday strike in Poland against the proposed criminalisation of abortion and the #NiUnaMenos mass mobilisations in Latin America against the pandemic levels of femicides, the global coalition of women’s groups have decided to use a women’s strike to protest all the forms of violence we face. So, although labour issues appear in the IWS’s call, they’re there as one part of what they call “the current social, legal, political, moral and verbal violence experienced by contemporary women at various latitudes”. Along the same lines as the One Day Without Immigrants protests that swept across the US this February, women around the world will be striking from both paid and unpaid, domestic, labour to tell The Man: “If our lives don’t matter to you, produce without us”.

Think global, act local

The IWS — which now includes groups in 49 countries — is organising under the banner, “Solidarity is our weapon”, and this shows the all-encompassing nature of their manifesto. Everyone who goes on strike this Thursday will be demonstrating against all  forms of gendered violence, but certain countries have very particular reasons for striking. As in other Latin American countries, many groups in Mexico will be targeting the issue of femicides with their strikes. Mexico has one of the highest femicide rates in the world and despite the fact that femicide is treated as a specific crime in federal law, Mexico’s judicial treatment of gendered violence is still pitiable: The National Observatory against Femicides estimates that 60% of perpetrators go unpunished. Women in Russia will be turning out to protest the Russian Orthodox Church’s oppressive influence over society and government there. Church leaders have publicly spoken against women’s right to vote and expressed “approval of rape”. Amongst lawmakers, the Church’s so-called ‘traditional family values’ threaten women’s reproductive and sexual rights and they have most recently led to a partial decriminalisation of domestic violence in Russia. Closer to home, women in the Republic of Ireland are planning to demonstrate for reproductive rights on the 8th March. They are organising beneath the banner #Strike4Repeal, which references calls for the repeal of the 8th amendment, a constitutional ban on abortion. In January, a coalition of Irish activists gave the Government an ultimatum: call a referendum on the 8th amendment before the 8th March, or there will be a national strike. With no signs of any movement from Irish lawmakers, women across the Republic will mobilise this Thursday for reproductive rights, joined by Irish women around the world and their neighbours in Northern Ireland who will be striking for choice.

How can we get involved?

The obvious answer to that question is “go on strike!”: take the day off from work, unpaid domestic labour, or classes to join millions of striking women around the globe and demonstrate that the world doesn’t work if we don’t work. But, as a recent article pointed out, striking is a privilege that not everyone can enjoy. For many women, insecure work contracts, low wages and essential caring responsibilities mean that striking is not an option. But if you can’t decide not to work, you can still get involved. At work, wear black or purple and talk with your colleagues about all the reasons you would be striking if you could. Share articles, infographics, and messages of solidarity with the IWS on social media to raise awareness and start conversations. If you can, donate to women’s rights organisations, like Sisters Uncut, Women on Waves, or MaMaCash. If you can’t take part in a full-day walk-out, but have a couple of hours to spare, join one of the thousands of marches and demonstrations going on around the world: In London, join the Strike4Choice solidarity demo (UCL students, go along with UCLU Amnesty International) or be part of Fourth Wave’s feminist anti-austerity demonstration. If you’re based elsewhere, use this map to find actions near you. Wherever you are, and whether or not you’ll be striking, have a fierce International Women’s Day!

 

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Image shared by Elliote Long- After the Ni Una Menos demonstrations at UNAM, Mexico City, 19th October 2016

 

 

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