3 Problems With the Upcoming Women’s Strike
The initiative is replete with problems that the real feminists among us should challenge.
To follow the protest that brought hundreds of thousands of women to Washington, D.C., the day after President Trump’s inauguration, the Women’s March organization is now calling for A Day Without a Woman.
The strike, set for International Women’s Day on March 8, is part of an International Women’s Strike with expected international participation. The organizers declare that “women and our allies will act together creatively to withdraw from the corporations that harm us and find ways to support the businesses, organizations and communities that sustain us.”
Eight women writing in The Guardian a few weeks ago attempted to articulate the focus of the strike, and introduce a new brand of feminism.
While the idea of a women’s strike may seem a bold and edgy way to be a modern feminist, the initiative has several serious problems.
1. Too Many Issues
Other than general anger toward Trump, there seemed to be little consensus as to what the Women’s March was about. The Guardian op-ed attempts to address this.
“It is not enough to oppose Trump and his aggressively misogynistic, homophobic, transphobic and racist policies,” the women write. “We also need to target the ongoing neoliberal attack on social provision and labor rights.” That means fighting against:
domestic violence, but also the violence of the market, of debt, of capitalist property relations and of the state; the violence of discriminatory policies against lesbian, trans and queer women; the violence of state criminalization of migratory movements; the violence of mass incarceration; and the institutional violence against women’s bodies through abortion bans and lack of access to free healthcare and free abortion.
This “new, more expansive feminist movement” carries a troubling sense of lump-it-all-togetherness, leaving the average woman wondering what exactly she will be demanding when she hypothetically walks out of work or school a few Wednesdays from now. If you’re going to abandon your responsibilities for a day (more on that below), surely you should have a tangible reason and clear goal.
These “new” feminist strikers are ignoring a very important truth: it’s okay to focus on just one issue at a time.
These “new” feminist strikers are ignoring a very important truth: it’s okay to focus on just one issue at a time. As my mom used to tell me when I faced the overwhelming task of cleaning my room, “Clean one area at a time — first the floor, then the bed, then the closet … and suddenly, your whole room is clean!” It’s a great and effective system.
To try to address all the world’s problems at once is to address none of them effectively. It’s likely to produce little more than meme-worthy photos and adoring media coverage.
2. Equating Free Abortion With Justice for Women is Wrong
There’s a brazenness to this movement’s demands for free abortion that must be called out. The op-ed writers claim that for “the overwhelming majority of us,” the “conditions of life can be improved only through policies that defend social reproduction, secure reproductive justice, and guarantee labor rights. … It must be a feminism for the 99%.”
These women speak as if every woman and girl is in a perpetual state of unchosen pregnancy, from which she must be rescued by the state so the rest of her life can be spared from ruin. In fact the vast majority of women who get abortions became pregnant as the natural result of a voluntary act. To equate the protection of unborn life — including unborn girls’ lives — with intentionally damaging women’s bodies through sterilization is despicable.
3. This Strike Could Hurt the Women it Wants to Help
The eight women behind the Guardian op-ed say that March 8 will be “an international day of struggle.” They continue by calling for:
A day of striking, marching, blocking roads, bridges and squares, abstaining from domestic care and sex work, boycotting, calling out misogynistic politicians and companies, striking in educational institutions. These actions are aimed at making visible the needs and aspirations of those whom [author Sheryl Sandberg’s] lean-in feminism ignored: women in the formal labor market, women working in the sphere of social reproduction and care, and unemployed and precarious working women.
Their protest, they say, is for the working women who lack the luxuries enjoyed by “corporate feminists.” And yet they’re calling for roads to be blocked and businesses shut down. Many of the people they’ll be impeding are the exact women they’re trying to help — the ones who can’t and won’t take a break from real responsibilities like providing for their families.
As one Twitter user posted:
Would love to hear how women who cannot take the day off from work can be supported and feel part of this movement #ADayWithoutAWoman
— Noozhem (@Noozhem) February 7, 2017
Many women don't have the privilege of choosing not to do their work even just for one day #ADayWithoutAWoman
— Noozhem (@Noozhem) February 7, 2017
The response offered by the International Women’s Strike and the Women’s March organizations is limited to several vague and/or impractical — yet pointedly political — questions and suggestions for those who can’t strike.
There is a War on Women — We Need the Right Weapons to Fight It
There is real oppression faced daily by many women and girls around the globe, but there are also far better answers than the weak (and arguably crazy) ideas offered in this Guardian op-ed, or by A Day Without a Woman. Check back with The Stream in the coming weeks for a continuation of this discussion.