This International Women’s Day, millions of women around the world are taking to the streets, reclaiming public spaces and collectively withdrawing our waged and unwaged labour in an international strike against gendered violence.
A joint statement by a group of prominent socialist feminist academics and activists – including Angela Davis, who was keynote speaker at Haldane’s ‘Women Fighting Back’ conference in 2015 – describes the invisibilized structural violence against women this global strike aims to denounce:
“In embracing a feminism for the 99%, we take inspiration from the Argentinian coalition Ni Una Menos. Violence against women, as they define it, has many facets: it is 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.”
Building on the momentum of the women’s strikes in Poland and Argentina at the end of 2016 and the Women’s Marches of January 21st this year, groups calling the strike have highlighted the radical origins of 8th March: the mass strikes of predominantly migrant women garment workers in Manhattan 1908 that inspired the first ‘Women’s Day’; the 1910 International Socialist Women’s Conference where the day acquired its international character; the women’s strike for “Bread, Peace and Freedom” in St. Petersburg on International Women’s Day 1917, which sparked the February Revolution in Russia.
100 years on, the 2017 international women’s strike comes at a time when Russia has just decriminalised domestic violence; when a billionaire man who boasts about sexually assaulting women with impunity is president of the U.S; and when one in three women will experience physical or sexual violence in their lifetime. Brutal neoliberal austerity policies hit women hardest – particularly women of colour, disabled women, LGBTQ women, working class and migrant women. All over the world it is disproportionately women who work in underpaid, precarious and dehumanising conditions, while simultaneously doing the unwaged, unacknowledged labour of social reproduction.
Collectively remembering the origins of International Women’s Day is a way of re-centring the feminist movement’s radicalism, what Davis and others describe as “a new international feminist movement with an expanded agenda: at once anti-racist, anti-imperialist, anti-heterosexist and anti-capitalist.”
The Ni Una Menos movements in Latin America have a chant that expresses both the desperation and defiance of this international women’s strike. “¡Vivas nos Queremos!” – “We want to live!”. It is a demand for a life free from violence, but also for another possible world.