By Martina Rodriguez
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8 March is International Women’s Day and we absolutely do not want to celebrate it with any flowers or chocolate. What we want is a feminist revolution.
Every year on IWD I get so sick of people pretending for less than 24 hours that women are the best thing in the world and we are all so beautiful and worthy of treats and discounts to massages or some BS. You can imagine why it’s sickening when you know that the very same people that bring their wives presents and write them a poem are beating the sh*t out of them the next morning.
So, since 2017, millions of women around the whole world have found the perfect day to try and make visible the ways in which the patriarchy is constantly subjugating us. For the past five years we have used this day to stop, and refused to continue with ‘business as usual’.
This is a day then, in which ALL women strike to interrupt the order of things at work, at home, school and their communities. We don’t do any of the cleaning, the cooking, the emotional and sexual labour that is expected of us every other day. We want the world to see the invisible – yet essential work that all women do in society for at least one day.
On 8 March we link the struggle at work to the struggle at home, using the strategy of the strike to disrupt both. Because, you know, the personal is political.
Like this, the battle is brought to work, to home, to the dinner table, to institutions, to any and all social interactions. The desire to live a life without fear, without violence or femicide, with no injustices or oppression, the desire of a better life for all individuals is fought in global solidarity.
How – when – who created it?
The international women’s strike took shape after Polish and Argentinian feminists transformed their local struggles into global action.
In October 2016, there was a femicide in Argentina that tipped people over the edge. Lucía Perez was raped and killed and the horrifying details of Lucía’s case quickly spread through the media and shook society, becoming the igniting flare. In this context and within just 17 days in October, there had been 19 other femicides which led Ni Una Menos and other feminist collectives to call an urgent assembly, where it was decided to organise the first-ever women’s strike in the country. Under the slogan “If our lives are worth nothing, produce without us”, the organisers called for a mobilisation and the cessation of all productive and domestic activities on 19 October. Taking the name of Black Wednesday, approximately 200,000 people marched in the centre of Buenos Aires. The demands, powered by the pain and anger revolving around Lucía’s femicide, centred gender violence at the core of the mobilisation.
Also in October 2016, the Polish Congress tried to ban abortion rights. In response, 100,000 women staged walkouts and marches in opposition.
Utilising this momentum, Polish feminist movements and Ni Una Menos started to coordinate actions locally, regionally and globally, and within a few months, the first-ever International Women’s Strike took place. On 8 March 2017, 35 countries from all regions of the world officially joined the strike – half from the Global South. The strike strengthened international feminist ties and organisational efforts and it has been a constant every year since its emergence, allowing millions of women to acquire the strength to speak out and refuse patriarchal violence through the force of a global mass mobilisation.
For the past five years, national movements became part of a global tide, which is the largest feminist movement recorded in history, to the point of opening the question of how a new internationalism was created.
This is a time in which we need to build strong ties and they need to cross borders.
Why is it important?
Gender violence is a pandemic:
Women in the entire planet are being abused, raped, tortured and murdered by the hour as a result of the patriarchy. Yes, the patriarchy kills us and especially so this year.
We all saw gender violence rising since the start of the pandemic, when women found themselves locked in with their abusers. It was important to make new policies during this state of emergency and nothing was done. But, at the same time, these are deeply rooted and pre-existing inequalities that need addressing.
137 women are killed by a member of their family every day. It is estimated that of the 87,000 women who were intentionally killed in 2017 globally, more than half (50,000) were killed by intimate partners or family members. More than a third (30,000) of the women intentionally killed in 2017 were killed by their current or former intimate partner (https://www.unwomen.org/en/what-we-do/ending-violence-against-women/facts-and-figures). In the UK, a woman is killed by a man every 3 days and we still call it a ‘domestic’ issue rather for what it is, sexism! We need an honest conversation about what violence against women actually entails.
Coronavirus only shone a light on this issue, which has existed for centuries and had been largely ignored by society, so it’s necessary to make sure people continue to care and the spotlight doesn’t simply go away when the lockdown does.
Reproductive work should be shared.
It is almost a joke how we just continue to let the women be responsible for all the caring, for all the housework, for cleaning, for cooking, for shopping, for thinking about what to do: how many times do men say they will ‘help’ us, how many times do they ask us ‘what needs buying honey?’, ‘what shall I do?’, ‘don’t worry, I’ll help you in a second’. It is 2020 for goodness sake, and we need to reiterate that EVERYONE MUST SHARE THE HOUSE RESPONSIBILITY? Jeez.
Who sustains life? Well, obvs, women. Women keep the world going. Not so long ago, it used to be the case that men were able to go to work because there was always someone (a woman) working in the house and caring for the children, the elderly and those in need. Nowadays, thankfully, the picture is a little different and women have more opportunities to work in more areas. But when they go to work…who cares for their children? Other women. And in precarious labour conditions. Usually migrants. Usually racialised women. Usually poor women. Like this, we have now found a way to outsource other -more disadvantaged- women to do the gendered job that housewives used to do in previous decades.
Instead of sharing the care, instead of the community, the society and the state being responsible for caring for those who need it, the burden still rests on women.
Economic and climate justice for a feminist future.
We definitely won’t find the end of the patriarchy under capitalism, as they absolutely live off each other.
The past decades have been dominated by a liberal Western discourse of the glass-ceiling and representation and capitalism was able to appropriate a ‘feminist’ discourse and use it as a weapon to silence the feminism that seeks structural change instead of simply filling a quota. We don’t want more women CEOs exploiting workers, we don’t want pink oppression thank you very much. We want the redistribution of wealth and just material conditions for all.
This feminist ‘tide’ tries to transform the individual pain, sorrow and mourning of gender violence – violence that has femicide as its highest point – into collective struggles that channel the desire for structural change. Turning the invisibilised into political subjects and proposing a philosophical and material challenge to the capitalist world.
We also include the demand of a global green new deal to guarantee there will be a future and a future with a healthy environment to live in. There’s no planet B, so there’s no feminist future without climate justice.
Sexual revolution and reproductive rights for all:
We need to defend the rights of sexual freedom and the end of a gender binary,
we need trans liberation now! We call for the protection of trans kids, this feminism defends trans people’s rights to existence and freedom from oppression.
We demand legal, safe and free abortion everywhere in the world, and now.
We also demand justice and the ceasing of all forced sterilisations.
Abolish colonialism and white supremacy:
Of course, it was originally black and radical feminists who redefined how to politicise the personal within larger structures of oppression. In contrast to white liberal feminism, which had taken a narrow and incomplete view of women’s political reality. They also emphasized that it is imperative to eradicate all cultural bases for oppression, including race and class in the analysis of gender.
Learning from the errors of previous feminist waves, this tide has intersectionality at its core. Still learning and very much making mistakes but the idea that we cannot fight isolated issues is central to the strike.
We want reparations to the historically subjugated, we want the Global North to stop extracting our countries life and natural resources as well as the end of labour and economic exploitation.
Colonialism and white supremacy is very much still alive and profiting from black, indigenous and people of colour and especially the women.
So we want no borders, no nations and no cages in our feminism. We want to fight racism and fascism and we need to have a look within our feminisms first.
How to strike.
This year the form of action that we can take is an act of collective mourning, I personally hope that at least it moves some people. I wish for them to inhabit the pain and anger that this pandemic brought with it.
We are mourning the lost ones and we are mourning the injustices that took them; we are mourning the ones that have sacrificed themselves to care for others as we try to build a better society based on mutual care and aid. But at the same time, the pain and anger should bring us together into a common building of hope, hope for a feminist world.
As this year takes out the possibility of mass protest, we rely on social media more than ever to make our voices heard. Women’s Strike is doing an archive of the digital memorial and you can contribute to it! (https://womenstrike.org.uk/digital-memorial/) Share your message with #WeStrike. If you don’t want to post on social media, they can add your message anonymously and manually – send an email at email@example.com or a message on their Instagram, Twitter or Facebook, with your message, why you’re striking (or why you can’t strike!), or any words of support and resistance.
If you are based in the UK, you can also drop by to the memorials:
Beyond 8 March.
Despite taking place once a year, the planning of the strike became a tool, and the goal in itself, and worked as a political device articulating all kinds of struggles.
This global feminist tide functions through all-year-round work in assemblies, events, festivals, talks, panels and activities at global, national, provincial and local level, leading up to 8 March, which functions as a praxis device (theory and practice together). It is a laborious way of being with others, removing individuals from the place of victims and, instead, placing the movement in a collectiveness of joyful resistance. The strike as a process, and not simply one event.
We want to continue weaving our rebellion collectively beyond this date.