'Feminism for the 99 Percent': Lessons for the Women's Strike on March 8

On Monday, a group of feminist activists and academics penned an op-ed calling for a global women's strike on March 8, International Women's Day. We talked to one of the organizers behind Argentina's recent strike to protest gender-based violence about...

by Kimberly Lawson
Feb 8 2017, 8:20pm

Photo from the Women's March by Olivia Paschkes

In January, half a million people, mostly women, descended on Washington DC to protest Trump and his administration's agenda—they were joined by millions more around the globe. On March 8, International Women's Day, women around the world have another opportunity to show up in record numbers to protest patriarchal tyranny. Women from more than 30 countries, including Argentina, the Czech Republic, Russia, and Turkey, are going on strike.

The announcement to join what's been dubbed the International Women's Strike (which may be different from what organizers of the Women's March on Washington have in the works) came Monday from a group of feminist activists and academics that included Rasmea Odeh, associate director of the Arab American Action Network; Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, author of From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation; and Angela Davis, founder of Critical Resistance, a nonprofit that advocates for prison reform.

"The idea," they wrote in an op-ed for The Guardian, "is to mobilize women, including trans women, and all who support them in an international day of struggle – 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."

Read more: The Women's March Is a Good Thing

In addition to calling to attention to issues women worldwide face on a daily basis—from male violence to attacks on reproductive rights—Odeh and her co-authors also note that they hope to make "visible the needs and aspirations of those whom 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."

In a 2013 article for The Feminist Wire, activist bell hooks addressed "lean-in feminism," which was first introduced by Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg. In her book Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead, Sandberg primarily focuses on feminism for socially and economically privileged white women like herself, hooks says. "Given all the forces that separate women and pit us against one another, solidarity is not an inevitable outcome," she writes. "Sandberg's refusal to do anything but give slight mention to racialized class differences undercuts the notion that she has a program that speaks to and for all women. Her unwillingness to consider a vision that would include all women rather than white women from privileged classes is one of the flaws in the representation of herself as a voice for feminism."

That's why US organizers for next month's women's strike say they're aiming for this movement to illustrate "a feminism for the 99 percent." To do that, they're looking to the Argentina-based feminist movement Ni Una Menos for inspiration.

Last October, Ni Una Menos hosted a national protest in Argentina against gender-based violence and discrimination. Although it's unclear how many women took to the streets that day, organizers say the strike was deemed a success because it mobilized so many people. Their objective, says Ingrid Beck, a member of the coalition, was to bring more visibility to the country's problem with femicide and to "denaturalize machismo and violence against the women."

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"The strike was more symbolic," she tells Broadly, "although clearly it was a step to continue thinking forward."

Beck says a strike is successful when it moves a significant number of people to take action to address a problem, even if that action is simply bringing attention to the problem. According to her, that's why the International Women's Strike next month has so much promise. Specifically, she believes in the the strong message of the strike: "That the women's movement is very strong all over the world, that we are leading a change, that inequalities between men and women are global and deep. That together we are many and that [the opposition has] to listen to us."

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