At a meeting in Brooklyn last month attended by hundreds of women, the National Women’s Liberation group announced a nationwide strike on Jan. 20-21, timed for the presidential inauguration, to protest against Donald Trump, incoming Vice President Mike Pence, and the agenda of congressional Republicans. The tactic could be effective in the coming years.
Strikes are growing more common in the global fight for women’s rights. On Oct. 25, women in Iceland walked off the job two hours early to protest the pay gap between men and women (on average, an Icelandic woman would need to work two more hours a day to earn as much as a man makes). Earlier that month, women in Poland went on strike to protest a proposed law under which a woman could face five years in prison for having an abortion.
Such actions can have immediate policy effects. While abortion is still illegal in Poland, the Parliament immediately voted down the draconian new penalty as a result of the women’s strike.
The American women striking during the inauguration are demanding an “end to racist and sexist assaults,” reproductive freedom, free child care and paid family leave, and respect. They’re also making demands on matters not always thought of as women’s issues, but are nonetheless feminist demands (because of the more precarious economic status of women): a $15 minimum wage, national health care and the expansion and protection of Social Security.
Strikers are free to interpret the concept of “strike” for themselves. Some will strike from paid work, others from housework, from wearing makeup, from the obligation to smile and from other impositions.
Women nationwide are going online and pledging to strike — so the organizers will know how large the strike is — and writing about their reasons. A North Carolina striker said she is joining the effort because “my boss is a Trump supporter who feels the need to talk to me like trash.”
Withdrawing labor that society and employers depend on is a time-honored tactic. With a far-right, anti-feminist administration taking power, women will need to do much more of this.
Liza Featherstone lives and writes in Clinton Hill.