Last week, many women in NYC stayed home from work, honoring the International Women’s Day strike.
Others for whom striking was not practical showed their support by wearing red. And thousands marched in a demonstration that started at Washington Square Park.
Thirteen women, including prominent Palestinian-American activist Linda Sarsour, were detained on disorderly conduct charges outside the Trump International Hotel and Tower.
This mass action was well-timed. Women around the United States and in some 50 different countries participated. The Global Women’s Strike — which seeks to value all women’s work around the world — has occurred annually for years, but this year it attracted far more U.S. participation.
A reason, of course, is the presidency of Donald Trump, who has boasted about groping women, and his vice president, an ardent opponent of abortion rights. Equally troubling — and less well known — are fears that Trump would eviscerate workers’ organizing rights.
Still, Wednesday’s strike was inspired by feminists’ desire to build on the success of actions in Poland and Argentina last year.
Tithi Bhattacharya, a professor at Purdue University in Indiana, joined the march in NYC. She said that many participants were motivated to build on the “joyous” momentum of the Women’s March in Washington in January.
New Yorkers on strike included singing waitresses, schoolteachers and day care workers. They cited unequal pay, low pay, lack of respect, sexual harassment and being fired for trying to organize unions, to name a few grievances.
Bhattacharya said one of the reasons the left has been so weakened — to the point that someone as conservative and ill-qualified as Trump could be elected — is that economic conditions have increasingly been seen as separate from matters of oppression like racism and sexism. Separating such issues divides the left.
Last week’s action got people thinking and organizing about sexism and economic power all at the same time. We’ll need much more of that to build a feminism strong enough to defeat Trump, the far-right Congress and their agenda.
Liza Featherstone lives and writes in Clinton Hill.