This Friday and Saturday, thousands of women across the U.S. are expected to strike, timing their protest to coincide with the Inauguration of Donald Trump.
According to the strike’s organizers, National Women’s Liberation, participants are encouraged to strike from paid work, unpaid domestic work, emotional labor, or any activity they find oppressive (suggestions on the website include fake smiles, changing diapers, housework, shaving, cooking, errands, groceries, flirting, makeup, and laundry). The demands include an end to racial and sexual assaults, full access to reproductive freedom, national health care, protection and expansion of Social Security, public childcare, paid maternal and paternal leave, and a $15 minimum wage for all workers, without exception.
“The incoming administration is promising to cut, undermine, privatize, or eliminate every social compact,” states the site’s mission statement. “They expect the family (that is, WOMEN) to fill in the gaps and pick up the pieces.”
The New York chapter of NWL proposed the strike following unprecedented turnout at their monthly meeting in Brooklyn Heights last November, where veteran organizer Jenny Brown suggested the action as a response to the election of Trump.
“We were inspired by women in other countries who have held women’s strikes recently and really changed the conversation in their countries,” NWL New York chapter organizer Erin Mahoney told the Voice.
A list of previous strikes in other countries can be found on womenstrike.org, including walkouts in France and Iceland over gender pay gaps; Poland’s Black Monday boycott, protesting proposed restrictions to abortion access; and Argentina’s strike against gendered violence.
Would-be strikers are encouraged to sign a pledge on the site, and the group’s goal is to reach 20,000 pledges before Inauguration Day (the tally currently stands near 6,000).
“I’ll be on strike from my paid job as a teacher and administrator, my unpaid job as a mother of a 3 year old boy, my unpaid job as a wife and a housekeeper, cook, driver, and shopper,” wrote K.W. from Arizona, in a testimonial on the site.
According to Brown, galvanizing this nationwide support is one of her goals. “We expect to be able to start some new chapters of our group in areas of the country where a lot of women are striking,” she said.
Intersectionality has been a concern surrounding the Women’s March on Washington — and the women’s movement generally — and NWL has made this a focus of their efforts, with strike organizers working in tandem with an NWL think tank called the Women of Color Caucus. “To make sure the strike benefits women of all races, [we] worked with our Women of Color think tank to develop the idea,” said Hazel Levy, member of the NWL’s Gainesville, FL chapter Steering Committee and WOCC. “Respect for all, economic power for all, and an end to bigotry of all kinds is at the heart of the demands of the strike.”
“By striking, we are showing that we have the power to disrupt,” said vice chair of the New York NWL chapter and WOCC member Paulina Davis. According to Davis, strikers will use that power if certain needs are not met, including freedom from being targeted for their gender, gender expression, immigration status, race, or disabilities. “We demand these things from our government, our jobs, and our male peers, all of which benefit from the paid and unpaid work of women,” Davis said.
Men are encouraged to participate by picking up additional work usually performed by the women in their life. “As a male, I’ll be taking on extra work so my female coworkers can strike without fear of falling behind at work,” one commenter wrote on the site.
NWL NY will hold their final meeting prior to the strike on Thursday night at 7:30 p.m. at The Commons on Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn. Strikers are encouraged to attend the Women’s March on Washington on the second day of the strike, or their local march. The Women’s March on New York City will meet at 1 Dag Hammarskoljd Plaza on 48th St. at 1st Ave. at 11 a.m. on January 21.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on January 19, 2017