Politics & Policy

The Embarrassing Confusion of the ‘Women’s Strike’

Women’s March demonstrators in Boston, Mass., January 21, 2017. (Reuters photo: Sam Goresh)
Billed as an anti-Trump protest, it’s the same old leftist song and dance and has little to do with him.

What if you held a giant international women’s strike and nobody showed up?

Well, let’s scrap that question. The whole point of a strike, to be fair, is for no one to show up — at least not at work, anyway. But what if a bunch of left-wing feminist leaders cooked up a grandiose, multi-country women’s strike — “A Day Without a Woman,” as American organizers are calling it — and the result was not an empowered roar but rather the slow, steady, and somewhat disheartening sound of air slowly hissing out of a proverbial misfired whoopee cushion?

On March 8, we’ll find out. The organizers of January’s massive Trump-inspired women’s marches are back, looking for a follow-up hit, and they’ve settled on A Day Without a Woman, which is scheduled for International Women’s Day. For people like me — people who ultimately prefer not to live in a perpetual state of outrage and panic — this is unfortunately a bit confusing.

Where, as a woman, am I supposed to go? Are we all going to hide in a corner, giggling, mashed up in an awkward, large-scale version of sardines? Has someone booked reservations at a leafy and mysterious offshore day spa, or perhaps at Richard Branson’s private Caribbean island, where we can engage in various watersport hijinks and lighthearted kiteboarding competitions? (By the way, folks, if that’s the plan, politics be darned. Count me in.)

Alas, I have no such luck. If all goes according to plan, the Day Without a Woman will be actually a Day Chock-Full of Very Vexed Women Laser-Focused on Making You Late for Work. “The idea,” wrote the strike’s organizers in a February 6 group Guardian op-ed, “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.”

Ooh, that sounds effective! Just kidding. It sounds kind of annoying. But come on, let’s not be cynical. It’s for such a good cause, right? It’s all focused on truth and justice and good government, and a bipartisan response to specific policies proposed by the Trump administration, right? Well . . . let’s ask the organizers of the march. Spoiler alert: Here’s where things get a little foggy.

“On March 8th, International Women’s Day, women and our allies will act together creatively to withdraw from the corporations that harm us and find ways to support the businesses, organizations and communities that sustain us,” declares the Women’s March website, profiling its “Day Without a Woman.” Further questions, according to the March’s Twitter feed, include the following: “Do businesses support our communities, or do they drain our communities? Do they strive for gender equity or do they support the policies and leaders that perpetuate oppression? Do they align with a sustainable environment or do they profit off destruction and steal the futures of our children?”

If all goes according to plan, the Day Without a Woman will be actually a Day Chock-Full of Very Vexed Women Laser-Focused on Making You Late for Work.

Well! That’s strange. This seems like a standard, vague list of clichéd left-wing hobbyhorses, not a principled protest engaging current policy problems. Don’t worry, friends: Surely further research and reading will clarify things.

Well, okay, maybe not. Along with an end to “male violence” and, predictably, “a defense of reproductive rights” — in other words, abortion — “we also need to target the ongoing neoliberal attack on social provision and labor rights,” feminist organizers Linda Martín Alcoff, Cinzia Arruzza, Tithi Bhattacharya, Nancy Fraser, Barbara Ransby, Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, Rasmea Yousef Odeh, and Angela Davis declare in the Guardian.

Lest anyone be confused, strike leaders go on to call for an “anti-capitalist” feminism. “Decades of neoliberalism has not just taken the bread from the tables of working women and families,” Cinzia Arruza and Tithi Bhattacharya add, also in the Guardian, “but also taken away all infrastructures that sustain life, the roses.”

Well. That escalated quickly. But what do neoliberalism and stolen roses and a general sense of soft Marxism have to do with what is generally marketed as, according to the Washington Post, “a general strike against Trump”?

The answer, of course, is barely anything at all. The upcoming “Women’s Strike” — and the dozens of iterations likely to come after it — has made it clear that it now has little to do with Donald Trump. It’s the same old leftist song and dance, desperate for a new marketing pitch. It’s a protest movement that would likely decry any Republican president — even if she were a woman. Beware, ladies. Beware.

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