In an odd sort of inversion where those who wish to maintain the status quo use the arguments and language of the opposition to shut down their activism, Meghan Daum argues in the LA Times that the Women’s Strike is only for privileged women. Maureen Shaw makes a similar argument in Quartz. In a classic critique of acts of systematic and collective resistance, Shaw went on to argue that strikes that have particular aims are more successful. Tithi Bhattacharya and Cinzia Arruzza struck back at this line, calling this line of critique ‘concern trolling’ in The Nation. They point to the responses to this line of concern that organizers like Magally A. Miranda Alcazar and Kate D. Griffiths discuss at length, also in The Nation.
Alcazar and Griffiths address the article by Sady Doyle in Elle on the history of the women’s strike and the history of the variance in work for different women, who carry the burden of reproducing the world and reproducing what it means to be women in different ways. Doyle opens with the question, “What is the work of being female?” Historically, women’s work has been particular kinds of undervalued work, which Doyle argues has shifted today for middle class women, making it less clear what work is being undervalued and what solidarity there is between women who work at being women and at work in different ways.
Alcazar and Griffiths take up that point andinvestigate the various ways that women’s work is being redefined today to capture the multiple valences it has across race and class. Inequality exists among and between women, but, they argue, the differences between today and 1970 when a women’s strike was called to protest the way that housework was undervalued and assigned almost entirely to women are not as great as we might think. The unpaid “reproductive” household work has moved into the realm of poorly paid care work largely done by women. Women of color have been pushed into waged contractual labor that has long been considered male labor. While middle class women have left the household, the formally male fields they have entered, instead of bringing equality and progress, have become feminized and undervalued. And the vast majority of women who work outside of the home are still subject to the “second shift,” having to take care of the unpaid reproductive work inside the home. Alcazar and Griffiths argue that because women uniquely occupy multiple family and work roles they experience the effects of economic austerity in this Administration more readily in ways that should put middle class women in solidarity with the working class women who have long been feeling the effects of such austerity. Alcazar and Griffiths note the numerous ways that working class women, women of color, queer women have been striking against the system and the collective powers that be in public and concrete ways for the last several years. It’s privileged women’s turn to get on board and share the load. Alcazar and Griffiths conclude, “Striking is not a privilege. Privilege is not having to strike.”
As the organizers of the strike write in their call for the Women’s Strike:
Lean-in feminism and other variants of corporate feminism have failed the overwhelming majority of us, who do not have access to individual self-promotion and advancement and whose conditions of life can be improved only through policies that defend social reproduction, secure reproductive justice and guarantee labor rights. As we see it, the new wave of women’s mobilization must address all these concerns in a frontal way. It must be a feminism for the 99%.
Tithi Bhattacharya and Cinzia Arruzza argue that the concern trolling about striking as privilege does not produce solidarity with all women, as the organizers of the strike aim to do, but divides women further and makes the goals neoliberal at their root. They point to the numerous ways that organizers have encouraged involvement in the strike, ways that recognize the varying vulnerabilities of different women. Bhattacharya and Arruzza also note that both Daum and Shaw have been vocal supporters of Hillary Clinton’s candidacy, while this strike is in resistance to the kind of feminism that uses the language of feminism to enable neoliberal capitalism (they point explicitly to the way that disaster capitalism was ushered into Haiti as part of the relief process). Bhattacharya and Arruzza note that 50 countries are involved in this Women’s Strike which makes the majority of those striking women of color and Asian women. They note that the rallies in NYC involve no celebrities, but women whose work makes life possible: immigrant women, black women, queer women, trans women, mothers whose children were victims of police violence. The endorsers include groups that support immigrants rights, sex workers, Palestinians, labor unions, and Black Lives Matter.
Shaw wants us to offer “fact sheets”, suggest “language for contacting elected officials” and provide “tips for effective lobbying” as ways to “help engage women.” Her message is clear as day: She wants us to channel our anger against Trump into the coffers and bowels of the Democratic Party.
When the arguments against solidarity are couched in rhetoric that tries to prevent privileged women from acting in ways that support those who are more vulnerable, one begins to wonder whether the solidarity of all women really is threatening to established institutions and centers of power.
For more on intersectional feminism, check out the articles linked to in this post.