For a feminism for the 99% — and a militant strike on March 8

February 11, 2017
Washington DC. January 21.

This call for a “militant international strike” on International Women’s Day on March 8 was written by US activists and academics Linda Martin Alcoff, Cinzia Arruzza, Tithi Bhattacharya, Nancy Fraser, Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, Rasmea Yousef Odeh, Angela Davis and Barbara Ransby. It first appeared in Viewpoint Magazine.


The massive women’s marches of January 21 may mark the start of a new wave of militant feminist struggle. But what exactly will be its focus?

In our view, it is not enough to oppose Trump and his aggressively misogynistic, homophobic, transphobic and racist policies; we also need to target the ongoing neoliberal attack on social provision and labour rights. Trump’s blatant misogyny was the immediate trigger for the huge response on January 21, but the attack on women (and all working people) long predates his administration.

Women’s conditions of life, especially those of women of colour and of working, unemployed and migrant women, have steadily deteriorated over the last 30 years, thanks to financialisation and corporate globalisation. “Lean-in” feminism (based on women advancing within the corporate system) and other variants of corporate feminism have failed the overwhelming majority of us.

It has failed those 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 labour rights. As we see it, the new wave of women’s mobilisation must address all these concerns in a frontal way. It must be a feminism for the 99%.

The kind of feminism we seek is already emerging internationally, in struggles across the globe: from the women’s strike in Poland against the abortion ban to the women’s strikes and marches in Latin America against male violence; from the huge women’s demonstration of last November in Italy to the protests and women’s strikes in defence of reproductive rights in South Korea and Ireland.

What is striking about these mobilisations is that several of them combined struggles against male violence with opposition to the casualisation of labour and wage inequality, while also opposing homophobia, transphobia and xenophobic immigration policies. Together, they herald a new international feminist movement with an expanded agenda — at once anti-racist, anti-imperialist, anti-heterosexist and anti-neoliberal.

We want to contribute to the development of this new, more expansive feminist movement.

As a first step, we propose to help build an international strike against male violence and in defence of reproductive rights on March 8. In this, we join with feminist groups from about 30 countries who have called for such a strike.

The idea is to mobilise 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, and striking in educational institutions.

These actions are aimed at making visible the needs and aspirations of those who lean-in feminism ignored: women in the formal labour market, women working in the sphere of social reproduction and care, and unemployed and precarious working women.

In embracing a feminism for the 99%, we take inspiration from the Argentinian coalition Ni Una Menos (“Not One Less”). Violence against women, as they define it, has many facets: it is domestic violence, but also the violence of the market, of debt, of capitalist property relations, and of the state.

It is the violence of discriminatory policies against lesbian, trans and queer women, of state criminalisation of migratory movements, of mass incarceration and the institutional violence against women’s bodies through abortion bans and lack of access to free healthcare and free abortion.

Their perspective informs our determination to oppose the institutional, political, cultural and economic attacks on Muslim and migrant women, on women of colour and working and unemployed women, on lesbian, gender non-conforming and trans-women.

The women’s marches of January 21 have shown that in the US, too, a new feminist movement may be in the making. It is important not to lose momentum.

Let us join together on March 8 to strike, walk out, march and demonstrate. Let us use the occasion of this international day of action to be done with lean-feminism and to build in its place a feminism for the 99%, a grassroots, anti-capitalist feminism — a feminism in solidarity with working women, their families and their allies throughout the world.

Linda Martín Alcoff is a professor of philosophy at Hunter College and the CUNY Graduate Center and the author of Visible Identities: Race, Gender, and the Self. She is currently at work on a new book on sexual violence, and another on decolonizing epistemology.

[Cinzia Arruzza is an Assistant Professor of Philosophy at the New School for Social Research in New York and a feminist and socialist activist. She is the author of the author of Dangerous Liaisons: The Marriages and Divorces of Marxism and Feminism.

Tithi Bhattacharya teaches history at Purdue University. Her first book, The Sentinels of Culture: Class, Education, and the Colonial Intellectual in Bengal (Oxford, 2005), is about the obsession with culture and education in the middle class. Her work has been published in journals such as the Journal of Asian Studies, South Asia Research and New Left Review, and she is currently working on a book project entitled Uncanny Histories: Fear, Superstition and Reason in Colonial Bengal.

Nancy Fraser Nancy Fraser is Loeb Professor of Philosophy and Politics at the New School for Social Research. Her books include Redistribution or Recognition and Fortunes of Feminism.

Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor is an assistant professor in Princeton University's Center for African American Studies and the author of From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation.

Rasmea Yousef Odeh is the associate director of the Arab American Action Network and leader of that group's Arab Women's Committee.

Angela Davis is Distinguished Professor Emerita, University of California Santa Cruz and a member of the jury for the 2012 Russell Tribunal on Palestine.

Barbara Ransby is an activist, writer, historian, and professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago. She is the author of Ella Baker and the Black Freedom Movement, the editor-in-chief of SOULS, and President of the National Women's Studies Association.]

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