Tag Archives: feminism

Feminism: Not Just for Middle-Class White Ladies

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Debbie says:

Lane Windham, writing in The American Prospect, examines the role of working-class feminism in the Trump resistance. Windham gives us a little history:

[W]orking-class feminists have long been potent champions for women’s advancement, and 1970s second-wave feminism had deep cross-class roots. The late-night huddle in Betty Friedan’s hotel room that first sparked the National Organization of Women (NOW) included a number of union activists, among them Caroline Davis and Dorothy Haener of the United Auto Workers and Catherine Conroy of the Communications Workers of America. NOW’s founders were fed up with the new Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s refusal to target gender job discrimination while enforcing Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Working women activists formed more than a dozen organizations to improve “pink collar” office work in the 1970s. … Women like … roaring NYC firefighters fought their way into all-male blue-collar enclaves in the 1970s and 1980s, filing lawsuits and demanding respect.

She also delves into what’s happening now:

A big difference between the working-class feminism of the 1970s and that of the 2010s has to do with the economy. When those firefighters and pink-collar secretaries fought for inclusion 40 years ago, they demanded access to an economy marked by broad prosperity. Working people’s share of the pie had been steadily growing for decades, and they saw no reason why that wouldn’t continue. Since that time, working people’s prospects have dimmed and their wages have stagnated; the United States has largely traded manufacturing jobs for low-paid, contingent service jobs.

Windham doesn’t talk, in this article anyway, about what has happened to the “working people’s share of the pie,” and how it has relentlessly been transferred to the very rich and the super-rich. She doesn’t talk about how intersectional progressives need to think about work, and jobs, and income in the 21st century. She does talk about the disconnect between American women and feminism:

While the majority of females voted for Clinton, a full 61 percent of white women without a college degree walked into a voting booth and filled in a bubble beside the name of a man who bragged about grabbing women’s genitals without consent. … it’s clear that many of these women share the sense of dislocation and despair that drove white, blue-collar men’s votes.

In an Obama presidency, even in a George [pick your middle initial] Bush presidency, we had some luxury to divide ourselves, to say “that’s your feminism, this is mine,” or “that’s your anti-racist approach and this is mine.” Those of us with privilege need to be working hard at making our skills and resources available to those with less privilege. All of us need to be focusing on the goals: not just removing Trump and his band of vicious anti-human policymakers (a good start!) but building a country that puts people and the planet first, and is perfectly happy to empty overflowing pockets to fund our priorities. Windham namechecks Fight for $15 and Black Lives Matter, drawing the connections between economic justice, racism, and sexism.

Movements like these, unions with 21st century values, and mobilizations of working class women are all building blocks in the big fight of our time.

 

International (and Local) Women’s Day 2017

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Laurie and Debbie say:

Today is International Women’s Day. This commemoration started more or less simultaneously in the U.S. and Europe in the early part of the 20th century. Valentina Zarya, writing at Forbes, tells us:

the first time it was observed was back in Feb. 28, 1908. About 15,000 women marched through New York City demanding shorter hours, better pay, and the right to vote. On the same day the following year, women staged another demonstration — this time with the blessing of the Socialist Party of America. They continued to do this on the last Sunday of February each year until 1913.

Since European women were staging their own demonstrations at different times throughout this same period, a consensus was reached in 1913 to observe IWD on March 8. It’s the day women around the world have observed ever since.

Why March 8 specifically? The chosen date commemorates the women’s march in Petrograd, Russia, that sparked the Russian Revolution in 1917. Yes, that’s worth re-stating: Women’s demands for equality sparked one of the most significant events in modern European history.

In the United States in recent years, IWD has been a small-scale event, with small demonstrations organized by feminist activists. This year is a different story in the United States, and in 30-50 countries around the world.

According to the BBC, in the United States, about a dozen US congresswomen walked out of work, and schools in some districts had to close for lack of staff. Women throughout Ireland went on strike, protesting Irish abortion laws.  Polish women at marches and rallies called for equal rights, respect, and protection against violence. Sweden’s women’s football team posted tweets from Swedish women who fight to make headway in male-dominated fields of work on the back of their jerseys.

Government response included a commitment by Iceland to make employers prove they provide equal pay, and a EU150,000 Gender Equality Prize announced by the government of Finland.

At home in Debbie’s city (Oakland, California) about 700 people gathered in front of City Hall for songs, dance, speeches, and a march around the downtown area. Debbie was there, protesting and taking these pictures.

Emily Crockett at Vox provides some very useful context:

It’s not clear how successful the women’s strike will be — especially in the United States, where the labor movement has become relatively weak and where “general strikes” are a difficult tactic to pull off.

But even if this particular event flops, it definitely won’t be the last we hear from women who oppose Trump. Organizers of the Women’s March have already done an impressive job turning a one-day event into a longer-term movement, and A Day Without a Woman is just one of many actions to come. ..

The idea behind a women’s general strike is that if women refuse to do all of their typical work for a day, it will force people to notice how important and under-appreciated that work is.

The “International Women’s Strike” might still end up working more like a protest or a boycott than a bona fide general strike, Elisabeth Clemens, professor of sociology at the University of Chicago, told Vox. But it can still be a very effective way to draw attention and energy to women’s rights.

“The name does project a sense of global solidarity, and that’s a really powerful move,” Clemens said.

Sometimes, if it’s clear that a large number of people share your grievances — that if you show up to a protest, you won’t be alone and thousands of others will join you — it can create a virtuous cycle that attracts more and more new activists who are fired up for women’s rights.

Like the big women’s march in January, the feeling at the Oakland event was determined, activated, and forward-looking. At least where Debbie was, people know that this is a long fight, that it’s everyone’s fight, and that it’s a fight for our lives. Next year, we predict that the International Women’s Day actions around the world, and in the U.S., will have an even bigger impact. After all, we have a 1917 precedent to live up to!