At the n+1 website, Dayna Tortorici makes the case for why US women should participate in the upcoming global Women's Strike, scheduled for March 8, which is International Women’s Day. In addition to providing a history of past women's strikes, Tortorici argues that the value of work conducted primarily by women—not only waged work but also, crucially, unwaged work like cleaning the house and raising children—can only be understood by collectively withdrawing that work. In the excerpt below, she addresses the contention that striking is a privilege available only to relatively affluent women:
Being about work, the Women’s Strike is also about money. Implicit in the gesture of striking is a question about economic inequality—inequality between men, women, and gender nonconforming people, but also between women. When we join other women in a general strike, we do not do so on equal terms. Some of us risk more in not working than others, and for some of us the risk is too much. Some see this as an insurmountable obstacle to women’s unity. This point was made recently by Sady Doyle in an op-ed on the Women’s Strike for Elle, under the finger-wagging headline “Go Ahead and Strike, but Know That Many of Your Sisters Can’t.” The implication seemed to be that privileged women should feel guilty for striking, and therefore abstain. Doyle endorses the strike, and calls women’s strikes “exciting for their promise to unify feminist theory and revolutionary practice.” But she also argues that “Without a specific, labor-related point, after all, a ‘strike’ is just a particularly righteous personal day.”
This argument, as Doyle herself concedes (“True, part of the point of a strike is for middle- and upper-class women to stand in solidarity with working-class and poor ones”), is based on false premises. The alternative course of not striking—preserving one’s daily status quo, espousing instead “a kind of guilty, stagnant solidarity of intention,” as Magally Miranda Alcazar and Kate D. Griffiths write in the Nation—helps no one. Instead, it places some women’s fear of hypocrisy over the needs of those they might join—including members of teachers’ unions, SEIU, the Movement for Black Lives, and more who have committed to strike. “Striking is not a privilege,” Alcazar and Griffiths write. “Privilege is not having to strike.” The Women’s Strike asks its participants to consider their role in economic inequality, and to consider their feminism’s role in it, too.
The Women’s Strike isn’t undermined by the fact of difference. The aim is not to present women as already equal in standing or opportunity, despite our right to be. By withdrawing my work, I show my place in the larger economy; when we all do (or don’t), we invite one another to see how our work is interdependent, see the ways we are compelled to exploit one another. And when we see it, we may be able to say with confidence—as the benefiting and exploited members of this system, speaking together—that this is not the system we want.