Why do we need the women’s march?
Historically women have had to hop through a series of hurdles in order to achieve access to fundamental human rights. For example, women had to fight for their right to access education from 1600. It took determination, courage and organised action to have universities open for women during the second half of 1800s. Another example: it was not until 1928 that all women over 21 in the UK were allowed to vote in equal terms with men.
Yet, it is still a world-wide issue that more often than not, most women face inequality in their day to day lives. The problem becomes bigger, because as women gain terrain in the workplace, the capitalist world demands from them to fulfil not only the tasks of their brand new job commitments, but also the responsibilities that they were assigned long ago. These two video clips summarise what the current status is for men:
In the first video the man responds to the interruption by staring at the camera waiting for the world behind him to fix itself because he has just one job, to be a professional diplomatic/academic. In the second video we see what women are expected, have to, and do deal with every day.
One of the intentions of the strike marking International Women’s day, mainly in LatinAmerica, was to make visible the importance of unpaid labour that women undertake. Care and housework are the invisible support that keeps the capitalist engine running. The premise of this year’s march was to raise the issue of recognising the importance of this labour that is taken for granted. However as it turned out, it was a bigger problem to strike and stand for women’s right than it was to keep on working as usual. But why?
As it has been discussed here and here that striking is a privilege. Even in the UK, where people would think living conditions are fair and their human rights respected. I realised this was the case when I was encouraging women to strike in order to make visible the difficulties that women around the world face. It was pointed out to me by a trade union rep that people could get fired over this. “Under UK law the right to strike is tied directly to trade union membership, and there are many things a union has to do before they can call a strike legally.” And this is here, in ‘the land of hope and progress’, or at least as it is seen from outside anyway.
With participation of around 40 different countries, the strike was popular particularly in LatinAmerica and the US, with estimates above 20,000 people according to trends on Facebook, marching in each of these. Interestingly, most of the attendees were not women that suffer from the worst working conditions and oppression, like workers from the textile industry, carers, housewives, teachers; but rather women who could afford to spare a day’s pay.
It’s yet to be seen what good these movements can bring about. First, to put on the table the issues that need solving. Second, to help us women reflect how we treat each other. Say if we have other women at our service, we should respect their rights and recognise our shared humanity.
From my personal account:
As I was getting ready to strike, I read a few articles that announced a call for a global strike. At the same time, I read the comments and realised other women were worried that striking would affect them more negatively than any benefits. So I decided to share in my social media, not only the calls for strike, but also advice on what to do if you were unable - for whatever reason - to march on the day. I decided I would show up in the office where I work and not work, but instead, talk about issues, being a woman in the workplace, with my colleagues. So I came in the room announcing I was not going to work that day as “other women are striking because the living conditions are unfair.”
I’m not sure why, but at first I thought all I was going to hear was “we didn’t need any of that.” However, my colleagues, all female, encouraged me to give a speech. I had brought a cake to celebrate some of the privileges we now enjoy. We had tea with the cake as everyone shared a bit of their experience in our patriarchal society. We recognised ourselves in each other: being objectified, enslaved, cut off from our sexualities, harassed, underpaid… It was saddening that we still face such injustices. On the other hand, coming together gives us hope and makes us stronger.
Is striking a right or a privilege? We have the right to post our opinions on politics and global issues
on social media like Facebook, and we have the right to support particular Governments and groups.
So why should it not be a right to take action? We live in an age of backseat politics and fake news,
but events, especially recent ones, do and are affecting our future. So why shouldn’t we
march and protest? It’s our future, and we need to fight for it! At the very least march for it.
It isn’t just our future we need to fight for. Recently, it has been announced that young girls are
skipping school because they can’t afford sanitary products. As if periods (and adolescence) aren’t
painful enough (literally and metaphorically), without having to worry about sanitary products. And
when pupils are forced, or choose to miss school to spare themselves the embarrassment of having
an accident, (which, let’s be honest, it isn’t a choice), we need to march for them! March for their
rights to access sanitary products, and have an uninterrupted education.
It saddens me that a lot of women didn’t march - because they couldn’t, or because they were worried how it would affect their jobs or their everyday lives. As an employer, I would always support the right to protest, especially for women’s rights. In the era of Trump, we need to rally, support and secure our rights that our grandparents fought for. After all, it isn’t called women’s privilege. Surely, if women don’t have the right to march, it is a paradox of what we are trying to achieve.
Participating in the march was liberating. I was proud to be a woman, and a global citizen. The
objective of a march is to protest, make a change and take action. The women’s march was a
movement and every woman, whether they were there or not, had the right for it to happen. What
is a privilege is to have a voice, and have that voice be heard.
So, as a woman in 2017, when ‘locker talk’ and sexism leads to presidency. When rape is a culture and only gets someone 6 months in prison. I accept this privilege of having my voice heard. I don my pussy hat, and I wear it with righteous pride! Don’t rub this pussy up the wrong way!