It’s International Women’s Day 2018 and it seems like women are winning. After all, major corporations are marking our day – McDonalds turned the “M” in the signs at some locations upside down to be a “W” and Mattel is making of a line of Barbies of important women. This is progress right?
No. It is complete cooption, as Tithi Bhattacharya pointed out in her excellent interview on Democracy Now! International Women’s Day is a day to honour the struggles of women workers. It is an inherently radical day of action that challenges capitalism and the systems of oppression on which it was built (sexism, racism, colonialism, etc.). Part of the aim of this cooption is to weaken the feminist movement, making IWD less of a day of action for women workers and more of a lucrative marketing strategy. Maybe with our Frida Kahlo (yikes) barbie and our Big Mac, we’ll forget about the abuse of women workers around the world: the long work days, the sexual harassment and assault, the poor pay, the precarious work, the horrible working conditions, and the lack of affordable (or any) childcare. Maybe we’ll forget how when we are done our (paid) work we are expected to care for the needs of everyone in our lives – filling the holes left by a vicious neoliberal capitalism that has destroyed not only social services and programs but a sense of community solidarity and neighbourhood connectedness. Maybe we’ll forget how corporations howl on the rare occasions when the minimum wage gets raised and how bosses try to break our unions.
But women all over the world are refusing to fall for the cooption of our movement. Today, women around the world are striking from both paid and unpaid work. In Spain, for example, hundreds of thousands of women spent March 8th in the streets protesting the sexism that is inherent to capitalism. Earlier this week a wildcat strike of West Virginian teachers defied both the government and their union leaders – and WON their demands. Women workers (which most of us are, shake off that middle-class label, it means nothing), united against capitalism, sexism, racism, and all forms of oppression, are extremely powerful.
So don’t ever let them take away your claws and teeth. Show them proudly. Yes, it will scare some people.