Beyond Lean-In: For a Feminism of the 99% and a Militant International Strike on March 8

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The mas­sive women’s march­es of Jan­u­ary 21
st may mark the begin­ning 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 labor rights. While Trump’s bla­tant misog­y­ny was the imme­di­ate trig­ger for the mas­sive respon­se on Jan­u­ary 21st, the attack on wom­en (and all work­ing peo­ple) long pre­dates his admin­is­tra­tion. Women’s con­di­tions of life, espe­cial­ly those of wom­en of col­or and of work­ing, unem­ployed and migrant wom­en, have steadi­ly dete­ri­o­rat­ed over the last 30 years, thanks to finan­cial­iza­tion and cor­po­rate glob­al­iza­tion. Lean-in fem­i­nism and oth­er vari­ants of cor­po­rate fem­i­nism have failed the over­whelm­ing major­i­ty of us, 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 labor rights. As we see it, the new wave of women’s mobi­liza­tion 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 mas­sive women’s demon­stra­tion of the last Novem­ber in Italy to the protests and the women’s strike in defense of repro­duc­tive rights in South Korea and Ire­land. What is strik­ing about the­se mobi­liza­tions is that sev­er­al of them com­bined strug­gles again­st male vio­lence with oppo­si­tion to the casu­al­iza­tion of labor 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 defense of repro­duc­tive rights on March 8th. In this, we join with fem­i­nist groups from around thir­ty coun­tries who have called for such a strike. The idea is to mobi­lize 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, strik­ing in edu­ca­tion­al insti­tu­tions. The­se actions are aimed at mak­ing vis­i­ble the needs and aspi­ra­tions of those whom lean-in fem­i­nism ignored: wom­en in the for­mal labor 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. 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; the vio­lence of dis­crim­i­na­to­ry poli­cies again­st les­bian, trans and queer wom­en, the vio­lence of state crim­i­nal­iza­tion of migra­to­ry move­ments, the vio­lence 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 col­or and work­ing and unem­ployed wom­en, on les­bian, gen­der non­con­form­ing, and trans-wom­en.

The women’s march­es of Jan­u­ary 21st have shown that in the Unit­ed States 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 grass-roots, anti-cap­i­tal­ist feminism–a fem­i­nism in sol­i­dar­i­ty with work­ing wom­en, their fam­i­lies, and their allies through­out the world. 

Authors of the article

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

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.

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.

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

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.

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.

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

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.

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