Around the World Women are Fighting for Their Lives!
Women's Day Commemoration
Statement by Emma Allen, Radical Women Organizer, Portland chapter
March 8, International Women's Day, honors working-class women's campaigns for safe job conditions, decent pay, and the right to vote, learn, and live free from discrimination, violence, war, fear and want. Founded by socialists over 100 years ago, the holiday's rebellious spirit lives on as we carry forward the fight against repressive forces.
Women across the globe are taking to the streets to battle for control over their bodies and their lives. Massive protests erupted throughout South Asia when a medical student in New Delhi died after a brutal gang rape on a public bus. Demonstrators called for tougher rape laws, police reforms, and for the government to address the rampant harassment of women.
Meanwhile, Egyptian women combat systematic and often state-sanctioned sexual assaults in public spaces and at protests. Female activists and their male allies formed groups to defend women and called demonstrations to challenge the Morsi government to act against the harassment and rapes. At a recent march in Cairo, some women brandished kitchen knives and batons to show they planned to defend themselves if attacked.
Taliban thugs in Pakistan tried to kill 15-year-old Malala Yousafzai for advocating schooling of girls. The attempt failed, and ignited a global protest in support of female education. And when Irish Catholic doctors forced Savita Halappanavar to bleed to death rather than abort her miscarried fetus, thousands of reproductive rights supporters reacted in outrage. They marched in Dublin chanting "Never Again!" and demanded a public investigation and legal abortion.
U.S. teachers, a predominantly female workforce, are also rising up. A Chicago strike to defend public education electrified unionists across the country. Teachers in the Northwest launched a boycott of the standardized Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) test, sparking a national discussion about the content of quality education. Immigrant women battled xenophobia and government repression. Feminists fought anti-abortion legislation and raised an outcry about Republican politicians spewing sexist, unscientific information about rape and pregnancy.
From Lisbon to Athens, Madrid to Dublin, women were an integral part of strikes against austerity measures that balance the capitalists' economic crisis by cutting the pensions and living standards of working people.
Women bear the brunt of new austerity measures in the United States. On March 1, Democrats and Republicans let "sequestration" go into effect. These massive budget cuts slash social services and devastate poor people and barely surviving workers. For example, 600,000 mothers and children will be denied food aid and 70,000 children will be dropped from Head Start. At least 125,000 families will lose housing vouchers and 900,000 fewer adults will receive critical health care. Four million people will have their unemployment benefits cut by 10 percent. Service cut backs will also throw many women and people of color out of work as they occupy the majority of public sector jobs.
Already more than one in seven women live in poverty. The number in poverty jumps to over 47 percent for families headed by single African American, Latina and Native American mothers. These austerity measures mean they'll have even less, leading to homelessness, hunger and death.
Democrats and Republicans point fingers at each other, but all of them are culpable. The proposal for cuts originated with President Obama and both parties agreed to it with much talk about dealing with a debt "crisis." Despite flowery words, the actions of both parties promote the interests of Corporate America.
This manufactured economic crisis was not caused by funding public needs, but by decades of corporate giveaways, bailouts and a war economy. From 1979 to 2007, wealth for the top 1 percent increased by 275 percent while income barely moved for earners in the bottom fifth. That's capitalism — a for-profit economy driven by the needs of corporations and the desires of the wealthy, at the expense of the health of the majority of humans.
Turn outrage into strategy for victory. To achieve women's liberation, we must tackle the root cause of inequality: capitalism. The for–profit economic system demands women's exploitation — as unpaid caretakers in the home and underpaid workers on the job. Sexual violence, racism, and attacks on reproductive rights serve to reinforce women's second-class status. The capitalist economy survives because of the oppression and destruction of people who are female, of color, workers, queer, young, elderly, sick, or in need. It does not deserve saving.
Feminists can infuse revolutionary politics into community organizing, instead of settling for the scraps that Democrats and Republicans offer. While battling specific budget cuts and attacks on women and workers, we can also build a movement for a sane socialist society run by working people where wealth, power, art and leisure are shared and the state’s role is to help people survive and thrive.
Radical Women members are immersed in grassroots organizing, from fighting to save City College in San Francisco and Crenshaw High School in Los Angeles, to campaigning for state-funded childcare in Washington State, and mobilizing strike support in numerous cities.
Interested in these ideas? Are there issues you'd like to collaborate on? Connect with Radical Women to start working together.
Let's unite to create a desirable future!