We don’t learn loads about women + strikes and when we do, it’s often women within their workplaces fighting for rights and recognition, such as the Ford sewing machinists strike, 1968 which inspired the film Made in Dagenham.
When Girl Love #5 comes out later this year, you can read about the Matchgirls strike, 1888. Clearly this is crucial, overlooked history that we need to know, but there is something different about women striking as a class of people, across sectors and regions.
The UN declared 1975 to be the International Women’s Year and it was in this year that a feminist group, Redstockings staged a 24 hour strike, renamed as a “Women’s Day Off” to make it harder for employers to penalise those who took part and to make it more likely to secure support.
October 24th saw 90% of women in Iceland refuse to attend work, cook or look after kids and the country was brought to a standstill.
It’s so funny to imagine what the chaos looked like for men, who had to take their children to work, feed and entertain them – as well as compensate for the work that was usually done by women. Accounts from women are more inspiring: many attended rallies. It must have been empowering to fully comprehend the contribution that women make, and see it vindicated.
It is the crossover of interpersonal relations and political ones that makes it so radical. Not only were women shown to prop up the country economically but men in families were forced to acknowledge the unpaid labour that women do in the home.
Vaga de Totes is a feminist collective, who curated a day of protest on the 22nd October with 600 different organisations taking part. Their broad manifesto defends a woman’s right to abortion and economic freedom and is absolutely pro-migrant and anti-austerity. Women’s work is so consistently devalued, so it isn’t surprising that women bear the brunt of the economic crisis.
It’s amazing to see so many different groups come together under such a wide range of ideas, especially when you’reused to seeing in-fighting over the smallest of issues. The nature of a strike means that it simply can’t happen if there aren’t enough people willing to set aside differences for a common goal.
On Monday 3rd October, women across cities in Poland attended rallies rather than go to work or university. A proposed law would inflict a total ban on abortion, so women responded by demonstrating how effectively they can mobilise. Reportedly up to 6 million women took part in the strike, many dressing in black to mourn the loss of their reproductive rights.
This morning’s good news was that the government will remove its support for the law, with one minister quoted as saying that the women have “caused us to think and taught us humility”. We can pray for a day when women are no longer required to teach basic manners and common sense to grown men, but in today’s context, this is an excellent win for women’s movements. After seeing how quickly the government U-turned, it will hopefully inspire further action in Poland and similar demonstrations in other countries.
Solidarity forever xoxo