It is often forgotten that the international March 8th women’s day began with striking female factory workers. The strike, the withholding of women’s work, lies at its origins, and not the docile protests or celebrations of acquired “rights” that would later mark the occasion.
This year’s call for an international women’s strike on women’s day recalls earlier rebellions and repeats a more recent gesture. The aim remains, at one level, protest: of giving voice and calling attention to the violence, exploitation and oppression of women. More significantly, though, it is a gesture of withdrawal from an essentially patriarchal capitalist production and social reproduction; a potentially contagious gesture that resonates beyond simple appeals for recognition and protection by the State.
The danger is that the women’s strike, this year or in the future, limit itself to such appeals (however important they may be for some, at a specific time and place), subsequently falling into one more “dead”, predictable parade of political folklore. If the institutions and relations of patriarchal power can be mitigated, pushed back, by such strikes, it is equally important to remember that it is these institutions and social relations that produce patriarchy and their underlying gendered “ways of life”.
A radical feminism must not only contest the oppression of women, but ultimately, the creation of women as the subservient sex-gender to male-capitalist domination.