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-in 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.