Striking at the Roots

Drew Gawel, MakeMe/TakeMe II Guardians

The March 8 inter­na­tion­al women’s strike has come togeth­er in respon­se to the extreme vio­lence with which we are con­front­ed today. It has come togeth­er to call for a fem­i­nist prac­tice ade­quate to this his­tor­i­cal need: indeed, to call for a fem­i­nist inter­na­tion­al.

Orga­niz­ers in New York, across the coun­try, and around the world are fol­low­ing the Argen­tini­an coali­tion Ni Una Menos in acknowl­edg­ing that vio­lence again­st wom­en has many facets. It is domes­tic vio­lence, but also the vio­lence of the work­place and of debt; the vio­lence of state sanc­tioned racism and xeno­pho­bia; of homo- and trans­pho­bia; the vio­lent crim­i­nal­iza­tion of migra­to­ry move­ments. It is the vio­lence of incar­cer­a­tion and depor­ta­tion; vio­lence again­st the earth; vio­lence again­st native wom­en and their strug­gles; and insti­tu­tion­al vio­lence again­st women’s bod­ies through lack of access to free abor­tions, health­care and child­care. It is vio­lence again­st our very means of social repro­duc­tion: again­st the rela­tions that form the con­di­tions of our lives and our free­dom.

This threat to the repro­duc­tion of our mate­ri­al and social exis­tence changes our per­spec­tive on the prob­lems we con­front. It forces us to under­stand and inter­ro­gate the rela­tion between insti­tu­tion­al and domes­tic vio­lence, between pro­duc­tive and “unpro­duc­tive” labor, between our bod­i­ly auton­o­my and our col­lec­tive capac­i­ty to strug­gle, between the vio­lence of cap­i­tal and the state and exist­ing hier­ar­chies amongst wom­en.

In order to con­front the­se myr­i­ad forms of social­ly con­nect­ed vio­lence, our strug­gles must be con­nect­ed as well. This means that we can­not build a gen­uine­ly rad­i­cal or trans­for­ma­tive fem­i­nist prac­tice that ignores or down­plays struc­tural racism, the lega­cies of colo­nial­ism, homo- and trans­pho­bia, or the extreme inequal­i­ties and envi­ron­men­tal dev­as­ta­tion gen­er­at­ed by glob­al cap­i­tal­ism.

Our social con­di­tions place demands upon our strug­gles. They force us to change what it means to strike, requir­ing that such a prac­tice ori­ent itself to struc­tures of care, to sex and domes­tic work, to glob­al chains of cap­i­tal­ist, state, and inti­mate vio­lence. A fem­i­nist prac­tice ade­quate to our times can only be an anti-cap­i­tal­ist fem­i­nism. It can only be a fem­i­nism by and for work­ing class and unwaged wom­en, wom­en of col­or, immi­grant wom­en, indige­nous wom­en, Mus­lim wom­en, queer and trans wom­en, sex work­ers, domes­tic and care work­ers, and moth­ers.

The stakes are high. I would like to ask, then: what is a fem­i­nist prac­tice ade­quate to the task of respond­ing to this his­tor­i­cal need?

We hope it will begin to emerge on the streets on March 8. In New York, our march will not stop at City Hall, but at an immi­grant deten­tion cen­ter, at the African Buri­al Ground, at the Tri­an­gle Shirt­waist Fac­to­ry where immi­grant wom­en work­ers burned at the stake of cap­i­tal over one hun­dred years ago. It will stop at Stonewall and at Zuc­cot­ti Park. We hope that bring­ing our strike to the­se sites will reveal lines of con­nec­tion and sol­i­dar­i­ty not vis­i­ble before.

In New York and around the coun­try the strike has brought togeth­er col­lec­tives of wom­en who have strug­gled for years again­st police vio­lence, pris­ons, depor­ta­tion, gen­tri­fi­ca­tion, and impe­ri­al­ism; it has brought togeth­er wom­en who are oblig­ed to care for free and who are oblig­ed to care by cap­i­tal. Here and around the world rad­i­cals of many per­sua­sions are mobi­liz­ing a diver­si­ty of tac­tics to pro­tect each oth­er from such things and to bring vis­i­bil­i­ty to our strug­gles and their rela­tion to each oth­er.

But this is just the begin­ning. A tru­ly trans­for­ma­tive fem­i­nism requires us to con­sti­tute affini­ties, but also to draw lines and cut ties. It requires us to reval­ue as polit­i­cal the sites of our repro­duc­tion and the repro­duc­tion of our strug­gles. It requires new forms of col­lec­tive prac­tice, but also that we polit­i­cal­ly recon­sti­tute the fem­i­nized and racial­ized prac­tices of care, of har­bor­ing, of col­lec­tive sol­i­dar­i­ty and affec­tive respon­se that have been ren­dered invis­i­ble by our own polit­i­cal for­ma­tions, yet which have kept the­se strug­gles alive. It requires us to rec­og­nize that the for­ma­tion of strug­gle and the pro­duc­tion of knowl­edge and vision are insep­a­ra­ble.

A fem­i­nism ade­quate to our times requires a mil­i­tan­cy that speaks to the­se things: a mil­i­tan­cy that emerges from the con­di­tions of our social repro­duc­tion and not from the tired impass­es of macho pol­i­tics. We must bring our mil­i­tan­cy to care, to sex, to the bor­der, the bath­room, and the bar­ri­cade.

Such a fem­i­nism must stand with the water pro­tec­tors of Stand­ing Rock; with the queer wom­en of col­or around the coun­try who gal­va­nized the strug­gle again­st killer racist cops; with teach­ers and moth­ers ris­ing across this con­ti­nent and around the world; with Palestine; with fem­i­nist cul­tures of resis­tance from Kur­dis­tan to Poland and many oth­er places known and unknown. It must stand with the moth­ers, sis­ters, witch­es, whores and lovers who again­st all odds have tend­ed to the tra­di­tions of the oppressed; and with the wom­en whose labor holds this world togeth­er and who thus have the capac­i­ty to shut it down.

We are in the mid­st of re-cre­at­ing our­selves as polit­i­cal sub­jects, poten­tial­ly as rev­o­lu­tion­ary ones. This requires col­lec­tive­ly sit­u­at­ing our­selves in rela­tion to a moment of dan­ger and pos­si­bil­i­ty. In this moment, we thus strike not only as “paro,” but, in the words of Ni Una Menos, we strike “[b]ecause free­dom implies defin­i­tive­ly dis­man­tling the patri­archy.” This kind of dis­man­tling can­not hap­pen with­out rad­i­cal­ly trans­form­ing both our con­scious­ness and our social being. Today we strike at the roots of our oppres­sion to make room for this pos­si­bil­i­ty.

The spir­it of this piece was con­ceived col­lec­tive­ly.

Author of the article

studies and works in New York.