Last year the largest protest in the history of this country brought 4 million women into the streets. A march that was originally organized as a women’s protest on the first day that President Trump sat in the White House, Jan. 21, quickly morphed into over 600 marches in cities and towns across the country.
determination of women in every corner of the country to make a
statement against the “Misogynist In Chief” and to exhibit their
anger at the ongoing rollback of women’s rights was on display. The
national organizers had no demands for the marches so every woman
made up their own. The shock of the media and the women themselves at
their numbers meant they could not be ignored.
young women at the march in Washington, D.C., had never before been
in a demonstration of 60,000 to 80,000 people. One woman commented,
“Early on there was so much wrangling about march permits, but when
you have this many women, we just went wherever we wanted. There was
no way we could be blocked. I felt so free.”
the march, many thought it had been a one-time expression of women’s
anger that was sparked by the election of a president. But they had
not listened to Angela Davis, who was the last speaker and quoted
Ella Baker, “We who believe in freedom cannot rest until it comes.”
than two months later, women hit the streets again on International
Women’s Day, March 8. These actions were organized by International
Women’s Strike, U.S. in solidarity with over 50 countries where
women were planning strikes on that day.
the United States the organizers began to explain and popularize
their platform calling for a “Feminism of the 99%” and clearly
addressed economic inequality, racial and sexual violence plus
imperial wars abroad. Thirty cities and towns across the U.S. saw
rallies, marches and meetings. There were also strikes of women
in paid and unpaid work.
people knew that what had started out as a reaction to an election
would soon explode in a completely different direction.
Burke: “#MeToo is now a movement”
millennia of experiencing misogyny exhibited by bullying, sexual
harassment, and violence, women started speaking out, and when they
did it became a deluge with no end.
hashtag #MeToo was started 10 years ago by Tarana Burke. She is
program director for “Girls For Gender Equity.” As a survivor of
abuse she wanted to find a way towards healing for young girls of
color. She explained on “Democracy Now!” that someone had said to
her “me too” and it started changing the healing process within
herself. These two words were “about reaching the places that other
people would not go, bringing messages and words of encouragement to
survivors of sexual violence where other people wouldn’t be talking
cascading catalyst was when Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein was
criminally investigated after dozens of women started coming forward.
Burke is not surprised by the outpouring of allegations but, “it is
important to realize that for every R. Kelly or Bill Cosby or Harvey
Weinstein, there is an owner of a grocery store, coach, teacher,
neighbor. We don’t pay attention ’til it is a celebrity. We
need to keep talking, but this is not about a hashtag—it is not a
moment, it is a movement.” She encourages people to look at the
numbers: “This is a pandemic.”
soon would become clear how deep and pervasive this pandemic is
throughout the society. Burke’s hashtag democratized the struggle
as it gave voice to all women who had not been heard. The victim or
the perpetrator did not have to be famous, it was now all about women
speaking and listening to each other.
was also shocking to union members when actions of top levels of
union leaders were exposed. The Screen Actors Guild (SAG) and the
Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists (ACTRA)
were accused by Mia Kirshner of “inadequate protection against
sexual harassment and abuse in the film industry.”
it was revealed that SEIU Executive Vice President Scott Courtney was
put on leave and then resigned for abusing his power over women staff
members who were his subordinates, a number of SEIU staff said,
“Finally! What took so long?” Courtney was a top-level strategist
for the Fight For 15 campaign. Soon afterward, two other top staff in
Chicago resigned. When the phrase, “this was an open secret” came
out, it was clear to SEIU staff and union members that having an
ethics policy (SEIU has a comprehensive one) means nothing. Members
now need to empower staff, as staff have empowered them to take on
abusive worksite managers.
is an even deeper meaning here for all unions. At least half of all
SEIU members are women. There are many women on staff and in
leadership positions. In the last few years there has been an
affirmative action plan in place to increase the number of people of
color in leadership positions at all levels of the union. But as so
many unions, white men still dominate in the top levels. They are the
chief strategists. Just as on corporate boards, that is where the
power lies, and when women on staff speak up about abuse, those at
the top circle the wagons and “protect” the organization.
of course, is not unique to SEIU. In most unions those men are the
same ones who do not really believe in an organizing model with
rank-and-file control and decision making. Business unionism not only
makes for weaker unions; it has left harassed and assaulted staff
members as victims.
the accusations continued to spread and started hitting members of
Congress, noted feminists started warning that there would be a
backlash against women speaking out. It is now clear that the
movement is getting stronger regardless of apologists (Democrats and
Republicans) for the abusers. “Listen To Women” will be a major
focus of the marches this year.
year of attacks on social programs
first attack from the White House came the first day of Trump’s
presidency as four million women were in the streets. He made a
statement to the women of the world that his first executive action
would be to eliminate funding for programs that fight global
reinstated the federal “Global Gag Rule” from the Reagan era.
This is the international version of the Hyde Amendment—the
bipartisan law that bars federal funds from being used for abortion
services. This prohibits international NGOs from receiving funds if
they even speak to patients or provide pamphlets that mention
abortion. The rule is in effect even in countries where abortions are
legal. Many small NGOs as well as international aid groups
depend on that money to fund their operations. This measure is
detrimental to women’s health services worldwide.
March Trump issued an executive order to revoke the 2014 Fair Pay and
Workplaces Act, which ensured that federal contracts were awarded
only to companies with no history of unsafe working conditions,
sexual harassment, or discrimination complaints.
May Trump’s first budget threatened to slash government programs
largely used by poor women and children. The Women, Infants and
Children (WIC) program was cut by $200 million. This program ensures
health and nutrition for mothers, newborns, and young children. The
program remains in place but is greatly hampered by the cuts.
Trump issued an administrative rule that eliminates the requirement
that all insurance company plans cover birth control.
have been persistent attacks on Planned Parenthood, starting with a
move to eliminate Title X funding. This is a federal subsidy to
organizations that offer services related to contraception, pregnancy
care, fertility, and cancer screenings for persons with low income.
Previously, there was a rule that barred states from withholding
funds from organizations just because they offer abortion services.
In April a bill was passed that put an end to this provision,
basically giving states the freedom to defund Planned Parenthood.
continue women’s rights restrictions
Governor Greg Abbott signed two bills that he calls “Pro-Life
Insurance Reform.” This legislation prohibits insurance providers
from “forcing” any policy holder to purchase general health
insurance that pays for elective abortions. If a woman wants
insurance to cover abortions, she must now purchase a separate
policy. The bill does not provide exceptions for rape or incest. At
the signing, Gov. Abbott announced, “This ensures that no Texan is
ever required to pay for a procedure that ends the life of an
second bill expands reporting requirements for complications
resulting from abortions. Within three days of treatment, doctors
must report the patient’s birth year, county, race, and marital
Carolina Gov. Henry McMasters issued an executive order to direct
state agencies to block women from getting preventive care at Planned
Pennsylvania, on Dec. 18, Gov. Tom Wolf vetoed an anti-abortion bill
that had passed the state legislature. Wolf told a crowd at
Philadelphia City Hall, “This legislation is an attempt to
criminalize the decisions that women must be allowed to make about
their own health care.” It passed the House earlier in the month by
120-70 and passed the state Senate last February, 32-18.
Republicans can still try to override the veto, but appear to lack
the two-thirds majority to do so.
Senate Bill 3 would have banned abortions after 19 weeks of
pregnancy (with minimal exceptions such as to prevent the death of
the mother), four weeks earlier than the current law. It also
would have restricted doctors from “causing the death of an unborn
child by means of dismembering the unborn child and extracting the
unborn child one piece at a time from the uterus through the use of
various instruments. This describes the dilation and evacuation
method, which is the most common abortion procedure in the second
judges have already issued injunctions against this restriction in
states such as Texas, Alabama, Kansas, Arkansas, and Oklahoma.
to Planned Parenthood, the Pennsylvania bill would have contained the
most vigorous time restrictions in the country. It was seen as a
bellwether for passing similar bills in other states. It was
opposed by the Pennsylvania Medical Society and the Pennsylvania
section of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
Among their concerns is that women often receive a critical
ultrasound around the 20th week of pregnancy that can detect
abnormalities that, in many cases, can be life threatening to the
fetus. The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
reports that delivery before 23 weeks of gestation typically results
women to march in local areas
year, the marches will be decentralized. Women will turn out in U.S.
cities and towns on Jan. 20 and 21, reflecting their increased anger,
activism, and resistance over the past year. Some women still believe
that an electoral strategy is the way towards change, but
transformative change has always come about through the pressure of
social movements independent of elections. Women have seen their
issues immobilized and their time wasted by politicians and then used
as fund-raising ploys.
women’s marches this year will be a time to organize and to make
our demands visible and clear. The economic demands of the women on
strike in December at the Christian Care Home in Ferguson, Mo., are a
significant example. After striking for 25 days in 20-degree weather,
they received “illegal” replacement notices from the board of
Christian Care Homes right before Christmas.
demands for justice by the Indigenous women who will be marching
together in the Women’s March in Phoenix, Ariz., are particularly
notable. They are asking women to wear red to raise awareness of the
missing and murdered indigenous women. Some 84 percent of Native
American women experience violence in their lifetime. The marchers
are also connecting their violence “to the struggle of the
continued assaults and desecration of Mother Earth.”
what most women demonstrators will hear from the rally platforms is a
call for them to go all out to elect Democrats in the mid-term
elections or run for office themselves—in this same big business
party. The movement that we clearly need, however, must be
fiercely independent of both of the political parties that are bought
and paid for by the bosses. A movement must be built that can
stand on its own and demand all that we need from whomever sits in
the legislature and in the White House.
important effort in that direction is the organizing that has begun
for the International Women’s Day action in New York City. The
organizers, in solidarity with global actions in 2018, call
themselves the International Women’s Strike NYC, and describe
themselves as a coalition of grassroots groups and labor
organizations. They state their goal as bringing together as many
people as possible under a militant feminist banner.
does militant feminism mean to them? They say: “We would like
next March 8th to be a day of action and visibility by and for
working class women: women of color, immigrant women, Muslim women,
queer and trans women, sex workers, domestic and care workers, and
want to continue recovering the radical history of the International
Women’s Day by striking, marching and protesting together to
demand free health care for all, including free abortion,
contraception, and reproductive care; to oppose the Trump
administration’s xenophobic and Islamophobic policies; to protest
tax cuts for the rich; to demand social provisioning, environmental
justice and a liveable minimum wage. We hope that next March
8th will contribute to build a feminism for the 99%, in
solidarity with working women, their families, and their allies
throughout the world.” Women around the country should follow their
>> The article above was written by Ann Montague, and is reprinted from Socialist Action.