Women On Strike
I've been reading some articles about today's Day Without A Woman strike actions, and they've coalesced around a familiar theme: the question of privilege. Which women can take a day off of work? When a protest is more accessible to the rich than the poor, those with careers as opposed to those doing wage labor, is it simply an indulgent performance?


Normally, I think privilege is a pretty powerful lens. But on the question of a general strike, I think it's missing the point.


A strike is not a vacation day that a large group of like-minded citizens decide to take together. A strike is a coordinated action designed to disrupt the ordinary flow of economic activity. It is a tactic whereby labor applies pressure to management in order to extract concessions.


Or, to put it another way, if your boss is okay with you striking, then you aren't striking hard enough.


Let's return to that question above: "Which women can take a day off of work?"


The word that's doing a lot of heavy lifting in that sentence is "can". ("Can" does a lot of heavy lifting in a lot of sentences.) So let's pick it apart.


Every woman in the United States, save for some prisoners, has the legal right to not go into work today. (Thank the Thirteenth Amendment for that one.)


And hell, even prisoners go on strike! Even when it's legal to force someone to work, you can still refuse to do it.


Both legally and metaphysically, any woman can go on strike. When we ask "Can women take time off work?" we're really gesturing to a whole host of other complicated issues. Like, "will a woman living paycheck-to-paycheck be able to feed herself (and/or her family) if she does not show up for work?" Or "will a woman with an at-will employment job be fired for striking?" Or sometimes "what are the moral implications of striking from a life-and-death job—medicine, emergency services, etc.?"


Those questions are real ones, and they demand answers. But more than simple answers, they demand solutions. Some women will not be able to strike on Wednesday and feed themselves on Thursday—what are we going to do about it? Some women will be fired for striking—how can we protect them?


I don't have the answers. But an effective movement for economic justice will need to create the answers, will need to become the answer. A general strike cannot be effective unless it is truly general. We need a world where every woman in America can afford to go on strike, and stay on strike until justice is achieved. 

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