On March 8th, the International Women’s Strike struck a chord similar to the Women’s March on Washington 46 days prior. As much a celebration as a show of resistance, in a defiant and yet jubilant declaration of solidarity across difference, all variations of women, their loved ones and allies of all stripes gathered in 400 rallies across the globe to stand together for a radical vision of the future. This vision, organized in explicit opposition to Trumpism and misogyny as much as pernicious and pervasive neoliberal policies that have disproportionately oppressed women for decades, is guided by six common principles, believed to represent shared goals across an array of political commitments: 1) an end to gender violence, 2) reproductive justice for all, 3) labor rights, 4) full social provisioning, 5) an anti-racist and anti-imperialist feminism, and 6) environmental justice for all.
Taking the history of feminism seriously as a teacher, this movement is self-consciously intersectional: in step with the crest of the current wave of feminist action, this generation of womens’ rights activists refuses to collapse difference beneath the goals of a single subset of women. Instead, it envisions itself as a movement for all women, committed to working tirelessly to unite, without erasure, working women, women of color, Native women, disabled women, immigrant women, lesbian, queer and trans women in a massive effort to realize the hoped-for social change.
But what does it mean: all women? As with any such effort, certain tensions mark the landscape. Amid the significant challenges of solidarity without erasure hangs the issue of the very banner itself: naming the movement a movement for women (or a movement about p*ssy ) must be a challenge to feminists to think of gender justice beyond the physical markers of female-ness. It’s a tricky issue, no doubt, to try to include everyone when language functions by virtue of difference, but it is important to bear in mind that the rights of trans women to the name and political position of “woman” has been an issue of hot contention for decades now, and there exists a range of attitudes from within the trans and gender nonconforming community regarding how to relate to the category of woman, or whether to relate to it at all. Featuring “women” in the title of the movement or zeroing in on female anatomy as the crux of the movement has the unintended but troubling effect of reduplicating the binary that has long enforced the marginalization of trans and gender nonconforming people. The question of who has right to a name finds expression in the complicated conversation around pro-life feminists, as well. Feminism has largely been defined by its fundamental commitment to reproductive justice, and the Women’s March platform is staunchly pro-choice; now, it is this commitment that is at odds with the building movement’s inclusive agenda precisely because it marginalizes women, self-identified feminists, who hold a highly controversial commitment to the pro-life platform. Difficult as it may be, this commands us to continue to investigate what inclusivity really means. This is not a call for a catch-all movement, but it is call to recognize and accept that holding space for difference will always be an exercise of considerable effort, and we must allow it to stretch us uncomfortably beyond our comfort zones, assumptions, and hidden prejudices.
If this movement is to prove itself truly radical, let it think beyond the body and beyond the binary, remain open to critical conversation without attack, and match political action with personal reflection every step of the way.