Mexico’s Women’s March and Strike Confront Rising Violence
The debate broke out because this year Mexican women’s groups organized two actions for the historic conmemoration of March 8, International Women’s Day. The march on Sunday in Mexico City leaves in the afternoon from the Monument to the Revolution to the Zocalo, with other marches planned in cities throughout the country. The 8M march, mirrored globally, has grown year after year in Mexico, alongside the growing violence against women and the growing anger over the lack of serious and effective responses to the insecurity crisis in which we live.
The history of March 8 women’s strikes puts this year’s March 9th call in context. A look at the legacy of women’s strikes shows two basic themes. The first goes back to 1972 with the founding of the Wages for Housework movement. initiated by pioneering women thinkers and organizers, including Selma James and Silvia Federici, among others, in various parts of the world.
I talked with Selma James in London last October about the origin of the global women’s strikes. She said that in 2000, a group of Irish women requested support for a proposal for a day without women on March 8 in Ireland. The proposal was later globalized and became a common strategy in many countries, organized by autonomous groups of women from many sectors–sex workers, domestic workers, single mothers, victims of rape, an international network of black women, and groups in the LGBTQ community.
Another distortion promoted by the media, government officials and part of the population is to reduce our issues to femicides alone. The media’s shortcut for ascribing the movement’s existence to the 137% increase in femicides over the last five years, and to cite the outrage over the recent gruesome and tragic cases of Ingrid, the woman murdered and cut up by her partner, and Fatima, the 7-year old girl abducted from school and abused and murdered, as the straw that broke the camel’s back of our complacency.
In this context, Mexico’s March 9 strike is not only justified, but necessary. It is a genuine expression from below that we will not allow this to continue. By demonstrating the economic impact of women’s work and protesting unfair and bad labor conditions for women’s work, the hope is government and society will wake up to their responsibility to end the violence. Another positive impact of the strike strategy is the public debate it has generated. Discussions in social networks, television and the papers reveal greater attention and awareness of the issues of violence and women’s rights, and also expose the ignorance that exists around our demands. It has generated solidarity that helps to encourage and expand the women’s movement. While it’s true that part of the solidarity expressed in these weeks is hypocritical and opportunistic, if the movement actively rejects any attempt at co-optation, the insincere forces of the right that view the mobilization as another way to attack the MORENA government will fall away and are not likely to cause damage to the movement in the long term.
This doesn’t mean that the Mexican March 9 strike doesn’t have its disadvantages as a tactic. It has also generated polarization, partisanship and backlash. If we follow the slogan “on the 9th, nobody moves”, the call could be an action of isolation, individualism and the atomization of our outrage, as well as being an action in which some women have more real possibilities to participate than others. As businesses grant permission to women workers to stay home the 9th, it could also become a symbolic gesture authorized by corporations and governments that doesn’t move us closer to a real break in the dominant power structures.
How can we follow up on a political act that seems to disperse, instead of concentrating, our collective power? How can we formulate clear messages? And most important: How do we assure that the void we create on March 9 is filled with content and commitments for March 10 and onwards?
Facing these challenges, it makes more sense a call to carry out the strike, but to use the day to organize: forums for discussion, group meetings to analyze and strategize, and possibly cultural, political and educational activities that help the movement to advance collectively. That way, we can move forward with public commitments and a constant confronting of the power structures that perpetuate the violence.
Originally published March 5 en desinformemonos.org. Text and photos: Laura Carlsen