By Meredith Clark. Photos: Courtesy of Karina Garcia.
On Wednesday, women and their allies will celebrate International Women's Day with dozens of protests, activities, and actions around the world to call for gender equality, human rights, fair wages, and equal opportunity for all. Some women have committed to participating in A Day Without A Woman and the International Women's Strike—which can mean everything from wearing red to work to attending one of the dozens of rallies and marches that have been planned. Make no mistake: you don't have to strike completely to be a part of the global movement. Ahead of the March 8 demonstrations, seven women–all of whom are participating in their own individual way—shared with Glamour what they'll be doing, why they're doing it, and what they want to see happen next. Interviews have been edited and condensed for clarity.
Sumer Samhoury, physical therapist I’m not going to be physically participating in the strike because I generally don’t work on Wednesdays. I’m a women’s health physical therapist, so I heal women for a living. I’m a huge advocate of the women’s strike and International Women’s Day, as well as women having a voice and getting the health care that they deserve. I’ll be encouraging all my women clientele to participate. I want them to know that their voice is very important.
We live in a man-driven world. One part of the strike that really speaks to me is discouraging women from purchasing things from man-owned companies and to purchase from women-owned businesses. I have a friend who is a single mom who bakes crackers in her kitchen and sells them to make a living for her twins. I would encourage friends of mine to go buy her crackers (which also happen to be delicious). I definitely think it’s a wonderful cause, to encourage women to be entrepreneurs and feel like they’re significant contributors to society.
I’m a Middle Eastern woman. I’m Palestinian-American, and I do happen to wear the hijab, so I cover my hair. I feel like my fight is daily. I’m constantly melting the stereotypes of people who look at me funny, and then after they meet me and recognize I’m just as American as they are.
I plan on wearing red on Wednesday. I plan on putting my 10-year-old daughter in red on Wednesday, and I hope she can discuss with her teacher why she’s wearing red that day. If all women did things on a small scale—like supporting women-owned businesses or wearing red in solidarity—at least we can break down stereotypes on a daily basis.
Karina Garcia, organizer I am the daughter of Mexican immigrant workers. I am striking because it's my turn to make a sacrifice. If we’ve sat through an honest U.S. History course, we’ve learned about the injustices committed in this country against the very people who made it rich: Black people, Native Americans, Mexicans, immigrants, poor and working people of all nationalities.
When we learn about segregation, lynchings, and Jim Crow, or the exploitation of immigrant and child labor, or the extreme oppression of women, most of us probably like to believe that we’d be on the right side of things if we were living during those times—that we would have stood up and done something. Well, we are in that era right now, and it's time to show up. Complaining or shaking our heads won’t change history. We have to become a power that is capable of challenging the existing power.
For decades, working-class families like mine have been in a race to the bottom while the gap between the rich and poor has grown ever wider.
I’m joining the International Women’s Strike because those of us who are resisting need to go bigger. We have to demonstrate our greatest power, which is to shut it all down and hit them in their pockets. All over the world, throughout history, when huge numbers of people reject a government and its cruel policies, they begin to talk about general strike. It’s been a long time since this country saw something like that, but March 8th, and then May 1, International Workers Day, the Day Without An Immigrant, are steps in that direction, a way for us to begin flexing our striking muscles as women, and as workers.
For the Mexican immigrant community, this concept is not new or foreign to our families, our culture, and our history. We’ve seen collective sacrifice in our own country, and our entire existence in this country is a consequence of the sacrifice that our parents made for us. Now it's our turn.
Leilah Babirye, artist and activist I’m from Uganda, and I’m an asylum-seeker. I’m also a visual artist, a sculptor, and a gay activist. I’m seeking asylum because at home I was discriminated against, isolated, abandoned by my family, and disowned. When I came to this country, I was expecting to find peace and to be loved.
The reason I’d like to participate in the protests—as an asylum-seeker from a country where I cannot return because of the discrimination against gay people—is that it's important to put out our word. We are under fear. We don’t know what happens next. I think demonstrations like the march, and other protests around the country, are creating an impact on the laws in the country. I’ve been here now for 18 months, but I’ve never got any hearing [to address my status]. I cannot go back to school or do anything good for myself, but I’m in this country. If people keep on protesting, then maybe the law might be changed. Maybe when you come here you can have a hearing, maybe things will move faster.
Most of my friends and activists have run away from Uganda and are scattered in different countries. They’ll still tell you that the protest isn’t so easy, but it’s better than home.
I’m an activist, so I will keep pushing the word out there. We need your support, we need the people here to support refugees more, to protect us. I never stop doing my art and activism because it’s my way of communicating, of speaking of my pain.
Helen Murray, education consultant Being part of this global community of women, I need to stand in solidarity with them. We need to get together as a group of women and let people know that the decisions being made are not OK—and we need to let the rest of the world know.
I’m certainly going to attend the march. I’m from Australia, so I’m going to reach out to my community of people there. Any opportunity I can, I’m going to talk to people about what’s happening, why it’s happening, and the importance of everybody having a voice so that there can be a sea of change.
One of the challenges is that I’m mainly with like-minded people. I don’t get to mix with the so-called “deplorables.” I think at the end of the day, we have to make it really personal and say, “If you had a family member, and they were being stopped from entering the country, how would you feel about that?” or “What if because of your race you’re marginalized and you don’t have opportunities or access to things like we do.” I think the best approach is to personalize it, and make it a one-on-one conversation.
Rachel Silang, after-school teacher I’m an activist, primarily—it’s the work that really defines my life—but I’m also an after-school teacher. I work in East Harlem and teach students about the overlap of social justice and art.
My whole life, I never even thought I would go to college. I never really thought I would have opportunities in life. I’ve been in abusive relationships. Most women I grew up with were in the same situation, “That’s just the way things are.” I got really into women’s rights and learning about how we fight back against oppression in college.
I think that the women’s strike is a special kind of exercise that shows the power of women. It’s action in a very real way. Two thirds of the low-wage work force are women. I’ve worked in so many different jobs and gotten paid less just for being a woman. I’ve been sexually harassed on the job. So many things have happened that I thought were normal. As I’ve grown more conscious, I realized it’s not.
It’s very important at this moment to stand up in a powerful way, and a strike is perhaps the most powerful way for women to make a statement. No change has ever been made in history without activism and without protesting, period. There has never been any sort of progressive, positive change that we have gotten without fighting for it. Some people had to die for it—for example, people died to make the 8-hour work day happen. That’s an incredible sacrifice people had to make just to fight for the basic right to be able to go home at the end of the day and see your family. Same thing with minimum wage. Even the right to vote. People had to go through so much struggle and fight so hard to get their rights recognized.
Anyone who says we’re not supposed to protest? They just don’t know history.
Mia White, professor I’m a native New Yorker. I’m black and Korean-American. I’m an assistant professor at the New School. I consider myself an activist scholar. I’m not a front lines person, but I think a lot about those issues. I grew up poor; my mother and I were street vendors, so space is very much on my mind all the time. The reason I am committed to the march and having my students attend is that most of my research has to do with race and space. Part of why I want the students to go is that I want them to recognize that women, and other people who are marginalized, are at the center of any environmental justice movement. Any movement for women’s rights and human rights and anyone who is marginalized has to take into consideration the issue of space.
My students are amazing. There are a lot of politics involved in terms of students going to Washington Square Park on Wednesday, but our class meets on Monday and Wednesday. So the choice was to either be neutral and not do anything and pretend this amazing thing wasn’t happening, or to have a conversation with the students like I did on Wednesday. I said “I want you to blog about it, interview people and post them on our class website so I know what your experience was." I want them to live the experience of resistance: physically, by attending, and intellectually, by engaging people.
Mayra Cotta Cardozo De Souza, PhD student I’m a PhD student at the New School in politics. I’m a lawyer from Brazil originally, and I have been here in NY for almost three years now. I’ve always been part of feminist organizing and political activities. This strike in particular is an international movement. It happens in many different countries; this year it’s happening in 40 different countries and counting. For me it’s amazing to be part of an international struggle that unites women everywhere and everybody who supports feminism. There’s so much invisible labor that women do in society—and we still live in a world where violence against women is present in the daily life of so many women. Here in the U.S., we’re now in this terrible political environment. Everyone is becoming more aware of how much we have to fight not only to increase our rights, but to keep them at all.
There is a sense of a particular branch of feminism—white liberal feminism—that pushes the idea that a women’s emancipation comes from going up the corporate ladder. And if a woman can be a CEO, then that’s it—that’s our victory. The thing is, if you take this as a parameter of success, it’s really problematic. In order for a woman to succeed in the corporate ladder, she has to rely on the labor of other women to help her raise her kids or take care of her home.
There is no such thing as a one-woman struggle. Even if a woman becomes a CEO, if we leave behind the immigrant women and the women of color that are being still exploited, she is still living in a very sexist world where she has a lot of privilege. we’re not going to change the system if we don’t think we’re all part of the same struggle.
There are so many people who are coming together. We are building this really strong network. The strike is going to be the peak of the day, and this will create great momentum. After the strike, we have another meeting scheduled to think of the next steps. It’s what bottom-up political action is. We all take part in the action and then think together on where we take it from here.
This story originally appeared on Glamour.
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