Build a socialist-feminist movement

On International Women’s Day 2019, people around the world will be protesting and walking out of work, colleges and so on. It’s not hard to see why – we are far from real equality or liberation for the vast majority of the world’s women. Austerity has seen a war on the working class which has particularly affected the lives of women, hit by 85% of the cuts.

Time4Equality protest in Belfast on IWD 2019 called by NIPSA and ROSA

Welfare cuts in particular – including the two-child policy – have had a devastating impact on women. These cuts were agreed to by the DUP, Sinn Féin and Alliance and implemented by the Tories – they may all have female leaders now, but they don’t stand up for working-class women. Their representatives should not go unchallenged on this record at International Women’s Day events.

Sexual and gender-based violence is widespread in society. Victim-blaming and misogyny are used in the court system, as shown by the Ulster Rugby rape trial. Only 10% of reported rapes end in a conviction.

Last year, we won a major victory in the South with the repeal referendum and the introduction of abortion on request up to 12 weeks. This was the result of a mass movement which protested, struck and organised. We won despite the stalling tactics of the political establishment, which was dragged along by the movement. We need to learn the lessons of this victory and apply them to the North, in order to ensure that the #NorthIsNext is more than a slogan.

The recent Glasgow equal pay strike, which saw a revolt of council workers in that city, and the nurses’ and midwives’ strike in the South show the enormous power women have as workers. In many countries, strikes have become a weapon of the women’s movement. Last year on International Women’s Day, there was a general strike against gender inequality in the Spanish state, with both women and men participating. In Google, workers across the world walked out against sexual harassment. The trade union movement has a key role to play in the fight against women’s oppression and inequality.

Mass movements against sexism and oppression will inevitably come up against the logic of the capitalist system we live under, where 6 men own more wealth than 50% of the world’s population. Capitalism, which bases itself on maximising profit for this elite, benefits from the low pay in female-dominated sectors and from women’s unpaid domestic and caring work. It perpetuates and sells us backward gender stereotypes. It uses reactionary ideas to divide and rule. In a system based on this kind of inequality, feminising the elite is no solution for the vast majority of women. Instead, we need a women’s movement infused with solidarity and socialist feminism.

The Socialist Party says:

  • We won’t be left behind: Decriminalise abortion now!
  • #StandWithHer: End victim-blaming in the courts
  • Trade union action on sexual harassment and gender pay-gap
  • Free childcare for all
  • Unite against sectarianism and the Green & Orange Tories
  • Fight for a socialist future free from inequality, oppression and poverty
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