The Women’s Strike is not symbolic, it is political. And it is also economic: “Ending the sexist violence signifies standing up to the system that produces it”. The discussion puts on the union agenda the emergency of the killing of women and marks the differences in the labour sphere: the debate for the rights, autonomy and the violence of poverty, three pointers that explain the economic links of Black Wednesday that affects everyone.
This Black Wednesday is an historic day: for the first time there was a Women’s National Strike, called after the brutal killing of Lucia Perez, a sinister corollary of the repression at the national meeting in Rosario. The strike also brings to the political scene the unavoidable economic connection that foments sexist violence.
Stopping sexist violence and standing up to the system that creates it also implies putting on the union agenda the emergency of the women’s killings. Three main unions and various labour and social organisations extended their support.
The CGT (General Confederation of Labour) has committed to expressing, through a communiqué, its backing and especially to protecting those who adhere to the strike so that they are not persecuted, intimidated or have their salaries cut for taking this measure.
The National Women’s Strike consists of two actions:
A strike of 13 to 14 hours at work places. The proposal is to stop work, go out on to the street and protest noisily with applause, songs etc for an hour. Some unions added to these measures wearing a black armband as an expression of sorrow.
From 5 p.m. mobilising from the Obelisk to the Plaza de Maya: the proposal is to wear black as a sign of sorrow.
Tools against machismo
“We have great expectations that this will be carried out,” Marta Dillion, journalist and member of the collection Ni Una Menos (Not One Less) told lavaca. “We were at the CTA (Argentina Workers Central Union) meeting and there is an explicit commitment towards supporting the strike so that the companions can cease work at the hour we suggested. It is a triumph of the women’s movement and sexual dissidence because it affects everyone in the labour sphere, in and out of the unions. Not only are we women, we are also workers in the domestic sphere, in cooperatives, and we need to become visible as subjects who participate in the country’s economy, with rights that are being affected and without these rights we are left without autonomy.”
Dillon says that they also had meetings with the triumvirate of the CGT. “More than just the response, it is certain that the bases will spill out. The expectations are enormous.”
The teachers’ unions centred in UTE, CTERA and SUTEBA also promised to mobilise. “Where the strike cannot be organised, for example in the child nurseries, the unions will propose to hold classes at that hour on comprehensive sexual education. It is precisely the nodal point where rights, public education and budget cuts meet. We denounce the hollowing out of comprehensive sexual education which we consider as a fundamental tool for combating sexual violence.”
The credible moment
Dillon says: “The strike is a tool which we workers have to deduct our time from the system of production. The tasks of caring, which imply, among others, that of cleaning and taking care of boys and girls, is not valued in monetary terms when it is a fact that these have a value and affect the GDP. These tasks support the economy and our working day is two hours longer than those of men.”
The text calling for the strike also adds the following numbers:
“If the median unemployment in Argentina is 9.3%, it is 10.5% for women.”
“Because 76% of the unpaid domestic work is done by women.”
“Because when we have boys or girls, we have to take care of them ourselves and the rate of activity comes down from 54 to 39%.”
“The decision for this mobilisation was rapid,” emphasises Alejandra Angriman, secretary of Equal Opportunities and Gender at the national CTA, who points out that all the unions of the workers’ centrals are heeding the strike and mobilisation calls. “The strike is to say that during an hour we’re going to be on the streets or in the offices and aren’t going to work, instead we’re repudiating and demanding. And we’d like to make visible that not only do we demand but also we work. And, moreover, when we do it, when we stop, we want to say a number of things, because we’re also engaged in a debate in the trade unions. We need to discuss the issue of parity. And we stop in all organisations, work places and schools despite the difficulties that we have in finding jobs because we’re the extreme precariat, and in the moments of crisis all the care work falls upon us.”
Angriman explains why the strike is not symbolic but political. “Capitalism is only sustained by unequal relations, which are more unequal with time, and in every aspect. Moreover, patriarchy in this logic of inequality, where one group sustains another, comes beforehand: for this we often say, and the companions get angry, that economic change will in itself not resolve the issue of inequality. It could modify the mode of production and the proprietorship of the means of production, but will not modify the social relations since it has to do with a model that is sustained because half the population works for free. And it has to do with the matter of care-giving: subjugated women have to work for things to function.
We stop on the 19th
How is this discussed in the trade unions?
“In reality, many companions are astonished by this consideration. And they walk together although it is not a hundred per cent about men. It astonishes them, and let’s say the truth, they’re not in agreement with the construction as we understand it. This is part of the debate and for this we support the legislative reforms: this is the only tool that we sadly have. And this is also discussing democracy. There are groups of men who debated it more profoundly and others who resisted it in silence. It was demonstrated when it was discussed in the Buenos Aires state legislature and some sectors of the Left abstained.”
The strike seeks to make the economic link visible?
It makes visible that society is, in principle, maintained with the unpaid work which all of us women perform in profoundly unequal conditions. We also have a deep debate on the model of consumption. We women set out that at the centre of our worries is life and this is a society that puts consumerism at the centre and which, moreover, is predatory. And for this the decision to begin to be more visible, because neither the media covers what we have set out. Lucia’s killing still appears in the media as a police case, which is to say that we are visibilised as an object to be consumed, mistreated; they keep seeing us as yet another group in this society. No, we’re not another group, we’re half the population.”
When the world stops
According to the registry of MuMaLa (collective of Women for the Latin American Motherland), there were 19 femicides till date in October. “Look at the date we’re in,” says Raquel Vivanco, national coordinator of the movement. “A femicide occurs in less than 24 hours.” How does the strike appear in this scenario? “We’ve been reaching in the last few years, of Ni Una Menos till now, a breaking point that puts us in a highly positive position, in the sense that our rallying calls for the movement have opened up to society. Of course, when we mobilise violence increases against us. We return from Rosario and these femicides happen. But this is an historic moment that as women and society puts us on a higher rung, and, with the struggle, we’re going to transform our rights.”
What does the strike signify? “It’s unusual that there be a decision by a host of organisations. It is something historic in Argentina. We took to the Encounter slogans saying that poverty was violence. This strike is to say that we’re being killed but also that when we stop the world stops because our work sustains the work that men do in the public space. Without us this country won’t be able to function and this is a signal to society and to the government. It is estimated that in Latin American work at home, all of which permits the functioning of the productive world, translates close to 30% of the GDP of the region’s nations. That is the invisible work that we do in the economy of our country. If we women stop, if we stop to cook and take our children to schools, the world stops. And another important theme is that the first national strike against Macri is a strike by women.”
National women's strike, Wednesday October 19. Because we cannot permit these killings of women. Not one more femicide! Not one more assaulted! Not one more raped! Not one Less