Tens of thousands of women workers in Britain’s universities will be striking on International Women’s Day (IWD) this Thursday. It’s a very good way to mark a day that was set up to celebrate the struggle of working women.
Other ways are less good.The Sun newspaper this week hailed IWD for uniting “global governments, women’s organisations, businesses and charities”.
It’s a sign of how sections of the establishment seek to co-opt IWD—which was begun by revolutionary socialists in 1910.
Tory prime minister Theresa May will claim to be celebrating IWD as she did last year. She is apparently fighting sexism. “Here’s to all the ‘bloody difficult women’ out today on the March4Women,” she tweeted last Sunday, referring to a London protest.
But May is the enemy of most women in Britain. Her party has presided over brutal austerity measures that hit working class women the hardest.
Tory funding cuts have devastated services that vulnerable women rely on, such as refuges. Tory housing policies trap working class women in overcrowded, substandard housing.
Tory education policies mean it’s harder for working class women to go to college or university. And their public sector cuts have put hundreds of thousands of women out of work.
It’s laughable for May to try and put herself on the side of ordinary women.
And it isn’t the first time. In the wake of the #MeToo movement, she recently claimed that “serious action” would be taken against any ministers involved in allegations of abuse in parliament. But one aide claimed May allows accused ministers to serve in her cabinet.
It’s good that more and more women are challenging abuse, harassment and unequal pay.
But we shouldn’t think that right wingers who try to jump on the bandwagon are our allies. And women aren’t all “in it together”.
Rich women live in a different world to other women and have opposing interests. If a female boss imposes pay cuts that’s good for her, but it isn’t good for the women who work for her.
Women’s oppression is bound up with class societies. Ruling class women have an interest in keeping those societies going.
So it suits them to say men cause sexism or to blame horrible cases of abuse on problematic individuals. They hope to keep ordinary people divided and stop us uniting in struggle.
The real problem is that the system treats women as second class citizens and sexual objects.
We need to fight sexism, tear up that system and organise a socialist society that can bring about real liberation. To do that, working class women and men need to fight back together.