More Than a March

International strike calls for intersectional approach to feminism

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Photo by Cal Tobias
Photo by Cal Tobias

Signs waved in the air, bearing messages in protest of President Donald Trump’s administration and support of women’s rights. Protesters marched down Pacific Avenue on March 8, reminiscent of the scenes in downtown Santa Cruz after the inauguration in January. But this time, the fuchsia pink pussy hats of the Women’s March were replaced by a sea of red clothing, flags and signs.

In the U.S., the International Women’s Day Strike organized “A Day Without A Woman” on March 8 to show solidarity with marginalized women, by encouraging women to boycott paid and unpaid labor and to avoid purchasing anything, while wearing red to show solidarity.

“I am going to march and then I am going to strike,” said third-year politics student and intern at the UCSC Women’s Center Morgan Bostic. “I have the privilege to do so. I am able to take off from work and take off from school, and I’m in a position where my voice can be heard. And I don’t want to take that for granted.”

The strike was supported by the Women’s March on Washington organization, which organized marches all over the world on Jan. 21, stating the International Women’s Day strike is “in the same spirit of love and liberation.”

According to the strike’s statement, the aim was to begin a new international feminist movement. While a key focus of the movement is Trump and his policies, it also aims to change the conditions that put Trump in power in the first place, like “decades long economic inequality, racial and sexual violence and imperial wars abroad.”

Photo by Cal Tobias
Photo by Cal Tobias

Origins

Donald Trump may be central in the cause behind marches in the U.S. in 2017, but the history of International Women’s Day goes back much further.

International Women’s Day is on March 8, the same day female garment workers blocked Fifth Avenue in New York City in 1908 — before women had the right to vote.

The day has been more widely celebrated internationally, but under the new administration, people are once again unearthing its history, said Bettina Aptheker, a distinguished professor of feminist studies at UC Santa Cruz.

“This year, it’s interesting, the press is paying more attention. But [celebration of the day] has to come from women themselves, of all races, ethnicities, immigrant statuses,” Aptheker said.

Campus

The morning began as about 30 people gathered at Oakes Circle and headed through campus to Quarry Plaza while participants shouted chants of solidarity with women of color, immigrants and trans and queer women.

The on-campus march and rally Wednesday morning was organized by La Marcha Colectiva, or The March Collective, formed for the purpose of organizing this and future marches. They organized the campus march as a women of color intersectional response to the policies of the Trump administration and to create social and systemic change.

“We made a call for people of color who were unsatisfied with the traditional white, liberal organizing spaces [where] there’s a huge unacknowledgement and a huge exclusion of intersectional and transnational analyses,” said Joa, a fourth-year organizer for The March Collective who preferred not to give her full name.

Participants displayed signs reading “immigration is a feminist issue” and “don’t just protect your cis-ters” to passers-by. As they arrived at Quarry Plaza there were over 70 people in the crowd.

“There’s also a lot of negative perceptions about feminism where white feminism comes and takes over, and it’s not really inclusive to trans and queer women of color rights,” said second-year student Maria Fernanda Veliz. “So I’m just here to show that it’s about all of us and what it means for us […] is that we deserve to be free and be individuals.”

At Quarry Plaza, participants and organizers spoke on the importance of protecting people of color, queer, trans, immigrant and Muslim rights.

“This is more than just a strike. You are not marching alone,” said fifth-year student Meli Jiménez Araya to the group. “This is us speaking up, this is us exercising our humanity. This is us not being afraid. This is us resisting. Your presence here is not a mistake. Exercise it to the maximum. Speak your voice.”

After the rally, participants marched downtown to join the larger Santa Cruz community in creating social change through action.

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Downtown

Protesters gathered outside the Louden Nelson Center to prepare for the march. Predominantly adult women, many were clad in red. As they waited for students marching from UCSC, organizations like the American Civil Liberties Union, Food Not Bombs and the Santa Cruz County Women’s Action set up information desks.

By the time the student protesters joined from campus, at about 11:45 a.m., there were several hundred marchers.

Participants blocked traffic from River and Mission Street as the march arrived at the Clock Tower on Pacific Avenue, where a rally was held. This led to conflict between protesters and drivers and resulted in the deliberate obstruction of several cars.

Marchers were largely split into two groups. One was mostly students and the other Santa Cruz community members who stood around the Clock Tower. The groups joined together after calls from speakers to unite, where they spoke of a range of issues relating to feminism, such as sexual assault, police brutality and restructuring the economy.

“We need to change the way that we measure what profit is. We need to change how we are looking at things,” said Rev. Deborah Johnson, one of the speakers at the rally. “We spend more money on healthcare than anybody else and we are the least healthy. Something is wrong.”

After the march, the strike continued with an event at the Louden Nelson Center organized by the Santa Cruz County Women’s Action, followed by panel discussion and tabling on a variety of feminist and gender issues into the evening.

Although the day’s purpose is for the world to celebrate women, several protesters pointed out the need for women to address inequalities within the gender for the movement to truly progress.

“I want to see equal pay for equal work, but I want to see it equal within our gender too,” said third-year politics student Morgan Bostic. “I want to see it for black women and for Latina women and immigrant women, I want to see that change.”

Meli Jiménez Araya, a fifth-year student who spoke at the Clock Tower, addressed the negative reactions to her chants against white supremacy and the divisions it created among the marchers.

“In these critical times it is important that we not only have peace and love as the end goal, but we address the darkness around us,” Jiménez said. “Allyship means that you have to get off your high horse and address the fact that other people are suffering.”