March 8, International Women’s Day, is meant to celebrate the radical history of women fighting back under a brutal capitalist society. It’s a 100-year old celebration that honors working-class immigrant women of color standing up to collectively counter workplace abuse, state violence, police brutality and all of the oppression that afflicts women at the intersections and margins of society.
This history is entirely obstructed by the university’s International Women’s Day event that celebrates University of Wisconsin Police Department Chief Kristen Roman as its keynote speaker. The choice to celebrate a police chief — rather than call out the police’s brutal rape and harassment of immigrant women, or their racial profiling of college students of color across the country or their profiling and harassment of trans women — signals a blatant whitewashing and mischaracterization of the history of the day.
International Women’s Day isn’t meant to celebrate women’s participation in the halls of power — whether the government, the police force, or the military. Especially when those halls of power often oppress working-class, immigrant, poor and/or trans women of color. Rather, the history of International Women’s Day tells a different story — one about celebrating women worldwide who reclaim the streets as their own, who fight against state power and who collectively seek to do away with state-sanctioned violence in the first place.
Radical feminists Angela Davis, Barbara Smith of the Combahee River Collective, Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor and others issued a renewed call for a “Feminism for the 99%” in their editorial in The Guardian. They write that the #Metoo, #UsToo and #TimesUp campaigns highlight the reality of racialized gender violence, as well as how the fear of losing their jobs, health care and income force women to keep their mouths shut. In other words, the international capitalist structure — the one that says you are only worth as much as you are able to produce — must go.
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International Women’s Day, is the day that these women say enough: “March 8, 2018, will be a day of feminism for the 99%: a day of mobilization of black and brown women, cis and bi, lesbian and trans women workers, of the poor and the low waged, of unpaid caregivers, of sex workers and migrants.”
For an alternative politics to that put forth by the University, come to the Madison Women’s Rally outside of Union South at 12:30 p..m on Thursday. Later that night at 6 p.m., there will be a panel in Education Sciences, room 228. We will celebrate women’s resistance — rather than their representation in positions of power and oppression. We’ll stand in solidarity with Palestinian women, Black women, Latinx women, trans women — with all women of the 99 percent.
Johnathan Isaac is writing on behalf of the coalition for International Women’s Day. He is a Ph.D. student in the English department.