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How Men Failed the Women’s Strike Before it Even Started

Holly Wood
Mar 8, 2017 · 7 min read
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Today, March 8, is the Women’s Strike. And true to form, I’m here to step out, solemnly, with my angry feminist arms folded across my chest. I gotta say it: men fucked up again. No matter what happens today, men on the left done fucked up good.

But before I embark on that screed, I’m going to start off by explaining how some white liberal women also done fucked up good, with their criticism of this strike.

Because I have to.

Sweet reason compels.

In the days leading up to the Women’s Strike, a handful of mentally sloppy women penned op-eds aiming to discredit the organizers for their elitism. Their charge? Only privileged women can afford to “take the day off” to strike so obviously this strike is already a feminist failure and the work that went into its organization is completely useless.

This take I think is ironic since many of these women writers ostensibly took the day off to write content shitting on women for free so male publishers could profit from the ad revenue. But their exploitation is not really any of my business.


Because ain’t that the question.

There’s a wild misunderstanding here about what strikes are about. To assume that a strike is just a bunch of people walking off their jobs is a mistake (though a forgivable one given all the propaganda that goes into making us hate the labor movement). When activists say strike, what we’re saying is we’re at war. When socialist feminists say we’re on strike, what you’re evidently not hearing is that we’re at war against Capitalism and what we’re striking against are the unique ways in which Capitalism truly and profoundly fucks over women who are uniquely oppressed by its fuckery.

When you argue that a women’s strike is elitist because not all women are free to dissent, you’re not mad at the organizers, friend. You’re mad at Capitalism. Capitalism is why not all women are free to strike today and so it’s against capitalism women strike.

The charges that lay before the organizers of the Women’s Strike are that they privilege only those women who can afford not to work. They charge that the strike is somehow antifeminist because many if not most women cannot participate because so few can afford to risk their employment or their family’s wellbeing by opting out for a day.

This can be a completely valid critique but what does that actually say? Are people making this critique to impugn the organizers as antifeminist, elitist, racist, ableist, or whatever because they didn’t figure out a way to make sure everyone Capitalism is crushing could participate? Or are they pointing out exactly why such a strike needed to happen in the first place so that millions of women (and men) might realize how impossible it is for women to take one fucking Wednesday off without everyone losing their shit?

Consider that the reasons women cannot participate in a Women’s Strike have nothing to do with the Women’s Strike and everything to do with the spectacularly fucked position of women in late Capitalism. Everyone knows women in the United States are so ensnared by so many interwoven tangles of fuckery that most of us can’t even get eight hours off from it.

So, yes, you’re right, if women strike, grandparents are going to suffer because — oh ho! Who is changing your elderly relatives’ diapers? That’s right, probably a woman.

And you’re right! The schools closing will be a fucking mess. But who cares for those same children when there’s a snow day? That’s right. Probably a woman.

And yeah, you’re right! Undocumented and migrant women who are at their employer’s mercy can’t decide to withdraw their labor. But that’s the argument we’re trying to make: this is about the uniquely fucked position of women all over the country because our country runs on the Capitalist exploitation of women.

Look closer and you’ll start seeing that layers upon layers of Capitalism baked into America’s nonsense cake. Capitalism is a major culprit as to why the majority of women can’t escape fuckery for eight hours, let alone attain social and political parity with their fellow men in everyday life.

Any organizer worth her shit knows that ending women’s exploitation is going to take more than a day. It’s going to take unrelenting buildup across all sectors of society to attain the kind of momentum and velocity necessary to break the big hurt machine. But if you’re arguing that elite women shouldn’t organize against exploitation until all women are free to resist it, then you’re just running in idiot circles. If you’re going to shit on every organized strike against Capitalism because Capitalism is successful at ensuring not everyone can strike, we’re going to have a bad time.

If this day makes plain how truly impossible it is for most women to take even eight hours off from capitalist and patriarchal exploitation, then I consider this strike a wild success for the women’s movement. If our absence illuminates how dependent the big hurt machine is on women’s systemic oppression, then brava, organizers! If you’ve spent any time at all today considering how utterly and profoundly unsupported the typical single mother is by our nation’s inadequate domestic policy, then give those organizers a fucking medal because they will have done more for working-class women in this country in a day than a hundred of Sady Doyle’s useless thoughtpieces.

So maybe it’s not the strike organizers who need to be called out today. But you know who does? That’s right! Men.

Make no mistake: leftist men have already failed the women’s strike by failing to organize men’s auxiliary in advance of the women’s strike. I know thousands of men on the Left have known about the coming Women’s Strike for weeks now. But most — if not the solid majority — left the organizing work to women. Men presumed that because today’s strike is about women’s exploitation, they are somehow absolved from the hard, thankless work of organizing it. If my social media network is anything to go off of, many vocal male feminists thought their entire obligation to the Women’s Strike began and ended with taking care of their own fucking kids.

What kind of shit is that?

So we return to this underlying question about who is and isn’t supposed to get involved in a strike against systemic exploitation. If you listen to the convoluted logic of some of these liberal critics, all women have to be able to strike for any women to be able to strike. But if all women are to be able to stop working for even a day, then it’s going to take millions of men to change.

A lot of male allies reached out to me yesterday, March 7, to ask what they could do to help with this strike. But look, let’s admit how fucked up that is. If your feminist praxis as a male ally is to wait until the eve of the Women’s Strike to ask a woman how she can enlighten you about feminism for free on a day she’s not supposed to be doing anything whatsoever, you need to go to the library right now, pick up the heaviest book you can find and slam it hard against your face. If you need women to write out detailed instructions so you know what to do with yourself on a day women everywhere are going to try to stop working, then you’re hopeless to our cause.

Solidarity with women means more than volunteering to parent your own children. It means asking — sincerely and earnestly — what it is men have been neglecting to do as allies. It means thinking for a very long time about how a lopsided America funnels women into low-paying, precarious jobs so that the men can profit wildly from their entrapment. It means asking how family policy in this country is weaponized against working mothers rather than supportive of their struggles.

The problem the Women’s Strike is trying to address is profound and yet men’s answer to the call was to do practically nothing.

If women are uniquely fucked by capitalism, then part of this fuckery is explained by way of men’s inability to see it. The truth is men as a group have more money, power, connection and resources but even the most left among them decided that today was going to be women’s problem.

Men dropped the ball today. They failed to show up and organize the carpools, the lunches, the carework and all the other kinds of auxiliary support necessary for women to withdraw from labor. But there’s little point in drawing out your excuses now. Just as organizing the strike took weeks of effort, organizing men’s support would take just as long. This failure has been weeks in the making.

But I didn’t write this as an occasion for men to absolve themselves of their feminist sins at my vaginal altar. My point is that you need to do better.

The need for a Women’s Strike doesn’t end tomorrow. This strike’s success depends on us all understanding that women’s struggle for liberation is deeper and more complicated of a problem than any of us previously realized. If this strike succeeds at all it will because it raises the political consciousness of those who think feminism is still only about abortion or equal pay. This strike will succeed when we all realize how absurdly fucked women are and we all have to do better.

Admittedly, it’s going to take a lot longer than a single day to get our shit together. But we’re not getting anywhere until we all first understand what solidarity actually means in practice. If freedom is just a promise we make to each other, solidarity demands we all start delivering on our promises.

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