Women Strike for Equality -- Then and Now
Crossposted on Jvoices.
Thirty-eight years ago today, thousands of women nation-wide responded to Jewish feminist Betty Friedan's call for a Women's Strike for Equality. In addition to a huge march down New York's 5th Avenue, women around the country demonstrated in support of three main goals: free abortion on demand, free 24-hour community-controlled child care centers, and equal opportunity in jobs and education. Jewish feminist luminaries such as Bella Abzug, Gloria Steinem, and Bess Myerson Grant were among the speakers. Ten years later, on August 26, 1980, a second march honoring the first as well as the 60th anniversary of the 19th amendment guaranteeing women's suffrage, took place in New York City.
What I'm struck by most about this historical tidbit is the cohesive, galvanized front that seemingly divergent groups presented on that day in 1970 and again in 1980. National Organization for Women, the Young Women's Christian Association, the National Coalition of American Nuns, Feminists in the Arts, and Women Strike for Peace were all among the demonstrators. How long has it been since women have presented such a united program for rights and equality? It goes without saying that the stated goals of the strike, nearly forty years later, have not been met, so why aren't tens of thousands of women out on the street today marching for reproductive freedom, quality child care, and equal opportunity in jobs and education? How much is due to our increasingly isolated, behind-the-computer-ness, how much to an increasingly complex political landscape, and how much to anti-feminist backlash over the past 30 years, I do not claim to know.
But I can fantasize about a day (or an election season), when a diverse group of feminists will join forces to bring renewed energy to those three goals, which translate to a woman's right to make decisions about her own body, and to allow her full flexibility and opportunity in choosing her path in her personal and professional life.