On March 8, 1908, International Women’s Day was inaugurated in New York City, as part of a huge strike by garment workers, most of whom were young women and girls. 15,000 women, including middle-class women and sweatshop workers, marched through New York demanding shorter hours, better pay and voting rights – all of which they eventually won through collective action.
In 1961, Women Strike for Peace was born, as 50,000 women across the country marched for peace and against nuclear testing.
In 1970, the National Organization for Women organized the Women’s Strike for Equality, in which 20,000 or more marched through New York, demanding “free abortion on demand, free 24-hour childcare for all mothers and an end to discrimination against women in hiring, pay and promotions.
In 1978, 100,000 people marched on Washington to demand ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment, which declared that, “Equality of Rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any state on account of sex.” The ERA died an ignominious death in 1982, when it failed to be ratified by the required 38 states within 7 years of passage by Congress (it came three states short). One of the main arguments used by the right wing to instill fear and kill the amendment was that if women were equal under the law, we might be sent into combat.
So now, women are officially allowed in combat, though in fact many have been there for years in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere. But not only do women still not have guaranteed equality under the law, but states are fast and furiously curtailing the right to abortion and even contraception. And there sure isn’t free or even affordable childcare for most women.
The right to kill and torture isn’t liberation. We don’t want women in combat, we want people of all genders to refuse to participate in wars of aggression.