The International Women’s Strike (IWS) organization is calling for a National Walkout from all work, waged and unwaged, today, October 4, at 4:00 pm to protest the potential appointment of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. Several national organizations, including the Democratic Socialists of America and the National Lawyers Guild, have joined with us to organize against this threat.
The overwhelming response to the call has made all of us — and especially those of us who are survivors of sexual assault — feel validated and hopeful. Today people will be demonstrating in more than 30 cities. We have been flooded with solidarity messages from women who are breaking their silence about sexual violence in one of the most powerful ways possible: by taking to the street.
I, along with millions of other women, watched the extraordinarily brave testimony of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford last week. I cried with her and raged for her. But I did not need her to testify on national television, before a hostile group of powerful (mostly white) men, to believe her story.
Christine Blasey Ford had nothing to gain from choosing to appear before the world. Indeed, the death threats and the loss of privacy for herself and her family show that she has suffered enormously because her life and her past have been opened up in this way.
Why is she doing this?
She is coming forward for us, and for every girl and every woman who is to come after us.
The battle over Kavanaugh’s nomination is about his history of sexual violence, but it is also about the future. His appointment would solidify policies that would produce the conditions for continued assault and misogyny on a larger scale. Let us look at just two examples.
Kavanaugh is a threat to abortion rights. In this country 49 percent of those seeking abortions live below the official poverty line, while another 26 percent are low income. These figures are further inflected by race. About two-thirds of those seeking abortion are women of color. So, let us look at this picture again: Brett Kavanaugh — a rich, white, ruling-class man — could be in a position of power to prevent access to abortion services for millions, but primarily for poor women of color.
He is also a threat to unions. He has consistently favored bosses against workers in his courtroom. Labor concerns include gender equity issues, such as equal wages, secure pensions, affordable health care (including abortion), the right to a robust public school network, and protections for workers, both documented and undocumented. These are all labor issues. Weakened unions and non-unionized workplaces make women more vulnerable to sexual assaults in the workplace and make it harder for them to leave abusive domestic relations at home. We need more unions to be aware of this deep connection between workplace conditions and the threat of gender violence, and to fight collectively to address both. What we do not need is a privileged Supreme Court judge either stopping workers from unionizing or strengthening the power of employers.
Kavanaugh has a similarly worrisome record on immigrant rights and the rights of disabled people, and given his commitment to “race-neutral” (i.e., discriminatory to people of color) policies I am pretty clear on how he will react when we lose another Tamir Rice or Trayvon Martin to police or vigilante violence. Everyday institutional racism and open racist violence on the streets are the lived reality of people of color in this country. Anyone who can be “race-neutral” in the face of that is anything but neutral.
Brett Kavanaugh is not just a personal threat to Dr. Ford and Deborah Ramirez. He is a public threat to all women and working people in this country.
This is a moment of reckoning. If Kavanaugh is confirmed, for years to come, he will have the power to decide our fates. Brett Kavanaugh’s life — nurtured in a haze of entitlement and misogyny — and Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination — strengthening the structures of such entitlement — expose the undemocratic character of the justice system. This justice system that overwhelmingly incarcerates Black and Brown people and exonerates white police officers who execute them, that always teeters on the brink of overturning Roe v. Wade, and that just attacked union rights in the Janus v. AFSCME decision, is not our ally. We cannot rely on it, and we cannot rely on politicians or the FBI to save us.
Our strength and our power lie in collective action. Women’s labor, paid and unpaid, runs this world and sustains it. Today, by walking out, we withdraw that labor until our lives, our work, our narratives are given the dignity and respect they deserve.
Today we stand with all survivors, till that category — survivor — is relevant no more.