Us Women, Joining Women Globally For Equally…Indigenous Societies, Not Contaminated By Western Values, Are Still Equitable
Who said sex and politics don’t mix? Led by Leymah Gbowee, a young mother, Liberian women went on a sex strike to end the country’s brutal civil war. They were successful: in 2003 warlords agreed to end the violence. Last year Gbowee won a Nobel Peace Prize for her campaign. With Liberia’s former President, Charles Taylor, facing life in jail after his war crimes trial The Hague, Metro spoke with Gbowee.
Are sex strikes an effective strategy to end wars?
(Laughs) It’s effective in the sense that it gets people’s attention. Sex is an exotic thing, and many people would say it’s a taboo subject. But when someone dares to bring it to the attention of the public, it has two results. People start saying, “who’s this person doing this?” and they start asking why the person is using sex to highlight an issue. And it gets men thinking. There are a lot of good men out there! The percentage of men who wage war is very small. Good men outnumber evil men, but why are they silent? Our strategy helps the good men because it gives them a reason to take action. They start talking to their colleagues and beer buddies, saying “this war is wrong.”
So it’s not the sex strike per se, but the support it gives good men, that makes it an effective strategy?
Yes. Every man is interested in the act of sex. We withheld sex from our spouses to get attention, and our husbands obviously noticed what we were doing. We said, “we need you to take a stand.” And they did.
Would you recommend sex strikes to women in other war-torn countries?
People have told me many times, “why don’t you export your strategy to this or that country that’s also in the midst of a civil war?” But it’s not as easy as that. I can’t just go to a country and tell women how to make peace. I can encourage them, but they have to commit to peace and they have to do so beyond their political and ethnic affiliations. Regardless of whether you’re Muslim or Christian, and regardless of which ethnic group you belong to, there’s no way that we can solve a crisis without moving beyond such affiliations ( http://huff.to/1SgouhX)
In many societies, when women are powerless to prevent the men in their lives from abusing them via the political system, they engage in what’s called a “sex strike.” But from Kenya to Italy to Central America, very real sex strikes in modern times are a relatively common tool in the arsenal of resistance fighters…in Africa, before the colonial era.
Women in more than 50 countries will go on strike from paid and unpaid labour on Wednesday while millions more will be taking part in direct action on what is set to be one of the most political International Women’s Days in history.
From Thailand to Poland, the United States to Australia, the first International Women’s Strike will see action on both the industrial and domestic fronts, with participants keen to show solidarity with an energized global women’s movement.
Live International Women’s Day 2017: protests, activism and a strike – live
Live global coverage of International Women’s Day 2017 as events take place around the world to mark the ongoing fight for equality.
“We are united, we are international – and we are everywhere,” said Klementyna Suchanow, a Poland-based organizer of the International Women’s Strike, adding that the walkout would put governments and institutions under pressure by giving women a voice that has long been ignored. “We are an army of women across the globe and we are no longer asking to be listened to. The world is being forced to listen to us.”
Strikes produced political power for women in Iceland
Forty years ago, the women of Iceland went on strike – they refused to work, cook and look after children for a day. It was a moment that changed the way women were seen in the country and helped put Iceland at the forefront of the fight for equality.
If you worry about a sex strike sounding uncomfortably reductive, you are going to hate the domestic strike: on 24 October 1975, the women of Iceland did no housework, to protest against their feeble, 5% representation in parliament. They technically went on everything-strike, but since their democratic exclusion was mirrored in the workplace, this functionally meant they stopped looking after their children and doing the washing-up (those who did have jobs worked in schools and nurseries, so those had to close as well). A staggering 90% of women took part, after the genius move of renaming it, not a strike, but a “Women’s Day Off”, dressing up stridency as me-time. Men had to take their children to work, which gave the event its other name: The Long Friday (http://bit.ly/2mD2gRf).
This action changed the face of Icelandic politics, delivering to Europe its first female president, Vigdís Finnbogadóttir, five years later. But its significance in the wider feminist landscape is subtler, since that tension of where you situate domestic labour in the fight for equality is, if anything, more pronounced now than it was then. Feminism at home sounds a lot like nagging. The strike was underpinned by a movement, the radical Red Stockings in Iceland, and sister organisations across Europe making the case for paid housework (http://bit.ly/1Ur6P9C).