For equality, living wages and respect: Women changing society ’86

International Women’s Day 1986

This International Women’s Day 1986 finds millions of women struggling for equality, for a livable wage, for respect and dignity. Never before has the very future of so many struggles and causes been so intertwined with the cause of women’s equality.

The problems in the U.S. economy in the last dozen years or so have forced increasing numbers of women into the work force to stay.

Whereas less than 20 years ago women were a marginal part of the U.S. work force, today women make up close to 40% of all workers in the U.S. Whereas just 15 years ago, the majority of mothers with children under 18 remained in the home, today 65.4 % are working outside of the home, and the numbers are growing.

Women now head 15% of all households. In the Black community, the figure is 36%. Less than a quarter of all U.S. families match the traditional model of working father, housewife mother.

Because of women’s oppression, women workers have always had the burden of balancing their roles as mothers, wives, workers and activists. Working mothers are expected to cook, clean house and take care of the children. This is in addition to working a 40-hour or longer week and increasingly becoming active at their work places and communities.

Today the role of women in the family, at the work place and as political activists, and the inequalities facing such women are being recognized as a mass social question affecting the future of the family and the quality of life for all working people. In turn, working and minority people have always cherished their families, and the desire to build a better life for the family in many ways lies at the heart of the struggle for socialism.

Role of minority working women

Third World working women have historically been at the bottom rung of society. As a group they have been forced early on to face the sharp contradictions that women in the U.S. as a whole are beginning to face.

Black women have the highest unemployment rate of any working sector, and Chicana and Mexicana women are the lowest paid. Minority women, due to triple oppression as women, workers and people of color, have the least access to quality child care, health care and family-related services.

In addition, capitalism attacks the families of minority women in the most vicious ways. Today, 83% of Black children live in poverty. In the Latino community, families are being torn apart as children of undocumented immigrants are being kidnapped by the immigration department to entrap their parents.

In response, minority women have been fighting back very hard. In doing so they are not only setting an example but are also fighting in the interests of all women.

 Struggle for women’s equality

The right to a livable wage. The ability to build and sustain a family. The successful rearing of children. These are all issues which hit at the heart of the struggle millions of people—women and men—are waging today. The fact that women bear the brunt of these problems makes the struggle for women’s equality and rights a struggle which everyone must take up.

It is no coincidence that among the right wing’s efforts against the people, so-called “women’s issues ” like abortion rights and comparable worth are high on their hit list. This is because if women can be set back, forced into a subservient, secondary and passive position, a mighty blow will have been dealt to the progressive forces.

This is why the left and all progressives must take up vigorously the fight for women’s rights, equality and quality of life. No matter whether in the work place, community or campuses, the ability of women to play full, active and leading roles has a profound impact on the very ability of those struggles to be progressive and successful.

Any disrespect towards women, refusal to see women as leaders, labeling women as emotional, trying to pit women against each other, and other signs of male chauvinism must be fought against.

Solutions must be found to problems of child care, such as setting up collective child care during meeting times, developing training for women leaders and struggling against male chauvinism in the home, at the work place and in political activity. Men must be struggled with to share more in the household and family responsibilities. Women must be encouraged to raise their ideas and not be intimidated by men. Women should support each other. They should be encouraged to take care of their health, be physically fit and conscious of the world around them.

The struggle for women’s equality is in the interests of both men and women and is vital for the very future of our movement.