Photo credit: Spencer Tullis

Photo credit: Spencer Tullis

In Geneva on March 8th, over 200 women and their supporters walked out, went on strike and rallied in solidarity with women across the globe. This is the second year that the Geneva Women’s Assembly has organized local women to be part of the International Women’s Strike.

The demonstration in Geneva politicized women’s work through a grassroots collective art installation. Women brought items or made posters representing their work and hung them on red clotheslines. Tamarie Cataldo of Geneva, brought hair-curlers, an apron, and a page cut from a 1950s women magazine from the 1950s titled, “I Hate Being Pregnant and I Hate Sex.” She explained, “I brought the magazine cut out to show how far we’ve come in 60 years but also how things have remained the same. Women still have to plan the meals and stock the cupboards. We engage in an endless stream of household chores and still can’t achieve the flawlessly decorated and spotless homes that society expects. The capitalist machine banks on women performing these invisible tasks without for free.” The art will be on display in the Geneva Historical Society until April 15.

Rather than featuring well-known speakers, the Geneva Women’s Assembly created a platform where women could be free to share their stories and say why they were on strike. Maggie Maclean, who came all the way from Buffalo to attend, said, “I strike because as an autistic woman I experience discrimination every day. I strike because as an advocate for people with disabilities my work is too often unrecognized by other activists. I strike because the Trump administration is trying to roll back the Americans with Disabilities Act. I strike because healthcare for those with disabilities is a feminist issue.” Other women described their experiences with poverty, violence, workplace harassment, the challenges of single motherhood, and the relentless grind of everyday sexism and racism. Nhung Nguyen spoke of the legacies of imperialism and war, especially as inscribed on the bodies of Vietnamese women. Banan Otaibi gave a tribute to her mother’s commitment to the Palestinian struggle. She invoked lines from Refeet Ziadah’s poem, “Shades of Anger” – “Allow me to speak my Arab tongue/before they occupy my language as well.”

Melissa Rodney, of Geneva, performed her spoken-word poem that included the lines:

Maya told me to Rise
Assata said to fight
And Davis, as she so eloquently puts it said “grasp it by the root”

Our words are precious
our ideas priceless
her words are precious
her ideas priceless
my words are priceless
my ideas . . . (chuckles) . . . .revolutionary

The Geneva Women’s Assembly March 8 event concluded with an announcement of their new initiative to end the sexual harassment of restaurant and service sector workers in the Finger Lakes. Finger Lakes Against Sexual Harassment (FLASH) is a solidarity network of customers, community members, workers, and neighbors who can be counted on to support and defend workers who report harassment and discrimination in their workplace. For more information, go to fingerlakesagainstsexualharassment.com