This year has been marked by heinous attacks on women’s rights. The Slutwalk move­ment emerged after a Toronto cop, Michael Sanguinetti, suggested women avoid rape by “not dressing like sluts.” The protests that followed hinted at the revival of the feminist movement. Tens of thousands of women in mul­tiple countries moved out into the streets protesting sexual assault. The spread of these protests internationally show that women are ready to move into struggle. But will the Slut­walk movement fall prey to the same missteps of other single-issue movements, or will it be able to connect with broader struggles against all forms of oppression?

Slutwalks captured the imagination of a new group of women who didn’t get to expe­rience the energy of the femi­nist movement in the 1960s. Different from the national women’s organizations, the Slutwalks are grassroots and generating more of a stir. During a time when Planned Parenthood has to defend its funding by minimizing abor­tion services, Slutwalk par­ticipants aren’t worried about offending anyone. This sug­gests a contrast with the main­stream feminist organizations, who have steadily degraded the militancy of the original call for “free, on-demand abor­tion for all” to make their mes­saging more palatable to the Democratic Party.

Yet the Slutwalks have failed to connect with larger numbers of women, par­ticularly on the basis of word “slut.” Women of color take issue with the use of the word, raising concerns that refer­ring to themselves as sluts only validates racist narratives about black women and other stereotypes.

War on Women

There has also been an uptick in attacks specifically on reproductive rights, includ­ing attempts to limit the availability of contraception, eliminate Title X funding for Planned Parenthood, codify transvaginal ultrasounds prior to abortions, and extend wait­ing periods for abortions. All of these measures chip away at reproductive justice by provid­ing steep barriers to accessing abortion services.

Attacks on women go well beyond reproductive rights; as states slash budgets to deal with deficits, the effects for women are compounded. They not only face losing their health care through cuts to Medicaid, but are also threat­ened with unemployment as shrinking budgets lead to job cuts in health care and educa­tion – industries where women predominate.

As child care and elderly care funding is eliminated, it is typically women who step in to fill the gap. The services lost must now be provided by women, to the detriment of their participation in education or the workplace.

Obama failed to wage any serious fight-back against these attacks. Rather, he’s mounted his own attacks, overruling the FDA’s decision to make Plan B available over the counter.

Romney wants to com­pletely defund Planned Parent­hood and overturn Roe v. Wade. Paul Ryan, his running mate, voted over 50 times against women’s right to choose and co-sponsored a failed person­hood bill that would have made abortion and some forms of birth control legally equivalent to murder.

Most recently, Representa­tive Todd Akin claimed women could not become pregnant in cases of “legitimate rape.” This is not only untrue but, more alarmingly, points to the continued shift to the right by politicians in attacking abor­tion rights.

Socialism and the Liberation of Women

Capitalism depends on the oppression of women and the millions of unpaid hours worked domestically by women. Widespread poverty among women maintains a desperate workforce that com­petes for low wages, allowing for profits to concentrate in the hands of the 1%.

Women cannot allow their demands to be limited to what is acceptable to the Democratic Party: small reforms that can be stepped back at any time, as is happening now. Obamacare leaves 30 million people unin­sured. No insurance? No birth control. We need universal health care with free, accessi­ble contraception and abortion services.

Abortion rights were hard-won in this country through mass struggle. We must build for the Slutwalks planned in our cities, while understanding that our true allies in struggle are in the working class.

Slutwalks should link up with working people fight­ing against injustice, build­ing a unified understanding of oppression, both of women and of the working class, to mobilize the power needed to successfully lift all women, workers, and the poor up and pressure whichever ruling-class party is in power to accept our demands.

Until we deal with the system of capitalism that relies on having an exploitable class of people to use for cheap labor – be it single mothers in Amer­ica or poor rural families in China – we won’t be address­ing the root cause of oppres­sion; we’ll always be strug­gling to defend basic rights.

We need to build a party of workers and the poor that stands solidly for the rights of all who are oppressed and understands that domination of society by Wall Street and big business needs to end. Only then can women’s rights be guaranteed. Only then can women, in solidarity with the 99%, successfully liberate themselves from all oppres­sion.

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