International Women's Day 2012 Celebration at Solidarity Books


As has happened for the last two years, Solidarity Books and Cork WSM hosted an event on the 8th of March to celebrate International Women's Day. This year, Cork WSM members and other activists got together to put on an evening of food, film and discussion in the city's premier radical bookshop and meeting space. Meals were prepared on site and served by Veg Out! and Lentil Disorder, and was enjoyed by a multitude of women and men from the Cork activist scene and beyond. The food fuelled an hour or more of convivial chat, as people reminisced over previous celebrations and cast an eye over feminist-themed displays in various places about the shop space.

Following on from the communal meal, there was an hour or more of ably-facilitated group discussion on the subject of women's working lives and the struggles of women over the last two generations for equality and justice at work. The discussion was led off by some poetry read by Farah from Cork WSM and local socialist activist Margaret O'Regan, who recounted her memories of the infamous 'marriage bar' in operation, the discrimination against working women with children during her working life, and the deceptions and sacrifices she had to make in order to keep her job while raising her child.

Following on from that, Margaret Hayes of the Independent Workers Union's Home Helps section told of the struggles of women working as caregivers for their basic rights as workers against the Health Services Executive, a fight that has gone on for ten years or more, and continues today as home helps are among those whose hours and hourly rates have been cut in the government's austerity programme. Margaret also told of the commitment of her colleagues to their work as caregivers, a commitment cynically exploited by a state targeting working-class women to preserve the wealth of a privileged minority composed almost totally of men. Several of the women workers involved in the Vita Cortex redundancy dispute told of how important getting equal pay at work was for them, both in terms of personal dignity and their ability to provide for their families. As well as several other participants, they also stated how important solidarity was for their struggle today, as well as for the women involved in previous labour disputes. There was also a short debate about whether women should aspire to join the (mostly) male minority that are the controlling class under capitalism, or to struggle to abolish it. Going from the audience reaction, it was safe to say that the latter course of action was more popular.

After the discussion, it was then time for the documentary film 'Women of Brukman', which told the story of the Brukman suit factory in Buenos Aires, Argentina, which was abandoned by its owners during the 2002 financial crisis, only for it to be taken over by its mostly women workforce. The filmmakers followed the working women's story for six years, through evictions, court cases, intimidation tactics from the former owners to the happy outcome of being workers in control of their own workplace. It was an inspiring story and who knows, maybe something like that might happen in austerity-ridden Ireland?

Many thanks are due to Elinor, Farah and many other comrades and friends for putting this brilliant celebration together at short notice, and here's looking forward to next year's International Women's Day celebrations!