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Appleton, WI: Students and community celebrate International Women’s Day

By staff

Renee Gralewicz of the Brothertown Nation speaks during Appleton's commemoration

Appleton, WI – Students and other members of the Fox Valley community gathered to celebrate International Women’s Day on March 5 in Appleton’s Houdini Plaza. Appleton Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) and the Freedom Road Socialist Organization co-hosted the rally.

The event was kicked off with a speech by FRSO member Hannah Hurrle, with their speech setting the tone for the afternoon. She reminded people of the origins of International Women’s Day and of the relationship between gender inequality and economic inequality. Hurrle highlighted the wage gap between men and women and how that gap is further widened for women of oppressed nationalities.

After Hurrle’s speech was Madi Jones of Appleton SDS. Jones emphasized the longstanding struggle for reproductive rights, bodily autonomy, and against state-sponsored violence: “In the 1970s over 24% of native people and 35% of Puerto Rican people that could bear children had been sterilized. And since 1964 roughly 65% of all sterilizations in South Carolina were done to Black women and Black people with uteruses. Poor women were coerced into agreeing to be permanently sterilized by being threatened with losing their welfare checks if they refused,” adding, “The right to choose when and where to have children was and is being forcibly stripped from these people and their bodily autonomy is also being taken from them in the process.”

Renee Gralewicz shared her perspective as a former professor and as a citizen of the Brothertown Nation. Opening on how the enemy is made obscure by the ruling class, Renee contrasted the western and indigenous definitions of patriarchy and matriarchy. Gralewicz e spoke about how the two are often counterposed, which leads many to see patriarchal and matriarchal societies as inherently oppressive. As a former professor, Gralewicz called attention to the superficial definitions in academia, and how those definitions often obfuscate the real enemy: the monopoly capitalist. With that, she added that men have a stake in overthrowing the oppressive systems that keep women and non-men in a further subjugated position due to the fact that the capitalist class benefits from all our oppression.

As people gathered to commemorate the contributions of women, non-binary, and two-spirit individuals, they were reminded of the state’s overt and covert violence, as well as how the capitalist ruling class is the main benefactor of our oppression. As the fight for equality continues, Madi Jones provided us all with a call to action: “Our ancestors have done it time and time again, the fighting spirit is in our blood. I have no doubt that we can make concrete changes as a united front.”

#AppletonWI #InternationalWomensDay