A Day Without A Woman (Logo via Women’s March)
Strikes are a contentious way to demonstrate a point. Will A Day Without a Woman make its mark?
Editors’ note: This piece was written prior to today, March 8, but we are publishing it today as a meditation on the nature of A Day Without a Woman.
Some think that the women’s strike is a silly, foolish thing, an empty gesture or temper tantrum. To them, it must be like an extended whine issuing forth from the mouths of pretty, pampered things, little girls who don’t know how good they really have it.
I can’t help but think that some of the detractors are blinded, in their way. They must not see the million small things that a woman does throughout a day, throughout her entire life. The clean dishes, the vacuumed floors, the appeasing smiles. The baby fed and clothed, the children ferried between school and appointments and practices. The mountain of filth, both metaphorical and literal, that must pass through a woman’s hands before it can become clean again.
Oh, and don’t forget the particular perils of being a modern woman. There are jobs on top of it all, or careers, if the lack of parental leave and childcare prices allow one, anyway. The wage gaps, the spare two to four weeks with your newborn before handing it over into the care of someone else. Then it’s back to your desk, your forms, your labor.
Women’s labor, whether it is paid or not, acknowledged or not, is indeed labor. If all the women in the world were able to simply stop working for a day, then it is a near certainty that society would feel the quake, be it in small ways or large.
Ah, but there’s the complication. You see, not every woman can participate in today’s strike. We’d be doing a great disservice to them if we did not acknowledge the plight of every woman today, and not just the ones with plenty of sick time and healthy bank balances.
Perhaps they have to work because their pay is abysmal and they need every cent they can get. Or it could be that they have an unsympathetic boss that doesn’t give a damn about A Day Without a Woman, and who in fact may be happy to simply fire the woman that doesn’t show up to work.
Certainly, there are women that must continue running households and caring for people as a matter of necessity. Some of them might be single mothers; it could hardly be feminist to ask them to abandon their children for the day. Or what about the teachers and childcare workers? If they strike, innocent people could easily suffer.
The truth is, many of those who cannot strike are people of color. They might even be immigrants, who are understandably nervous given the current political climate. So, in many ways, the strike is indeed for the privileged amongst us.
Two-thirds of the people earning minimum wage are women. A significant portion of those minimum wage workers are women of color. At this point, we shouldn’t be surprised, though we should certainly cultivate our rage and sadness into something useful.
Anyway, we have only enough time and energy to be straightforward. It’s one thing for a salaried white woman with plenty of vacation time to strike. It’s something else entirely for a woman of color who makes $7.25 per hour without benefits.
That’s the way of things in a highly capitalist society, isn’t it? Oftentimes, it seems as if the money controls us, rather than the other way around. It’s likely that there are quite a few women who would like to strike today and make a point about the true importance of women in the United States and beyond.
Yet, they are under the yoke. They need wages. They need to take care of the young and innocent. Their very lives might crumble around them if they take even a single day to rest and resist.
Many are referencing the 1975 Icelandic women’s strike, which made a remarkable and dramatic point about women’s work. With nearly 90 percent of women abstaining from all work that day, domestic or otherwise, the country practically shut down. However, closing the wage gap even in progressive Iceland has remained elusive.
However, we are not Iceland. We are a much larger country, for one, and more diverse, too. Iceland in 1975 had about 218,000 people total. Our last population estimate clocks in at over 300 million Americans.
None of this is to say that you shouldn’t strike if you can. After all, the United States witnessed its own successful, if somewhat limited, women’s strike on August 26, 1970. January 21, 2017 saw millions of people protesting for women’s rights worldwide. Visible gestures are striking and oftentimes very important.
Even if you have to work today, there are other ways you can support the effort, such as by refusing to purchase goods or wearing red. If you must buy something, get it from a local business, preferably one owned by a woman. If you can, try to attend an event in your area.
It is all a noble effort if nothing else. What kind of humans would we be if we didn’t strive for nobility and grand gestures? Just remember that there is a definite element of privilege inherent in A Day Without a Woman. Acknowledge the many different lives of women throughout our country and the world.
If you can only remember one thing, remember this: our work does not begin and end on a single day. It is the effort of a lifetime, of the several accumulated lives of all the humans who must band together and fight for equality.
So, whether you are striking or not, today is still an important day for reflection, if nothing else. Look at your history and the state of your community and family today. If this is the beginning for you, wonderful! Welcome to the cause. Just don’t think that our fight stops tomorrow.