A Day Without a Woman: International Women’s Day

Today is International Women’s Day. It is a day dedicate to celebrate the successes and achievement of women and gender non-conforming people. It is a day dedicated to action. (It also happens to be a day with a long history, with roots in the 1908 women’s march in NYC and official designation as International Women’s Day by the UN in 1975).

Today–March 8, 2017– is also that day that the Women’s March on Washington organizers called for a general strike: “a day without a woman.”

Thus, today I am striking.

I will not be going into the office, I have arranged to Skype in for an important meeting. I will wear red for the call/ meeting.

I will not buy anything today, but I will organize the massive amount of Girl Scout cookies that will be dispersed to my troop tomorrow.

I will cook. I will read to my kids at night (maybe from their new book: Rad American Women A-Z)

I will use this time to write letters to my elected officials. I finish a paper on feminist activism (ok, this is working…). I will make a donation.

I will use my privilege on this day to call attention to the important, yet undervalued, role of women in our economy and in our society through my absence, my spending choices, and my writing.

I will use my privilege to challenge systems that perpetuate my privilege.

But, as many have noted, striking looks different to different people. Some women–including women business owners–have vowed to work today at their women-owned places of employment open as their own form of protest. Some women work in precarious employment where striking is not a choice they feel they have and are wearing red to show support and solidarity. And, some see the strike as silly and pointless, arguing that without a “goal,” why?

But, as I see it, there is a goal. Individual goals likely vary slightly from person to person. For me the goal is two-fold: 1. be in solidarity with the labor movement, immigrant rights movement, and Black liberation movement, that have each used general strikes in the past; and, 2. cause enough disruption in the day-to-day monotony of our routine that people take notice (Notice of my absence, of gendered employment patterns, of the movement more broadly)

My co-workers will have to do a little extra today to cover my absence. But, more importantly in my mind, it will hopefully encourage them  to reflect on why some women are missing (the tenure track faculty) and not the non-tenured track faculty, staff, and grad students. Why did these women feel that they couldn’t participate? Maybe they did not see the point, maybe they thought it was silly, or maybe they felt that they couldn’t (to be fair… I felt like I couldn’t participate (as I am junior faculty) until I spoke with more senior faculty members).

Ultimately, the goal of the strike, as I see it, is to use our power–through marching, letter writing, & striking– to demand system/ policy changes (https://www.womensmarch.com/principles/)

Will you/ did you strike? Why? Why not?

2 Comments

  1. Hi Ashley,

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts on IWD. Like you, I think there are many ways to show support and many reasons for doing so. One thing that frustrates me about a day like yesterday is that the only workers with the power to strike are those in some place of privilege (term not meant in the pejorative). My wife is the director of a small nonprofit museum and as the only full-time employee she could have easily worked from home yesterday. Her museum is closed on Wednesdays and her absence would go largely unnoticed, which is the problem. A strike is far more effective when lower level workers act together. When a school principal stays home sick, the school operates without a principal for the day. When a teacher is absent, the school has to find a replacement. I was happy to see that some schools actually had to shutdown for the day because enough teachers did not show up to work.

    I was recently in Wisconsin interviewing labor activists about the protests outside of the state capitol over Wisconsin Act 10, which stripped public employees of their collective bargaining rights. Generally, the Teachers Assistant Association members wanted to fight Scott Walker with a general strike and protest. They were willing to take that risk. At the same time, the members of more professionalized labor unions decided the recall strategy would be the best route. There was a feeling among TAA members that labor unions have been fighting battles through elections for so long now that they have lost the nerve to create labor unrest outside of traditional political venues.

    It also doesn’t help that people are more willing to cross a picket line than in the past. I could write a book about this (and I am), but I’ll stope there. I can’t say I blame people for not participating in yesterday’s strike because they didn’t feel like they had the power to do so. I’m just disappointed that the state of the labor movement makes them feel that way.

    Thank you for sharing.

    Solidarity Forever,
    Dominic

    Reply
  2. Please forgive my spelling error in the previous post. It appears that I am unable to edit it after it has been submitted.

    Reply

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