Last night I read an article in the Chicago Tribune, “Chicago Businesses Prepare for ‘A Day Without a Woman.” Reading the comments made me realize, in a visceral way, why the concept of a women’s strike is still an important, though complicated, tool in 2017. Here is just a smattering:
- “Driving should be easier and parking too.”
- “Hooters just won’t be the same.”
- “A lot of women may find out that no one misses them. Then they can start up a whole new victimization scam.”
- “Did America suddenly become Saudi Arabia?”
- “This is so stupid. So silly.”
- “Any excuse not too work.”
The messages these comments send are important to understand and acknowledge. In a nutshell:
- Women are not competent or capable
- Women are easily reduced to their breasts/tits/boobs
- Women complain too much
- Women should be grateful to have any rights at all
- Women are silly
- Women are lazy
The concept of the strike behind ‘A Day Without Women’ was introduced by those same gals that first conceived of the Women’s March in January protesting the election of Donald Trump, and it was scheduled to coincide with International Women’s Day.
International Women’s Day has as its origins a group of 15,000 New York City union garment workers, all women, who coordinated a strike on March 8, 1908, working to achieve shorter working hours, higher wages, and the right to vote. The next year, that strike was formally honored by the Socialist Party of America. In 1910, the movement went global at the International Conference of Working Women in Copenhagen.
In 1911, just a few days after the 2nd International Women’s Day was held, 146 workers died in the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire in NYC on March 25. 123 of those workers were women, mostly Italian and Jewish immigrants. The conditions the women worked under were brutal and were what, in part, led to the original strike in 1908. Alas, that effort did not result in workplace improvements.
A women’s strike in Russia in 1917 was one of the contributing factors preceding the Russian Revolution. Women, protesting over two million deaths of Russian soldiers in World War I, began a strike for “bread and peace,” which lasted over four days and encouraged other workers to strike, directly leading to the abdication of the Czar and the newly instilled government granting Russian women the right to vote.
People who discount or diminish the impact and effectiveness of women banding together in solidarity to achieve common goals do not know their history.
That said, ahem, changing the course of history is never easy and achieving solidarity requires work, compromise, and cooperation. A friend, just this morning, posted this public Facebook status:
Everything Cherie says is to be noted and considered. And what, you ask, is ‘intersectional?’ Theorized by civil rights scholar Kimberle Crenshaw, intersectionist feminism, very simply stated, is that the oppression women experience is dependent on other factors beside their gender, including their race, religion, and class, among other factors.
The original feminist movement, at its core, was not an intersectional movement. Betty Friedan and Gloria Steinem were champions of the needs and issues most keenly experienced by white, middle class women, but not women of color. The counter argument to holding today’s ‘A Day Without a Woman’ is that it does not take into account the challenges women of other races and classes would face in holding a strike on a Wednesday in America 2017. Tia Cherie, in her status above, captures why this is problematic.
Personally, I am honoring International Women’s Day / ‘A Day Without Women’ by simply not spending money and listening. Solidarity via withholding my dollars, empathy via openness. My husband is away on business this week and the kiddos still need to get back and forth from school and eat and all that good stuff they simply expect from mom. Solidarity and empathy are the tools I can utilize today while still taking care of business.
While I respect and salute those women who are striking today to take an important stand on the call for gender equality, I also respect and salute those women who are simply unable to opt out for economic reasons. Hell, Imma go all inclusive here and say I respect and salute those women who think all of this is a bunch of hooey.
What I believe to be true is that women are a powerful force who are more vulnerable today than we were a year ago. We are stronger together, united, than we are divided. The experiences of women of different colors and classes than middle class white gals need to be welcomed, integrated, and valued in a way they historically have not been.
Solidarity and empathy are the tools I can utilize to achieve that, too, not just today, but every day. Why? Because those commenters on the Internet are real people with real power who like to demean and diminish and objectify women every chance they get, and those folks are never taking a day off.