Why I Worked on A Day Without Women

 

Yesterday was International Women’s Day, and as a result of 45’s* election, women around the country have started to agitate for change. After the Women’s March in January, the creators wanted to demonstrate the value of women in work, thus declaring March 8, 2017 the first “Day Without Women.”

 

The Women’s March website provides options for all women:

Anyone, anywhere, can join by making March 8th A Day Without a Woman, in one or all of the following ways:

  1. Women take the day off, from paid and unpaid labor
  2. Avoid shopping for one day (with exceptions for small, women- and minority-owned businesses).
  3. Wear RED in solidarity with A Day Without A Woman

I want to focus on the first action, the day’s namesake and arguably the most visible action.

Since A Day Without A Woman was announced, I’ve had mixed feelings. I desperately want to demonstrate how much invisible work women do both inside and outside of the home. The second shift at home, the nurturing work in the office, the emotional management in all spheres, all in addition to our actual paid jobs. Women keep life running by cooking the meals in our campus dining halls, cleaning our offices, caring for our babies in daycare, teaching our children in public schools, and managing our health in medical settings as nurses or aides. Without these women, our worlds would literally stop. For a hypothetical example, see Bustle’s amazing description.

In contrast, most of the women I witnessed participating were privileged, middle-class women with PTO or some other perk preventing them from losing pay, or worse, their jobs. Would their absence prove anything, create hardship for anyone? In my opinion, no. If I were to take the day off from work, absolutely nobody would experience hardship. Do you know what would cause hardship? If all of the women at my 2 year old’s school decided to participate. Then I would have to either take the day off myself to care for my son, or find other care. But not a woman, because these are just the women we need to be demonstrating. I found myself silently cheering for my son’s teachers to strike, but knew deep down that their economic situations wouldn’t allow it, and their personal politics made the strike unappealing.

The issue is far too complex to demonstrate in the simplistic way that the Women’s March organizers chose. Without worker protection, women in caretaking type jobs (childcare, teaching, cooks, nurses/aides, housekeepers) face stark penalties for participating in a strike. And yet, these women are the backbone of society, without which our world would go into chaos. Their work needs to be visible!

I’m not sure what the answer is, but I have a feeling it has a lot to do with bringing back unions and worker protections to empower workers to fight for change. Until then, I can’t in good conscience participate.

*45=Trump. I can’t keep typing his name over and over again, so I’ll just use “45.”

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