For many women, opting out of showing up to perform paid or unpaid labor is simply not an option.
Social media tells me that today is A Day Without A Woman. The mission being that "women and our allies will act together for equity, justice and the human rights of women and all gender-oppressed people, through a one-day demonstration of economic solidarity."
One of the demonstrations being that women take the day off, from paid and unpaid labor.
I’m not sure where exactly it's going to be a day without a woman, as my all-female service industry workplace reports no absences and the entirely female staff at my kids’ daycare have all clocked in and my mom friends are still, you know, mom-ing and women-ing.
At my kids’ school, the majority-female staff is there in full force, with their reserves of patience I can only dream of being tapped into as my kids and hundreds of others find novel ways to test its limits yet again. I just called my doctor’s office to see if the female staff left my male doctor to figure out scheduling and billing for himself but there they were, answering the phone like they don’t even know what day it is.
I bet none of them wore red, either.
At the grocery store, the cash registers were still manned (Haha, jokes! There wasn’t a Y chromosome in sight!) by the usual ladies. I haven’t yet found where exactly this day without women is happening, but I have been assured that it is happening In Many Places and with Many Women of So Much Diversity.
I sense, however, is that this indeed is A Big Day ... for white feminists with job stability and PTO and no real fear of financial, professional, or personal repercussions.
For many women, opting out of showing up to perform paid or unpaid labor is simply not an option. Sixty percent of single mothers live below the poverty line. If they walk out on their paid and unpaid labor today, who is going to feed and cloth and transport and parent and provide for their children? Two-thirds of minimum wage workers are women, and more than half — yes, HALF — of all people earning minimum wage are women of color.
What happens if they skip a day of work to prove a point? How will they make rent or buy groceries or walk back into work tomorrow confident they still have a job? And what if all the female teachers and daycare providers and nannies all chose not to show up today? What are the working moms who can’t strike going to do with their kids? Take them to their obviously flexible workplaces?
If the schools close, what will the kids who only get meals at school eat today? Or what about women who are in abusive relationships? What do you think would happen to them if they decided to strike today? Said "I’m not doing domestic things" or "I’m calling in sick"? Moreover, what are the chances that by not showing up for work today, you are making another woman work even harder to compensate for your absence?
I know, I know, you are striking for them, too. But what does that mean, exactly? You get a day off and they get what? What tangible thing are you accomplishing for the women of color, the poor women, the LGBTQ women, the abused women, the disabled women who don’t have the luxury of striking today? What demands must be met before these women can go back to work?
That’s the thing, isn’t it? This isn’t how strikes work. The fact that none of the organizers seem to know that in and of itself reeks of privilege. I grew up in a city with plenty of labor strikes, so I’m pretty familiar with how those go down. The reason bosses feared a strike is because a strike rendered their businesses non-functional. Cab companies can’t run cabs without drivers. Buildings can’t get framed without carpenters.
Those on the picket line would be there for weeks and months, losing income, risking all the years they’d put toward retirement, risking getting blackballed, but able to do it because they had strength in numbers. The company or entity in question would eventually play ball because they were losing so much money with no end date in sight, their reputation was taking a beating, picketers were making it difficult for patrons to use their services, and no one wanted to work for them.
But if one or two women leave a workplace or home for the day (in what is likely a pre-arranged absence, no less), what power does that give the women’s strike? If it is a finite strike with no real demands and no real consequences for anyone but those who actually risk something by striking, what is it but a performance of activism?
Look, I don’t doubt that some of the strikers are also women who call their congressmen, show up at town halls, canvass for feminist candidates, and get their asses in the voting booths, and for that, I applaud them. Those things create change. And if this strike means something to them, thumbs up for warm fuzzies.
I’m not of the mind that only perfect activism counts. I am, however, of the mind that activism needs to accomplish something. If they see a vision here that I don’t, if they have a plan I am unaware of, if there is literally a single thing this will accomplish other than flooding my social media feeds with a million selfies and think pieces (hypocrite), I’m eager to know what that is.
But if those same women can’t also gracefully hear a bit of criticism from the very women for whom they should be advocating or can’t take dissenting opinions of the strike without feeling personally attacked, then you’ll have to excuse the side eye they’ll be seeing from me — or would be — if I weren’t at work.