WASHINGTON — The Women’s March on Washington and its sister marches showed the power of women coming together in one place, leading to the largest single-day demonstrations in American history. Now the group behind the march is looking to showcase women’s workplace and purchasing power through their absence.
Wednesday’s “A Day Without a Woman” action involves a retreat from engagement with the world as a way of highlighting women’s central roles within it. No going to work. No spending money or shopping, except at small and women-owned businesses. No unpaid labor, either. Wear red clothing in solidarity, when striking is not possible.
This “general strike” action, held in connection with International Women’s Day and in solidarity with the International Women’s Strike, has been criticized by some U.S. movement supporters for asking women to risk their jobs in a nation where only 10.2 percent of women are in unions. But the organizers see it as the next step in their efforts to empower women opposed to President Trump’s agenda and character.
“Protesting itself is not enough, which is why we stepped to the next level of asking people to sacrifice, you know, being a part of the strike,” Tamika Mallory, co-chair of the Women’s March organization, said in a video posted to Facebook. “All of these things work together. We can’t do one thing and expect that the walls are going to come tumbling down. It’s going to take multiple levels of action, activism and resistance in order to insure that democracy is preserved in this country.”
And while general strikes in U.S. history have sometimes had a violent past, Wednesday’s actions have drawn a broad spectrum of mainstream support and in some cases are being tied into broader women’s workplace empowerment efforts and celebrations of women’s history and achievements. International Women’s Day in Europe draws a substantial number of corporate supporters, and several major companies in the U.S. have extended notices to their employees that they are free to take a personal day on Wednesday in support of the strike.
The youth music network MTV is turning its M logo upside down to make it a W — for women — for the day. Fusion is posting special women’s issues content. New York magazine’s the Cut is not posting new content on Wednesday, announcing, “In honor of International Women’s Day, we’re on strike.” NBC and Netflix have offered employees the chance to take the day off as a personal day without penalty. So have car-sharing services Uber, recently under fire for allegedly fostering a culture of unrestrained sexual harassment, and Lyft.
“A strike is not undertaken lightly, and many of the women on the front lines risked their lives in fighting for this deserved justice. It is crucial we acknowledge that strikes and human rights movements of the past have been predominantly led by low income women, immigrants, queer women, and women of color. They led, and are leading, the way to true equality,” wrote a group of women at Tumblr, which is owned by Yahoo Inc. “For us, employees of Tumblr in 2017, a strike isn’t as risky. Tech is a male-dominated field, so a single day without women at Tumblr may simply mean a few empty chairs in meetings.”
Facebook is connecting the day to the Lean In feminism of the company’s chief operating officer, Sheryl Sandberg. “Facebook will host a 24-hour, #SheMeansBusiness Facebook Live event featuring conversations with some of the incredible women who start and run businesses,” Sandberg announced, launching the She Means Business Facebook page.
Even Trump, who sneered at the Women’s March protesters in January — “Why didn’t these people vote?” he asked then — got into the mix. “I have tremendous respect for women and the many roles they serve that are vital to the fabric of our society and our economy,” he tweeted Wednesday morning. “On International Women’s Day, join me in honoring the critical role of women here in America & around the world.”
School districts in Chapel Hill, N.C., and Alexandria, Va., announced they were canceling classes for the day. Public schools in Prince George’s County, Md., announced Tuesday night they were canceling classes for the day in response to the number of employees saying they were taking the day off, raising the ire of parents who would have preferred more than one day’s notice of this. Prince George’s County Public Schools CEO Kevin Maxwell reported that more than 1,700 members of the school system’s staff and 30 percent of transportation staff had said they would be out. “We cannot transport students and provide safe, productive learning environments without adequate staff,” said Maxwell. “Based on our policies, PGCPS and the Prince George’s County Board of Education have no political stance on ‘A Day Without a Woman.’”
Some have criticized the general strike as an action available only to privileged women who have enough workplace flexibility to take time off without risking their finances or their jobs. “The idea behind the strike is a noble one. Who doesn’t want economic equality for everyone? But in practice, most American women cannot afford to opt out of either paid or unpaid labor,” wrote Maureen Shaw at business site QZ. Others argue that it has been less privileged women who have been taking time off work for years to engage in protests for social change, such as those around immigration and police brutality. “So many women with so much to lose from striking are already doing so,” wrote Magally A. Miranda Alcazar and Kate D. Griffiths in the Nation.
Others have wondered why the Women’s March is asking people to wear red in solidarity if they can’t take the day away from work, instead of the pink that organically came to define the marches through the work of “craftivists” who knit and crocheted hundreds of thousands of pink “pussyhats.”
“Show them the color PINK to represent women’s power. No red!!!! Be consistent and choose PINK again and again! Claim the color that is ours!” wrote Connie White on Facebook in response to Mallory’s organizing video.
The color red has to do with the history of International Women’s Day, which began as International Working Women’s Day, in 1909, in remembrance of a strike of women textile workers in New York City the year before, and later continued with the support of the Socialist Party. First celebrated in February, the date was moved to March 8 in observance of the day women’s textile workers went on strike in Petrograd in 1917, helping spark the Russian Revolution. The U.N. got behind the day during the height of second-wave feminism in 1977.
Several major protests also are planned over the course of the day around the country, and Washington, D.C., and New York City will each see at least two different protests.
Read more from Yahoo News: