If you aren’t living under a rock, you’ve heard about A Day Without a Woman, a day of action scheduled for March 8th (International Women’s Day) put together by the organizers of the Women’s March on Washington. According to the WMW’s FAQ page,* the purpose of this action is “to highlight the economic power and significance that women have in the US and global economies, while calling attention to the economic injustices women and gender nonconforming people continue to face.” To participate, women around the country are called upon to take the day off from paid and unpaid labor, avoid participating in commerce or buy only from local women and minority-owned businesses, and wear red, “a color signifying of revolutionary love and sacrifice,”* as a display of solidarity. Male allies are called to participate as well by speaking up for family leave and equal pay in the office, “leaning in” to childcare and other domestic responsibilities, examining their expectations of the women in their lives – and so perhaps expecting more of themselves – and of course, wearing red.*
While I’ve seen a lot of very positive press regarding Wednesday’s strike, I would be remiss if I didn’t address valid criticisms of this action. You see, I am a privileged woman in that I recently chose to take a few months off from work outside the home. I’m in a stable relationship with a supportive and loving partner who can assume my domestic responsibilities for the day. I know that I can take the day off from caring for my child and that he will still get help with his homework and a balanced dinner.
It wasn’t always this way. The memory of my three year old offering to protect me after watching me get slapped around one too many times is a wound too easily reopened. The time the electricity got turned off for a few days so I could fix my car and keep my job comes to mind. There are other examples, of course, but my history does not negate today’s privilege at all. The thing is, sacrificing a day’s pay for a protest is simply impossible for millions of women, even if we can do so without perhaps losing our jobs altogether. For so many women, eschewing childcare responsibilities for an entire day is a fantasy – hell, for many of us, it would be a luxury to get an uninterrupted shower.
And so I have felt very uneasy about A Day Without a Woman. While I wholeheartedly support its intentions, I am deeply concerned that it excludes those who persist through the greatest amount of injustice. This burden falls disproportionately on women of color, immigrants, refugees, disabled women, and LGBTQIA+ identifying people. As a white woman facing comparatively little oppression, does this make it wrong to participate?
When I asked the women in my life if they would be participating, I was humbled by how clear things became. While I do know some women who are participating on March 8th, and I support them wholeheartedly, again and again I heard from women who are still choosing to work that day. And it has little or nothing to do with all my handwringing and should-we shouldn’t-we. The reason? Because these women are doing the exhausting, difficult, and so very rewarding work of promoting justice every single day. These are the women who are fighting for abortion access for Kentuckians, who have just one clinic left in the state and a mounting pile of legislation to create economic and geographic barriers. These are the women who fight to offer accurate sexual education, STD testing, cancer screenings, and affordable contraception to anyone who walks in their doors, under constant threat of losing vital funds.
These are the women who are working with local immigrants and refugees in the face of a regime based on fear and hatred of anyone with an unfamiliar accent. These are the women who stand up and speak out against systemic racism and the trivialization of Black lives even though it would be safer to keep their heads down. These are the women fighting for inclusion and accessibility for disabled people in a society that constantly overlooks them. These are the women who are tireless in their advocacy for the rights and dignity of LGBTQIA+ persons. These are the teachers who love their students so hard it hurts, the social workers who go above and beyond to improve their clients’ lives, the medical support staff who soothe scared children at three in the morning at an inpatient care facility. These are the women who recruit the volunteers, who answer the phones, the ones who organize.
These are the women lighting up the dark corners, without applause and without opinion pieces in all the major news outlets. These are the women who Get Shit Done, and we can’t afford a day without them, because the amount that needs doing only seems to grow with each passing day.
In order for us to have reproductive justice** – in order for all women to have true self-determination in how, when, with whom, or if they decide to raise children – we cannot ignore how multiple layers of oppression intersect. Isn’t the lack of a living wage then a barrier? Living under the threat of deportation? Living in a food desert? Systemic criminalization of Black bodies? Inability to access necessary medical care? Does constant sexuality-based discrimination impede on your right to become a parent? Or your right to raise children in an environment where they are safe and healthy? What about the near-daily litany of trans people being brutally murdered?
What I have learned – am still learning – from these women is this: while the huge protests, marches, and actions are important, it is those who integrate justice into their daily lives who are making the greatest impact. I do not believe that these ideas are mutually exclusive in the slightest. In fact, the giant events, with their intoxicating feelings of solidarity and empowerment, can help get you through the times when it feels like a losing battle. But you still need to show up for the fight.
After attending the Women’s March on Washington this past January, I made a pact with myself to “make it mean something.” Otherwise all the time, expense, and effort to move my body to Washington felt like a gross display of my privilege, like one of the worst kinds of tourism. I’ve made good on that pact to the best of my ability, and always strive to do more. There are so many amazing local organizations in the Louisville area, and I would be willing to bet there is something to suit any skills, time, or comfort level you may bring to the table. In the past month, I’ve done everything from clinic escorting, to phone banking, to spreadsheet/database maintenance, to canvassing, to delivering furniture for refugees, to baking muffins, to fundraising – among other things. So yes, by all means, participate in the nationwide and international actions, and I’ll be wearing red as well. But on Thursday morning, we take that energy and use it locally. Below are some links to get you started – do some research, send some emails! This is not the easy work, and it’s not the glamorous work, but it is absolutely the most meaningful work there is.
Also visit our How to Get Involved page