International Women’s Day, The Women’s Strike and Why We Should (Still) March

March 8th is International Women’s Day, the inspiration for Plenty’s theme this month, #thefutureisfemale, as well as the occasion for an international day of action for gender equality.

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There are two initiatives for this year’s Women’s Day that have grown out of the Women’s March on Washington.  The International Women’s Strike and A Day Without A Woman.  Both are calling for similar action:

  • that all women take the day off from paid and unpaid labour
  • that women and the men who support them avoid shopping for the day, with the exception of supporting small, women- and minority-owned businesses

In addition to the actions above, A Day Without a Woman organizers are also asking that women and all who support them wear red on Wednesday.  The idea for this action did not begin with The Women’s March on Washington, but it was certainly galvanized by it.  As American organizers of that march articulated it in an article for The Guardian,

The idea is to mobilize women, including trans women, and all who support them in an international day of struggle – a day of striking, marching, blocking roads, bridges, and squares, abstaining from domestic, care and sex work, boycotting, calling out misogynistic politicians and companies, striking in educational institutions.

And it looks like there will be marches all around the US, and, indeed, the world.

The idea has not had much traction here in Canada, though.  In keeping with traditional timing, there is an International Women’s Day march planned for Saturday, March 11, but that’s not until Saturday, and it’s not strike-related.  Unlike all of the build up to the Women’s March on Washington in January, the poster-making, the photos of pussy hats in progress, things have been oddly quiet on the hell-raising front, and I began to ask myself why.   Is it because it’s mid-week? Is it activist fatigue?  Is it because striking for a day is a very different proposition than marching for a couple of hours?

I’ve heard of a few things happening, by chance and off-hand.  My Midwives Collective will close its offices for the day (births will still be attended!).  I’ve heard that two private girls’ schools will close.  Can that be all I’ve heard?  I’m sure that’s not all that’s happening, but it’s all I’ve heard, strike-wise.  I am missing the buzz and the excitement.  Where is it?  I need the buzz and the sense of even a virtual community to get excited about a strike.

When I considered striking on Wednesday, I actually felt a bit sheepish.  Going to a protest, making posters, making noise, making a difference.  These are things I embraced.  I even embrace a spending embargo on March 8.  There is power in withholding your economic clout, and I hope it will make a real and perceptible dent.  But a strike?  I have no paid labour, so my strike would be domestic, and I have no quarrel with my husband or my three boys and no wish to inconvenience them.   They do not take my work for granted.  I make damn sure of that.   Who, exactly, would my striking affect?  My husband and kids, and they are not part of my problem.  I am not oppressed by these people.  As I have been writing, my husband has prepared dinner and the kids have cleaned up.  I joined them at the table for a few moments to tell them about what I’m writing and to ask if they’d heard anything about the strike.  When the topic changed and two of them began to quarrel, I just left them to it.  This is, admittedly, not our usual domestic arrangement, but tonight they had a dinner without a woman and without a problem.   Wednesday might be more of a problem.

As it happens, I will be at a Women’s Day screening of a film about human trafficking on Wednesday evening (You should go, too!  See below.), so I will not be home to prepare or serve or clean up after dinner, nor will I be on hand to move little bodies to and from their after school commitments.  This is a convenient state of affairs for an ambivalent striker.  I will inconvenience my husband by virtue of a prior engagement.  I get to strike and have my cake, too.  It doesn’t really solve the problem of getting to the bottom of my sheepish feelings, though, does it?

Why does it feel wrong to strike?  It did not take many minutes of thinking (and typing, thank you, Plenty) to figure it out.  It’s because I can afford to.  It’s because no one will really notice if I do.  It’s because I have the enormous privilege and joy to be married to the man who is my husband, because together we are raising three boys who will miss me if I’m gone, certainly, but will get on perfectly well without me.  But that’s not the point.  The point of these manifestations is not me and my happy little life.  The strike and the spending embargo and the march are not really about me and my domestic arrangements.  I am not doing these things for lack of power or privilege.  I am doing them precisely because I have power and privilege and millions of others don’t.

Here is where I have arrived with my thinking.  On Wednesday, I will not spend.  I will wear red.  And, yes, I will strike.  I will not wake the kids, make their lunches, walk them to school or home again.  I will not make their dinner or clean it up.  I will not get them to the places they need to be.  This will mostly be symbolic, and since I’m pretty much down to the talking alarm clock as my only essential role in their lives, I imagine I won’t be terribly missed.  But I’ll do it, and we’ll talk more about why I did it, and awareness will be raised.  On Saturday, I will march.  And about that I have no ambivalence.  The Women’s March in January made me feel good.  It felt amazing to get out there with so many like-minded people.  It was about community.  And that’s why I will march again on Saturday, in the hopes of partaking in and contributing to a sense of solidarity and community.

How about you?  Are you striking?  Marching?  Missing the buzz?

Events news

The International Women’s Day Rally in Toronto traditionally happens on the weekend after Women’s Day, and that is the case this year.  It will take place on March 11.  A rally begins at 11:00 at King’s College Circle.  Marching begins at 1:00 with the route ending at Ryerson with an information fair.  More details here.

The International Women’s Day web page has events listings for your country and city.  Here’s what’s happening in Toronto.  Included in the list is The Shoebox Project.  Until March 7, drop off a shoebox filled with little luxuries for women in local shelters.

The Junior League is hosting a free screening of Sold, a movie about human trafficking.  Beth-Anne and I will be there.  Look out for us!

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