Listen, nobody appreciates a day off as much as me. I savor a day to sleep, lounge around and just be generally slothish. Since quitting my job a few months back to write full-time, I’ve been able to have a few more days like that.
But I’m married. My husband has a good job and if I fall flat on my face, at least where money is concerned, with his writing thing, I know that we won’t miss bills or meals. As much as I take it for granted, having that sense of security is a privilege, one many women in this country and most certainly in countries devastated by poverty don’t.
That’s why I was more than a little put off by A Day Without Women, a protest set for today (March 8, which is also International Women’s Day) organized by the same people who organized the historic Women’s March on Washington back in January to protest the Trump administration. I was adamant that I wasn’t here for that march. And though this new effort seems slightly more palatable, I’m not here for this protest either.
To begin, this protest is purportedly in the “same spirit of love and liberation that inspired the Women’s March.” The rhetoric of inclusion continues by acknowledging “the enormous value that women of all backgrounds add to our socio-economic system–while receiving lower wages and experiencing greater inequities, vulnerability to discrimination, sexual harassment, and job insecurity.” On the surface, there is little to debate in that statement. Women, regardless of race, class and ability are disadvantaged. But beyond the surface, the problem is again revealed to be that a movement for gender equality which refuses to incorporate intersectionality as a founding principle, instead making the concept an addendum and playing catchup with its mission, will never be the full-circle effort that brings broad change that we need.
Three ways are outlined for women to join the protest and show solidarity, but it is the first and arguably most important one that is problematic: Women take the day off, from paid and unpaid labor.
This certainly sounds like a welcomed way to protest. I don’t know any women who couldn’t use a day off from working for others. But I do know many women who cannot afford to take a day from the work they do to live or to help others. There are women whose jobs do not provide any paid leave. They cannot afford to miss a day of pay. There are women who have exhausted the paid leave they do have taking care of their sick children or otherwise attending to their children’s needs. They cannot afford a day without pay. There are women whose jobs don’t provide the kind of security that would allow them to take off a day without threat of being terminated.
And what of the women who volunteer at hospitals and shelters, helping the most vulnerable among us? What about the woman who has two young children and no help, so her unpaid labor making lunches, washing clothes and cleaning the house cannot afford a day of protest? What of women who farm and cannot afford to ignore their crops for a day because this protest would have rippling, and possibly crippling, effects on their profits?
How about how many of these women who cannot afford to take the day off, single mothers with little or no support, are now scrambling to find child scare since schools in some parts of the country had to close because so many teachers took the day off to protest? These women aren’t attorneys whose firms provide backup or emergency childcare options for a nominal cost. They can’t just show up to work in a hot kitchen or factory with two young children in tow. Now they may be forced to take a day off, unpaid, and feel the effects in their paycheck in a couple of weeks.
Now surely, the other two, avoiding shopping unless the businesses are owned by women or minorities and wearing red to show solidarity, are much less controversial and doable requests, driving home the point that this protest seems to have been organized with a bit more thought of how to make it accessible to the most marginalized women. Still, though, there is much work to be done with the messaging and planning. Those two options seem offered as less noticeable and impactful ways to make your voice heard, sending a message that poor women, who are disproportionately Black and brown, who cannot afford to not labor, are best suited for support and not leading the charge.
And at some point, the “all women” verbiage has to be discarded. It is crucial that we name explicitly the struggles that affect women of color, disabled women, trans women, poor women and those who cross any and all of those intersections. There cannot be no solidarity among us until we commit to acknowledging those who struggle most within us.
So, nah, I’m still not here for this. A little better ain’t good enough. Until protests are accessible to the women most often marginalized, silenced and ignored, I’m good.