A Guide to Participation Options for the International Women's Day Strike
The Women's March and demonstrations of its type are all about showing up. Participants aim to make their presence heard. As L.A. Kauffman, the author of Direct Action: Protest and the Reinvention of American Radicalis told Vogue, they "create situations that shine a spotlight on injustice and force a crisis that authorities need to address."
Many who attended the D.C. march couldn't hear the speeches or were caught in human traffic jams so crowded they couldn't complete the official route. All of which didn't matter, of course, because the point was to be present. But what if there were one day where women didn't show up? A day women made their value known by their absence?
For their next big project, International Women's Strike organizers, including the activists behind the Women's March, called for an event of the opposite kind. The March 8 general strike for women aimed to showcase women's importance by revealing what happens on a day without women.
Taking the day off from paid work was only the beginning. Planned to coincide with International Women's Day, the organizers requested that participants engage in one or all of the following actions on March 8, as listed on their website:
- Women take the day off, from paid and unpaid labor
- Avoid shopping for one day (with exceptions for small businesses and businesses owned by women and minorities)
- Wear red in solidarity with A Day Without a Woman
Exactly how to use this time was up to each individual participant, but across the country, women and allies of the strike staged rallies, marches, benefit concerts and other gatherings to show support and solidarity. In New York City, they assembled in Washington Square Park for a tour of sites critical to progressive history, such as the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory, where young immigrant women died in a horrific fire in 1911, the deadliest industrial disaster in history at the time, which led to substantial labor reforms. In Philadelphia, strikers stood in solidarity with the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, who have been without a contract for 1,200 days.
Some critics, including Maureen Shaw, writing in Quartz, and Meghan Daum in the LA Times, argued that this strike would mostly amount to a day without privileged women—women who could afford to take the day off without fear of lost wages or other repercussions from employers. Shaw noted that, "As empowering as strikes may feel, they tend to be most effective when they are centered on achieving a particular policy goal," and compared this strike to those of labor unions fighting for higher wages, better working hours, or specific additions to their working conditions.
But the women's strike is only one step in fighting for a platform that includes all of these asks and more: environmental justice, reproductive rights and fair wages. The point is to show how many unseen, uncompensated and unvalued tasks women perform, and how much society depends on them.
It's supposed to be inconvenient, but Daum and Shaw's responses also assumed that organizers hadn't considered the economic barriers to striking (in fact, they took pains to explain that there is more than one way to participate). Participants could attend a rally before or after work, wear red, decline to shop, or decline to perform unpaid labor if taking the day off from paid labor is not an option.
For more information, including a letter to inform your employer of strike participation, visit A Day Without a Woman. The International Women's Strike website has a complete list of events around the country.