I participated in the A Day Without a Woman nationwide strike. No work, no shopping — except at woman or minority-owned businesses — and wearing red to show support.
It should have been no problem for me. Most days I work from home, and I don’t shop or dine out regularly. However, this day I found it difficult to stay put.
I felt trapped. There were all these things I wanted to do, or felt I needed to do, now that I couldn’t; of course, on my own volition. I was restless, and uneasy.
But if I copped out, would it matter? I wanted it to matter. Every woman counts, I told myself.
Earlier in the day, I thought about buying something online, but stopped myself: major retailers on the Internet are part of the movement’s target. So I would have to wait till tomorrow. But if I buy it the next day, it means I go right back to supporting the male-dominated, big businesses. How can this women’s movement have an impact, if the next day we all go back to the status quo?
While I was considering this dilemma, a client texted me; he and his wife were attending the A Day With a Woman march downtown. That boosted my morale. Events and marches have been taking place all over the world to celebrate International Women’s Day, which commemorates the Women’s Rights Movement that took root in the United States in the mid-1800s.
A Brief History of the Women’s Rights Movement
In 1848, a young housewife, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and a small group of friends, discontent that the American Revolution did not improve the lives of women in the country’s new democracy, organized a convention in Seneca Falls, New York. The world’s first Women’s Rights Convention addressed the “social, civil, and religious condition and rights of women.” The movement expanded throughout the country, and a major victory was won with women’s right to vote established in 1920.
The next waves of women-driven activism took place in the Sixties and Seventies. The Commission on the Status of Women was established in 1963, documenting discrimination against women in nearly every aspect of their lives; and the same year, Betty Friedman published “The Feminine Mystique, which which further detailed the intellectual and emotional repression of middle-class women. These events inspired fresh activist campaigns.
Other major events: The Civil Rights Act passed in 1964, which disallowed employment discrimination based on sex, as well as religion, race and national original; the Equal Rights Amendment passed in 1972 50 years after it was introduced (although it still has not been ratified, and become part of the Constitution); Title IX passed in 1972, prohibiting sex discrimination for all educational programs receiving federal aid; and the next year, the Roe V. Wade ruling made abortion legal.
Since the Seventies, there’s been many other successes and losses in the movement, especially in the back and forth fight involving Roe v. Wade. The good news is many women have entered the political field since the Seventies until now, with this year marking a record number of women in Congress.
Women in the Dark
I must admit, until I started writing this, there was a great deal I didn’t know about the Women’s Rights Movement.
And while there are thousands of us who participated in A Day Without a Woman in some way, there were women who didn’t know about the cause.
A girlfriend of mine was one. She’s been getting ready to move to a new home, and has pretty much stayed away from all media the past month. I explained the details to her:
The people behind the Women’s March on Washington called for A Day Without a Woman to send a message to corporations, our government institutions, and men who still don’t get the fact that women are equal to them. The message: We deserve equal pay, workplaces free from violence and harassment, a fair living wage, freedom from gender discrimination, and —as Aretha Franklin once sung — “a little respect.” Without us, the economy would tank, and everything would fall apart.
“That’s for sure,” she said. “Well, I guess I’ve already broken the rules … I bought some more moving boxes today.”
“No problem, you can just put on some red lipstick,” I said.
“I’ll put on my red hat, too.”
My mother was working at the restaurant she manages when I called her.
“Hey, you’re not supposed to be working today mom,” I chided her, knowing she couldn’t, or wouldn’t, take off work for the movement, even if she knew about it.
When I explained it to her, she liked the idea. We talked about how there were many women who didn’t know about it.
“Give it time to grow,” my mom said. “In two or three years, they’ll really shut it down.”
She said she had to buy orange juice, but that’s all. Her contribution to the effort: limiting her purchases.
After I got off the phone with my mom, I went back to pondering what to do … or not do.
I didn’t have much in the fridge for dinner. Are there any women-owned grocery stores near me? Perhaps I could get by on a PB&J. And there was beer; that would fill me up.
It sort of felt like a vacation day, and getting my nails done flashed through my mind.
But I wondered, are any of the local nail shops owned by women? Even if so, I would feel guilty having my nails done by women who should be allowed to participate in this effort if they wanted, and were able to afford taking a day off work.
There was a bit of controversy over the fact some felt this cause was for privileged women—those who could afford to not go to work. There were many women who couldn’t miss out on a day’s wage, or afford a babysitter if their children’s schools were among the several that closed.
Biting back at the criticism, according to NBC, Women’s March organizer Linda Sarsour said to a crowd gathered near Central Park in New York yesterday, the criticism came from those who have “a lack of understanding of history.”
“We honor the women who striked in the Montgomery bus boycott. Are those privileged women? What about the farmworkers that said ‘we will not pick this produce without worker’s protections?’ Were those people privileged?
“The movements that we are all a part of have always been led by those who have the most to lose. Social justice movements are not convenient.”
Sarsour, along with a dozen other women, was arrested yesterday outside Trump Tower, where they marched to after the A Day Without a Woman rally.
Freedom and Inspiration
The rest of the day, random thoughts bubbled up in my mind on how best to deal with A Day Without a Woman. I thought of my assistant who works remotely. I forgot to tell her she could slack off her tasks for today.
And what should I do for the next 10 hours? If I watched television, would I be contributing to the big businesses and corporations?
I found myself counting the hours left in the day. It didn’t feel appropriate to just enjoy myself, and I couldn’t focus on work, so I started writing this post. And then I quickly built this blog site to have a place to publish it.
A Day Without a Woman turned out to be quite a productive day for me. It freed and inspired me to finally start this blog, which has been a goal for a while.
It also gave me time to think about the role of women in society, and the fact that we have come far. But, an astonishing 170 years later, we still need to fight for our rights. Control over our own bodies is being threatened, access to health care and birth control limited, and we have a president who is a sexist, racist, misogynist.
I believe A Day Without a Woman will matter the next day, and the days, months and years to come.
This movement didn’t just start yesterday, nor did it begin on January 21 when millions of women around the world marched to show the current federal administration, and similar governments, we women will not stand by silently when our rights, our health, our families, and our livelihoods are attacked. It began with that small group of women in New York in 1848.
We women matter. We deserve equal pay. We deserve to be healthy, and safe. We deserve respect. Not just for a day, but always.