Since the Women’s March organizers announced that our next step was to be a general strike to make our absence felt in the workplace and make it known how necessary women are to the economy, I’ve had my reservations. I applauded the women of Poland in October for their strike against their government’s proposed abortion ban, and I stand in solidarity with Irish women doing the same next week, but I can’t seem to shake the idea that ours is not the same.
I’m a teacher, and though my districts have thankfully never gone on strike, I am no stranger to strikes in general. It seems lately that the Chicago Teachers Union calls for a strike every other year or so, and I follow this closely. They are extremely effective – you can’t keep working of your employers refuse to treat you like human beings who deserve good working conditions and living wages, and until you are working again, everything is at a stand-still. Strikes ultimately force those in power to listen to those who are directly affected by said power which, in turn, effectively transfers power from the have’s to the have-not’s for at least a little while. And that is important.
However, A Day Without a Woman has seemed decidedly less focused than this. While I understand the intent – there is no better way to make our presence known than our absence felt – I don’t understand the purpose. Strikes, in my limited experience, function best when in a direct response to an economic or political problem, and when they seek a direct change as a result of that direct response action. While our president’s degradation and assault of women is no secret, it hasn’t been so for a long time. Furthermore, there have been no new incidents involving women that require direct action. So what does this strike hope to do? Change his attitude? Change his policy? I doubt either will come to fruition.
To be sure, we should not refrain from striking just because we do not think anything will come of it, but it would make sense to have a more direct list of demands like the women of Poland or Ireland. Without such, I’m left with the question: Haven’t we done this already? When we marched for the Women’s March, didn’t that require many of us to take days off of work, shirk household and caregiver responsibilities, and leave the menfolk to fend for themselves in our absence in order to rally? How is this different?
It is because of this that I have decided not to strike from my job. I want to save my striking for when it is a focused response requiring a direct action. So, I will come to school on Wednesday
However, I will make my presence known in several ways. My girls’ group – Fearless Females – is running an awareness campaign about the plight of women and girls around the world for International Women’s Day. We hung up posters and are making announcements, and we are entering everyone who comes into my room wearing women’s rights apparel an entry into a raffle to win a prize. I will also wear red, like the Women’s March website suggests. (I will also, of course, wear my Pussyhat to school, though probably not in school because, you know, rules.)
On top of that, I will be refraining from all nonessential duties at work. I will not respond to any email that does not need my urgent attention; I will not be running anyone’s errands; I will not be planning or grading or making copies – teaching and teaching only. On the home front, I will not be doing any childcare duties, either (though, in my house, this won’t make much of a difference because Tim is the parent-on-duty on Wednesdays anyway since I have early yoga and Fearless Females meetings after school, but these things are largely symbolic for many). I will, instead, attend a rally or a panel or knit another Pussyhat in public or do something that takes me away from the home. My family and I will not spend any nonessential money (nonessential being a caveat because, well, I have a dog that just had surgery and a toddler, so, you know, things happen) except to make a donation to an organization that directly affects women. I am also toying with the idea of live-tweeting the work/caregiver tasks I do end up doing during the day.
All of this does not mean that I think you shouldn’t strike if you believe it is the right thing to do. It is just me wrestling with my own thoughts about the event. But, more than that, I want to push the women’s movement that was borne of the March into direct and motivated action, and I have a hard time seeing this as such.