After the Women’s March the day after Trump’s inauguration became the largest mass demonstration in U.S. history, it wasn’t clear if it was the start of a new movement or a singular event fueled by anger over Trump’s election victory.
We’ll see on March 8, “A Day Without a Woman,” when half the world’s population is being encouraged to effectively opt out of the global economy.
The organizers are asking women around the world to take the day off work, whether their labor is paid or unpaid, and avoid spending money anywhere but at woman- or minority-owned businesses. Calling it an embrace of “feminism for the 99%” in an op-ed in the Guardian, the organizers wrote that one of the main goals is to demonstrate women’s collective economic power. It’s one of 10 actions the Women’s March organizers are rolling out during the first 100 days of Trump’s presidency.
The U.S. organizers didn’t invent the idea of a 24-hour global strike. International activists began organizing around the idea, which has roots at least as far back as the early 1900s, to call for equitable pay and pro-choice policies in many European countries late last year. In October, thousands of women went on strike in Poland to protest an extreme anti-abortion bill, an act credited with prompting lawmakers to vote down the bill. And in Iceland, women walked out of work 14 percent earlier in the day than normal to protest the 14 percent wage gap.
After the success of the Women’s March, its U.S.-based organizers threw their support behind the International Women’s Strike to make March 8 — International Women’s Day — the next big event channeling the kind of enthusiasm seen during the march.
“It’s about empowering women who might not have been politically active, or maybe women who went to the march as their first political action and [Women’s Day] will be their second,” said Tabitha St. Bernard, one of the U.S. organizers.
Not everyone has the luxury of skipping work or abstaining from spending money on March 8. Margarita Grigorian organized a small demonstration for the January Women’s March in Russia, but she doesn’t plan on doing anything on Wednesday and hasn’t heard of anyone else planning on participating.
“I don’t think anyone working for a Russian company would ever not show up/walk out of work here in support of a cause like this,” she said in a Facebook message. “The risk of reprimand (losing your job, etc.) would be too great.”
St. Bernard said the organizers understand the challenges and are “encouraging people to get creative to show their solidarity” by wearing red or having conversations at work with colleagues about issues like equitable pay and paid family leave.
Some employers are already reacting to the planned strike. A school district in North Carolina is reportedly cancelling class on Wednesday after it found out how many female teachers were planning on skipping work that day. Public schools in Alexandria, Virginia also plan to close because 300 teachers requested the day off, according to a statement. NARAL Pro-Choice America is closing its offices and instructing its D.C. employees to participate in a protest against Trump’s executive order targeting abortion funding overseas.
But it’s not clear how people will participate in the strike or how it will affect the typical conducting of business on Wednesday, but St. Bernard said that’s not of primary concern to her.
“There are things in movements that aren’t quantifiable,” she said. “The strike is reminding people that it’s not a sprint or even a marathon — it’s actually a relay.”
On March 8, 1908, about 15,000 female garment workers marched in New York City to demand fair wages and greater political rights. Following that success, garment workers organized a three-month strike the next year called the “Uprising of the 20,000.”