“No paid or unpaid labor.“
I rolled the sentence around in my brain for a good week before determining that if I was going to participate in the women’s strike, so was James.
Here’s the riddle: If I’m going to strike, and if the woman who takes care of my children while I work is going to strike, and if I’m supposed to refrain from paid or unpaid labor, then who the hell is going to take care of my kids?
Ah, yes: My husband.
Tomorrow, on International Women’s Day, we’re giving a paid day off to our babysitter and James is taking the day off of work so that I can participate in the March 8 A Day Without a Woman strike. James is spending the day caring for our children, and he’s spending the evening drafting a letter to the women’s college where he works demanding that the administration provide paid parental leave for all faculty and staff parents welcoming a new baby into their lives. As is, James had to scrape together enough vacation days so he could be home for the first fourteen days of Silas’s life. He’s one of the lucky ones.
There are lots of folks who can’t strike. Lots of folks who don’t get vacation days or time off when a new baby enters the scene, paid or otherwise. Folks who don’t have a husband or partner to help with childcare in the case of a strike. There are folks whose jobs are precarious even on the very best day. I strike for them and all people who might not have the political, economic, or social ability to strike tomorrow. I strike to underline the economic power and clout held by women in this country and to bring attention to the economic injustices that women and gender nonconforming folks continue to face. I strike because we believe that a strong economy is one that’s equitable and secure for everyone.
If you can’t strike, three things you can do:
- Wear red as a symbol of solidarity. Get the men in your life to wear red, too.
- Keep your money in your pocket. When women stop spending money, the economy grinds to a halt. If you have to spend money, spend it with women, gender-nonconforming folks, and minorities.
- Open up conversations about childcare and unpaid work in your own household.
More about the strike right this way.
Get counted: Register your participation at the Women’s March website.
As much as I admire feminism, I’m critical when the narrative excludes men from the conversation – I’m really happy to hear you talk about paternal leave for a newborn! I await the day when America and the rest of the world incorporates paternal leave into their public policies.
Well the good news is, I don’t think there’s a feminist around who *wouldn’t* advocate for parental leave!
Agree…the narrative often leaves out the men.
It’s stunning to see, how we alreade live in the “promised land” – concerning paternal leave – in Germany. (I always thought only Sweden would be the promised land for feminist parents): In Germany, you get 12 months paid leave if only one parent takes his/her time off. If the parents split the time and either part takes 2 months minimum, you get 14 months! And after that, you even get more paid family time if both parents (yes, the law is talking about parents who are living together – but not only heteronormative parents!) work part-time (30 hrs/week). The best: Your boss has to allow you to take parental leave and you can’t be fired during that time. Always took it for granted until I read about the US…
I often thank my mother for the hard work that she and her generation did for gender equality and women’s rights in the workplace in Sweden. I’m on my ninth month of paid maternity leave right now with my son, and so very very grateful for this. In 20 years, Faye will be thanking you.
…eh, and Silas. Doh.
One can very much hope. It breaks my heart to know that so many of these identical topics were present throughout my own childhood—and that they remain—despite the work of so many women before us.
In Ireland we are striking for abortion rights. There’s an almost total ban on abortion here. 4,000 women a year travel abroad for abortion following rapes, a diagnosis of a foetal abnormality, risks to health and other reasons. We cannot keep exporting our women.
I never thought I’d say this, but I’m afraid that the fight over the next decades is going to have to be against religion. I always defended religion as a beautiful source of strength for people in adverse circumstances, but now I feel that it’s abused to the point of being the source of too many of the things that are wrong with the world today. Its influence needs to be pushed way back, in a lot of countries.
I’m sad to say I agree. I was raised Catholic but stopped practising a while ago. My faith has not changed but the way in which the Church acts isn’t something I’m comfortable with. It’s hard to know how to raise my children now as I’m grateful for the religious upbringing my parents gave me (it instilled in me the importance of social justice) but I feel like all that gets lost in the conservative bullshit sometimes.
Couldn’t agree more. I especially find fundamentalism no matter what the religion very frightening.
Solidarity to you! As someone who has had to access abortion-related healthcare, I feel so lucky to live in Canada where it is covered by our health insurance, and in an urban city where it was easy to access the clinic and there was almost no wait time.
Access to all reproductive health care is so important, and it’s such a hard fight to undertake. Thank you for your work <3
Hi Erin! I will be wearing red tomorrow. And I’m elated to say that these efforts do make a difference. The company I work for just implemented full-pay for 12 weeks of maternity leave, and 6 weeks full pay of paternity leave. A win (especially considering I plan to be on maternity leave at the end of this year!). My last maternity leave was a real struggle financially.
Thank you for speaking up. I like the way you are taking advantage of your own privilege to strike for those who can’t. I’m currently an “unpaid laborer” AKA stay-at-home-mom, and I’m still trying to figure out what to do tomorrow. I’m still getting used to not working, and I’m always nervous to “stir the pot” with my partner’s employer since it’s our sole source of income. No matter what, I’ll be wearing red and keeping my wallet in my pocket.
For a society where democracy and human rights supposedly play an important role for people in Europe your policies regarding maternity and paternity leave (well, the absence thereof!) is such an apparent infringement of fundamental rights that leave us speechless and fills us with awe. Who are the people that have been drafting your legislation for the past two centuries – ruthless, heartless men driven by profit? Or is it because In God You Trust …? My heart aches.
I’ll be working tomorrow because I’m a librarian at a tribal college, and will be helping students to achieve their academic goals. I’m wearing red and turquoise tomorrow. I’ll buy lunch from the two indigenous people who used to cook for the protectors at DAPL, and I’ll engage in the conversations we have around here about making lives better for all men and women of all colors and beliefs. I’m glad that there will be marchers showing up tomorrow to represent “a day without a woman” to the public and the media. If I were not working, I would show up too. Remember me tomorrow, one who is on the job with a heart and mind in support of you and all the other marchers who are putting their bodies on the line. I will be thinking of you too.
I’ll be thinking of you!
I am still figuring out how I can participate tomorrow. My husband is out of town for work so the unpaid labor will remain on my shoulders. I am still chewing on whether I can afford to take the day off work. I love the idea of contributing to causes you care about and refraining from buying anything. I’m also hoping to boost my engagement, contact a few more legislators about issues I care about, perhaps write a few postcards. In general, I’m excited for the day and I hope it makes an impact!
I am shocked when I realise that a country like the USA do not afford people the same paternity/maternity leave that is provided here in Australia. I had 9 months of paid (half pay) leave when my youngest child was born and six months paid leave when my older two children were born. I am so grateful for that. But still, there are threats to these conditions and at times I worry that if we become indifferent the rights won by our mothers could be taken away. We need to always be aware. Happy International Women’s Day!
Hi Michelle, I think it’s wonderful that you received those levels of paid leave when you had your children. However, in Australia, many women are only eligible for Centrelink’s maternity payments (for US readers, that is through the federal government’s welfare system) which is currently $672.20 AUD per week before tax and is paid for a maximum of 18 weeks. For reference, the average full-time weekly wage in Australia was $1592.40 AUD in November 2016, according to the Bureau of Statistics. I will have to apply for the government’s paid leave even though I have been working full time for the past three years as a teacher at a private school, because my employer will not pay for parental leave. Many women do not qualify for the government’s parental leave payments and receive nothing at all. Although I would agree that our situation is better than that in the USA, I feel that many families here struggle with childcare and many women suffer financially for having children, especially with our large gender pay gap.
In solidarity, Jasmine
While I understand the premise behind “A Day Without a Woman,” it is hard for me to fully buy into it. I am not disagreeing that there is gender inequity, pay inequity, etc. in the world (I worked in international development for more than a decade, so I have seen a lot of this inequity first-hand), BUT I have also seen the other side of things. I work at an agency with 9 fulltime staff, of which 6 are women and 3 are men; for the last two positions we just hired for (during the past six months), both required advanced degrees in engineering, urban planning, or landscape architecture and out of more than 100 applicants for each, the top 6 candidates for each role were women, and therefore ultimately a woman was selected. I wonder too what kind of message I am sending to the world if I don’t show up at work tomorrow? I would like to think that showing up at work tomorrow can send just as strong a message to the world as not showing up. In my particular case my work addresses global climate change and coastal resiliency—the administration is proposing cuts to EPA, NOAA, and the Coast Guard. How can this possibly be a good idea as the seas are rising??? I can’t afford to not show up at work tomorrow! We’ve got a long and hard road ahead of us and despite the fact that I am a woman, I need to be here doing this work tomorrow because things are so fragile right now that losing one day is one day too much. All this to say, that I applaud the women that will strike tomorrow, but also know that we all have different ways that we are contributing and giving voice to resistant efforts and sometimes that means showing up to make sure meaningful and important work goes forward.
I think it’s always important to remember and acknowledge achievement and progress, while not forgetting that one person’s progress doesn’t cancel out another’s struggle. Women still don’t receive equal pay for equal work and poor and minority women are disproportionately affected by that kind of inequity. I spoke with my midwife yesterday about the strike, and she too decided that she could have more of an impact working on behalf of women’s health tomorrow than striking! Agreed that there are so many ways to be involved and so much work to be done!
I think it is important that those who can, do go march and show solidarity in public. I agree that, “…there are so many ways to be involved and so much work to be done!” I like this discussion because we are all supportive of each other as we each outline what we’ll be doing tomorrow for International Women’s Day. That so many of us have declared we will wear red shows that we are in solidarity, no matter where we are or what we are doing. This is very moving for me.
Thank you, Erin (and James). Thank you to all women, whatever you decide to do or not do tomorrow. There is no one right way to do this. I hope it can make a difference for my granddaughters, even if it’s almost too late for my three daughters. Some people just don’t understand that if things are better for women, the world will be a better place for men as well. Women’s rights are human rights, no matter what political party you belong to.
Great post, Erin! It really does look like the US is being left behind in so many important ways (maternity/paternity leave, abortion rights, healthcare), and nothing will change without an ongoing commitment to stand up and be counted.
All the best from a Canadian supporter!
Thank you for striking in honor of those who feel they can’t. I am a psychologist and I thought hard about striking but concluded that my patients would pay the price. I will be with you in spirit.
I am hungarian and on a paid parental leave for three years. Yes, here it is guarenteed by law.
I am with you, in my heart.
I appreciate the spirit of this post. But, at the same time, I refuse to believe that women should be defined by their ability to bear children, and that welcoming a new child into one’s life is the major reasons one might need paid leave. And I’m not just talking about caring for aging parents or other family members, either. What about the person single by choice who needs time away from work to deal with an issue that a partner or a supportive family, if they existed, could handle (or at least help handle)? Sometimes it is even harder for those without family support to handle life events, so the continued advocacy of tying leave policies and other benefits to family status seems both unwelcoming of the many different lives people may lead and inherently unfair. Absolutely everyone meets events in their lives when time away from work is needed. Should we not support that, too? Not all of life’s difficulties or major events revolve around children, childcare, or reproduction…not even for women!
No defining women by their ability to bear children here! Welcoming a child into the world is indeed a major reason why someone might need paid leave. This doesn’t negate your argument that there might, of course, be other reasons why paid time off is imperative for workers.
I am not defined by my ability to bear children, but I was physically wrecked for weeks after a safe, normal childbirth. At 8 months, she eats every 2-3 hours and I provide the bulk of her nutrition from my body. By design, we’re not really meant to be apart from one another very long. (I work full time and travel for work, so I have left her for long periods of time – pumping with the best of them over here.) I’ve cared for a permanently disabled, ill parent – going on 10 years now – and it is not the same. I think everyone deserves significant paid time off from work regardless of whether they have a kid. But childbirth is definitely a “major reason one might need paid leave.”
I just wanted to say that you are both amazing, I really appreciate this blog as a place that doesn’t hide from political opinions and realizes that we cannot afford to be silent on things that matter. Thank you!
Thanks so much for reading!
Thanks for this. I love the idea of the strike, but there are so many, many women who cannot. My kids have to eat and bathe and kept alive, in general, and there’s no one I can tag. Women are essential to making the world run, and the fact that we get paid less to do it is ridiculous. (And yes, yes, men are essential too, but my point is they are NOT getting paid less to do it.)
Agreed. Of course, it bears mentioning that a strike is *designed* to disrupt, to be inconvenient, to draw into question the systems we have in place that put undue pressure on certain workers, to highlight, indeed, how very essential those folks are!
thank you, erin, for acknowledging that not all woman are able — for a myriad of socioeconomic reasons — to choose not to work. i’ve seen too many supporters of the strike bark at critique’s of its privilege with “poor/[insert other disenfranchisement] women have banded together before — resist!” but those efforts required more than verbal or virtual support. that said, i commend you for offering a paid day to your babysitter. these types of practical means help broaden the number of women who may participate.
Thank you for striking and for being such an amazing employer and giving your caregiver the day off. I often wish I could work in a place and with people who understood and encouraged these important moments in history.
And a big shout out for including your relationship in the conversation about feminism. James sounds amazing, but sometimes navigating our self-advocacy around our relationships with men can be challenging. So much love to both of you!
To say that I’m surprised – do not say anything.
In Rossia, March 8 is a day off. For someone, this is a holiday and congratulations, someone is holding it in pickets and rallies for women’s rights. After all, it is not enough to legislate rights, it is still necessary to provide them in reality and to defend, it is necessary to create social mechanisms for this.
I think that the decision to strike for women, on whose work the life, health and well-being of other people depends (doctors, caring for children and patients, teachers, police, transport, police and many other spheres) is a morally difficult decision. I would never dare to offer them this choice.
But I am surprised by the state of affairs in the US, it does not correspond to the fact that it was in the USA in 1857 that the movement for women’s rights began, and how the country positions itself in the world. You still have a long way to go.
In Rossia, motherhood and the whole parenthood are legally protected much better. The maternity leave is 140 days (70 before and 70 after) with 100% payment – only a woman can take it, it is related to the protection of her health. Next, you can take two childcare leave: until the child is 1.5 years old (allowance is about 40-50% of the salary) and 1.5 to 3 years (not paid, but the woman or a member Her family remains The right to their workplace and some tax benefits). Holidays for child care can be used by any member of the family, not only mom and dad, but even grandparents – the family itself decides how convenient it is and can change. Only need to warn about going to work for 2 weeks, because a temporary worker is taken to the workplace.
Terribly shallow question considering the wonderful substance of this post, but I just LOVE your scarf. Might I ask where you got it from?!
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