In response to what was likely the largest turn out of women and other allies protesting for gender equality in all of history, the organizers of the Women's March on Washington encouraged women across the States to participate in one day of solidarity and take a day off, from paid and unpaid labor.
In the same spirit of love and liberation that inspired the Women's March, we join together in making March 8th A Day Without a Woman, recognizing the enormous value that women of all backgrounds add to our socio-economic system--while receiving lower wages and experiencing greater inequities, vulnerability to discrimination, sexual harassment, and job insecurity.
I think that the idea of recognizing the value women add to our socio-economic system ignores the fact that the system is flawed in the first place. More importantly, asking women to remove themselves from the labor force they're actively trying to fix appears to me as misguided. I'm conflicted about the nature of not engaging in paid and unpaid labor, because I feel we women must represent our value in our communities not by removing ourselves, but by making ourselves more visible.
Some criticism slated at this movement is that it hasn't been inclusive enough - in clearer terms, the Women's March appeared to cater towards white, middle class women. Those women unable to attend due to work or economic freedom weren't included. Those women who lack often-gendered "female" body parts were included by name only, but not by representation. While the motivation of the March was to be inclusive of all women, it lacked some of the trademark aspects of intersectionality. Many of the speakers were white and women of color were scheduled later in the speaker programming.
No one is required to participate in this movement, and yet we all have a stake in it. Women do experience greater inequities, more sexual harassment, and discrimination. No matter how you look at it, we all have a part in this discussion. However, the organizers behind this movement haven't addressed the inequities they place on marginalized individuals themselves.
To ask women to remove themselves from the work force, ignores the fact that some of those women cannot afford to. Not everyone can afford the monetary cost to put their child in daycare for a day. Not everyone has the ability to take paid time off away from their jobs. Not everyone can afford the cost of damaging fragile egos in order to stop being a good person to confide in. Moreover, communities of queer women and non-binary people can't afford to take time away from fights for legal rights and representation. Some women can't afford to leave our socio-economic system, because the system is flawed and doesn't afford them that privilege.
We support a strike that calls for recognition of women’s value and the necessity of the many forms of their labor; we also support all those who are already struggling economically and otherwise, who are deeply impacted by the administration and the systems we’re protesting, and who because of that can’t afford to risk financial instability or job loss for themselves and their families.
I believe we must first look to support and raise the issues of those in marginalized communities before we can replace a system that doesn't value the work of women. The organizers of the Women's March ought not expect folks to remove themselves from their labors when those labors are so essential to their on-going survival. To provide a few alternatives, consider the following.
Why not more actively encourage women to support businesses or groups run by women of color, disabled women, or trans women? This would ease the financial stress already experienced by these groups and allow more women to stand up against the socio-economic system we aim to protest. Akin to the labors already done by Black Lives Matter's "Backing Black Businesses".
As well, I think there's room in this protest for sustained action. Maybe establish regular town hall sessions to discuss the direction of the movement and give folks in these communities a voice in the room. Take those discussions to local leaders and push for strict anti-discrimination laws to be placed on the books in the areas of housing rights, work rights, and domestic rights.
Further, these events have to be much more accessible. Work with women in tech to include or develop assistive technology and applications to spread the message of this protest to those that have ability to access it. Make sure your website and marketing material can be accessed by everyone.
Only by recognizing the labor of these communities can we work to replace a system that doesn't value women.