One of the rallying cries at the women’s marches that took place around the world on January 21st directly addressed the newly sworn-in president. “We will not go away! Welcome to your first day!” the protesters chanted. This Wednesday, many of the women who marched that day will have the chance to show what they meant.
For their second major effort, the organizers of the Women’s March are helping call for a general strike – “A Day Without a Woman” – on March 8th, International Women’s Day. The idea is to make women’s value in the workplace, in the economy and in their families felt by taking them away for the day. Women are encouraged to stay home from work, abstain from emotional labor and only spend money at women- and minority-owned businesses to raise awareness about the pay gap, unequal representation in government and gender-based violence.
General strikes are familiar in South America and Europe, but they never caught on in the same way in the United States. The organizers think the moment could be right, though. “You’ve never have five million women come together globally on the same day before either,” says co-organizer Janaye Ingram. She walked Rolling Stone through some of the practical points of going on strike or supporting strikers.
Put your money where your mouth is.
Women control some 73 percent of household purchases. That’s enormous power that Ingram and her colleagues hope women will put to use on Wednesday by patronizing women- and minority-owned businesses.
When conversations about the strike began, shortly after the inauguration, “we really wanted to drill down on the importance of the economic impact that women have in the community and globally,” says Ingram. “We know that when you empower women, you really change the life of the community, and that same impact doesn’t exist when you talk about men.”
The idea is to create a tangible economic impact. “When you do that,” Ingram says, “people sort of wake up and realize, OK, these people don’t just have power to come together, they don’t just have power over the conversation, but they have power that impacts the bottom lines of companies and of the economy.”
Show your support.
Ingram and her co-organizers are sensitive to the fact that a lot of women can’t skip work on Wednesday. “I know people who have just started new jobs and they can’t take off any time,” she says, also mentioning those with critical caretaking roles. “We don’t want to put people in a position where they are striking to create a conversation and to change policy around economic justice, [and then participating] essentially remove[s] their economic safety net and the way that they earn money,” says Ingram.
Those folks, and men who want to show their solidarity, can wear red – the symbolic color of the strike – or “[hold] community with other women once they leave their job to … talk about how we move the ball, how we create paid-leave opportunities for women, so that if there is a strike in the future, these women could leave.”
Talk to your boss.
If you are able to strike, Ingram recommends talking with your supervisor about why you’re taking the day off. “If you just don’t show up, how does that create the space for the conversation? Maybe your boss will know A Day Without a Woman is happening and guesses that that is why you’re not there, but you’re not actually confronting the situation and having the courageous conversation about pay equity in your workplace, or paid leave in your workplace, or any other issue that confronts women,” Ingram says. “It doesn’t necessarily have to be a contentious conversation, but the conversation needs to be had.”
The organizers have drafted a form letter to inform employers of the strike. As of last Thursday, Ingram says more than 40,000 people had downloaded it.
Talk to your family members.
Ingram and the other women behind the strike hope the occasion can serve as an opportunity to raise awareness about the invisible, unpaid emotional labor women perform on a regular basis: listening, giving advice, offering comfort. They’re encouraging women to talk to their family members about the way emotional labor is divvied up.
“Every relationship is different, and the person who knows best what you want and need in your relationship in terms of gaining parity is you,” Ingram says. “But we are encouraging people to talk to their children about equity, and about pay equity, and about paid leave,” whether they’re striking or not. “To me, that’s an even more powerful conversation: those people who can’t stay home who say to their children, ‘I want to stay home [and strike], but I can’t, and here are the reasons why’ and educating their children on how they can be part of the solution.”
If you can strike but are still on the fence about whether you should, Ingram has this to say: “Women don’t earn the same amount as a man for equal work, even when they are equally qualified. To not do anything about that means that we are acknowledging that it’s OK. We are giving permission to those people to say women don’t need to be paid as much as a man when we choose not to participate in things that will create that parity. Having those courageous conversations or causing ourselves to be a little bit uncomfortable for a day [can help] to make way for that progress to be made.”
“If people are fine with making less than a man, there’s not much I could say that would encourage them to stand with us. … If women are OK with not having paid leave, there’s nothing I can say,” Ingram says. “But if you’re not OK with those things … we as women, we are the majority of the population, and we have the ability to really create change if we want it. And it is really on us to step up and say, ‘We have been treated unfairly and without equity and without parity, and we are going to do something about it.”
Those who are striking are also encouraged to join one of the rallies taking place around the world.