Was American IWD strike only viable for the privileged select?
A woman’s work is never done but on the 8th of March in homes and offices across America a strike was on. Sisters were asked to stand shoulder to shoulder after the organisers behind the Women’s March on Washington called for a, “General Strike: A Day Without A Woman.” Yes it was noble, yes it was fierce – women wore red to show their support and solidarity. The placards were provocative and the energy of attendees was boundless. Women cried out against everything from rape to LGBT rights to slut shaming.
But was the call to arms really open to everyone? Or just a viable option for middle and upper class women who could afford to switch on the out-of-office and take a day off? If you are a single mother, is it possible to down tools and stop looking after your children? No. And it’s certainly true that in some jobs not turning up in the middle of the week ain’t really gonna fly. Nurses, teachers, care-workers, shop assistants. All of these roles are dominated by women, with a lower pay-scale. A day’s salary is not easily lost and management would not joyfully accept random absenteeism. Ultimately a strike is typified by a reaction against your place of work and how they treat staff, not a generalised march pertaining to sex. Taking time out for a women’s march is wholeheartedly a personal day off.
So was the strike excludatory? In the 70s when Betty Friedland mobilized the stateside Women’s Strike For Equality, as many as 50,000 women took part. With the slogan “Don’t iron while the strike is hot,” though the cause did ask women to down tools, much of the strike action took place towards the later part of the day. Women could still get what they had to do done and join in with the cause. The call for March 8th’s strike could arguably have led to feelings of guilt . Some who would’ve liked to take part simply couldn’t due to real life constraints.
It’s like that stay-at-home mum vs. the working mum dilemma. If you’re middle class and it’s affordable, you have open options. Either spend your days with a kid on your hip cooking organic meals and creating macramé necklaces or return to work. However, when faced with a more everyday reality of the average wage packet, the choice is often made for you. Stay at home with your brood and suffer financially or head out to work and feed your family.
The pervading dichotomy laid bare by this latest call to arms demonstrates that us women need to ensure whatever action we take is unified. We are at this delicious tipping point, just like in the early 70s. Everything we are bucking against is going to give and we will achieve the equality that we deserve and desire, together.