On Wednesday, in honor of International Women's Day, the organizers behind January's historic Women's March on Washington have planned a Day Without A Woman strike, urging women and their allies to take the day off from paid and unpaid labor, if possible; avoid shopping for a day, unless it's at small women and/or minority-owned stores; and to wear red in solidarity. This isn't the first women's strike that's been proposed since Donald Trump was elected to lead this country— local feminist group the National Women's Liberation called for women to strike on January 20th and January 21st to coincide with Trump's inauguration. Now, NWL is bolstering the Day Without A Woman strike in hopes of bringing awareness to the political issues plaguing women, and the country at large. We spoke with Stephanie Kollgaard, a member of NWL's steering committee, to learn what women and their allies can do on March 8th, and beyond.
So what's the impetus behind the Women's Strike?
As you probably know, the Women’s Strike for March 8th was called by the founders of the Women’s March, who organized all the Women’s Marches on January 21st, the Saturday after inauguration day. NWL, separately from that, called for a Women’s Strike January 20th and January 21st, for very similar reasons as to why the founders of the Women’s March are calling for this strike on March 8th. They called it to coincide with International Women’s Day, so I believe in over 30 countries, women plan to go on strike on March 8th.
One of the really well-known strikes was in Iceland in 1975. After that strike, their first female prime minister was elected. But to get back to what we’re doing, and what NWL is doing, is that we just updated our strike website—WomensStrike.org. We have the same demands that we had for the strike that we called over inauguration weekend. It’s not just paid jobs that we’re striking from. The Women’s March organizers who are calling the strike have also made that clear, because not everybody can literally strike from a paid job. There’s also striking from like emotional labor, childcare, housework, cooking, wearing makeup, laundry, fake smiles, flirting. Any woman could strike from anything she wants to, like any sort of emotional labor that disproportionately falls on women.
This is the list of demands that NWL is specifically striking for. We’re striking for an end to racist and sexual assault and all forms of bigotry; we’re demanding reproductive freedom, full access and no coercion; national healthcare for all; $15 minimum wage for all workers, no exceptions; protection and expansion of social security; and then childcare, that’s free like public schools, and paid family leave. And I also want to say that we have respect spelled out, like R-E-S-P-E-C-T.
Why is it specifically so important that women come together in solidarity and/or show the workforce how important they are right now? Why at this moment is it so particularly important?
International Women’s Day goes back to 1909, so there’s a very long history of this. But it’s very important now, I think, because of the current administration that's in office. There have always been issues with women’s rights throughout the whole history of the U.S. Women have always suffered from oppression. But this particular administration and this particular Congress is especially dangerous for women because they want to roll back the ACA, they want to put restrictions on women’s access to abortions and birth control. They oppose raising the minimum wage. They want to privatize Social Security. All of these issues are issues that impact everyone, you know, working families. But they also seriously hurt women.
For example, $15 for all workers is what we’re asking for for the minimum wage. That’s also a women’s issue because the majority of minimum wage workers are women, and women raising families. You know if the ACA is repealed, that hurts everyone, but especially women, because if there’s not money for health care—it’s not only about abortion and birth control, but a lot of caregiving disproportionately falls upon on women. So if money is removed for longterm health care or from Social Security, it will disproportionately be women who are caring for elderly or sick relatives.
Obviously now people feel it’s important that women come together to fight the Trump administration, but there’s also been a lot of criticism, considering 53% of white women who voted voted for Trump. So there’s also been this sentiment that "sisterhood" isn’t a real thing. How would you respond to that?
At least for NWL, we are definitely proponents of intersectional feminism. We definitely understand that there’s a lot of work that white women need to take on, since, as you mentioned, 53% of white women did vote for Trump. So I do think white women do need to step up and do need to take responsibility, and maybe there’s some kind of internal examination. And I do think women need to have a better understanding of intersectional feminism because—I believe this is an Audre Lorde quote, my apologies if I’m a mangling it a little bit—but we’re not really free until every woman is free. That means women of color, LGBT women, trans women. That’s also why we’re asking for an end to racism, sexual assault, and all forms of bigotry. Because as long as bigotry and racism exist, that hurts all women. White women need to understand their privilege and how they can use their privilege in a positive way.
And specifically for NWL, as I mentioned, we believe in intersectional feminism. We do have a Women of Color caucus that meets separately from white women to examine how racism and feminism intersect.
The Women’s March, obviously, but the women’s strike seems to come from a place of privilege—I know that I’ve heard people who were like, "Well I can’t strike, I can’t just take a day off from work without losing my job." You've framed it in terms of not wearing makeup, not doing housework. What can women do if they can’t physically not go to work on March 8th?
If it’s possible, they can ask the men in their life to take over housework, to take over childcare duties, laundry, dishes. For example, one example is a woman who had been street harassed on the day that we were doing the strike [January 20]. She said, "I verbally fought back, saying this is not OK." Basically I feel like women sometimes fall in the default of wanting to please everyone. Standing up for yourself is another way of going on strike. We definitely want to be as inclusive as possible, because we understand that not everyone can afford to take a day off work.
One of the ways of showing solidarity—which I believe is on the main website, the one the Women’s March organizers have—you can just wear red in solidarity. Even if you have to go to work that day, you can wear red, for example, to show that you support the goals of the strike. What NWL did for the January 20th and 21st strike is, we made pins. If you weren’t literally able to strike, you could wear the pin to show solidarity.
What are some other things that we can do aside from striking that might help fight for women’s reproductive health, and other factors that are affecting us?
There are so many actions that can be taken. Definitely calling your senators or representatives, that’s really important outside for women outside of New York, in red states. To let their senators or representatives know that they don’t want the ACA to be repealed or Social Security to be privatized or whatever other issue they care about.
NWL holds consciousness-raising meetings. Women get together and we share our personal experiences. One of the topics we’ve been discussing is abortion and birth control. So we’ve been talking about what restrictions we've faced in getting access to abortion and birth control, how our lives would change if we did have free access to abortion and birth control. And then we reach conclusions from that to understand, what are the commonalities, how are we all oppressed in similar ways, and then what actions can we take based on that. One action that we did, is that we actually printed out postcards and then sent them to Tom Price, who’s the new Secretary of Health and Human Services. He’s the guy who famously said, “There’s no woman who’s ever had trouble affording birth control, show me one.” So we’ve been sending postcards to him with our demands—national health care for all, reproductive freedom, full access—and also with our personal stories.
We’re also planning a speak-out on March 16th. It’s going to be from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. outside of the Manhattan Health and Human Services office, which is at 26 Federal Plaza. We all come together and, basically, speak, like into a megaphone so everyone can hear, about our personal experiences and how the actions of this administration will personally hurt us or cause issues in our lives. Public actions like that are really good ways to raise awareness. There are a lot of people, for example, who don’t know who Tom Price is or have no idea how they will be personally impacted. So actions like that, I would say, just getting involved with a local group, like NWL. There are also plenty of other great feminist groups that people can seek out, to work to find a meaningful way to take action.
New Yorkers who wish to strike and/or show solidarity with women striking are encouraged to attend the International Women's Strike NYC rally in Washington Square Park tomorrow, starting at 4 p.m. Participants will march down to Zucotti Park, with planned stops at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory site, the Varick Street Immigration Detention Center, Stonewall, the African Burial Site and more relevant sites along the way.