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March 8 2017

These are the Women A Day Without Women Hurts

by Patrice L. Onwuka

Do you plan to participate in A Day Without Women? Given the rigid rules for participation, you must enjoy the blessings of financial security and family that allow you to lean on a support network of males to do everything you normally would.

However, many women from working class and low-income communities simply don’t have the luxury to afford today’s activities or, worse, will suffer as a result.

For those who want to participate, USA Today lays out the rules:

Women are encouraged to not work, whether your job is paid or unpaid.

Women are being asked to avoid shopping in stores and online — except for local small businesses and women-owned companies that support A Day Without a Woman.

Women are urged to wear the color red.

Can’t afford to take the day off? Join in solidarity:

“Many women in our most vulnerable communities will not have the ability to join the strike, due to economic insecurity. We strike for them," organizers note on their  website. If women can't strike, they are encouraged to wear something red in a show of solidarity.

If you’re a business, there’s a role for you too:

Companies can participate by closing for the day or letting female workers have the day off. Business are also being asked to examine policies regarding pay equity and paid leave.

So just who will do everything that women are doing? Men and children it seems:

Yes. Men are being asked to help with caregiving and other domestic chores on Wednesday. They are also being encouraged to rally for equal pay and other workplace issues for women.

Now, this sounds nice and dandy if you:

1.       Can afford to take the day off – If you can use a paid leave day, your employer will give you the day paid, or you can afford to take the day unpaid and still have a job tomorrow, you’re in a good position.

2.       Have a spouse who can take over the home and childcare duties you’re responsible for – If you’re married to a man who can handle your jobs for a day, you’re among the 67 million married women over 18 who can do that. However, that is not the majority of the 125 million adult women in the U.S. What if you’re married to a female partner and your family has kids? Who then takes over the duties.

3.       Have a support network that you can turn to – If you have nannies or other caregivers (who are males) then you’re in good shape, but again, many women who do have a support network are comprised of women. Just think of military spouses living away from family while their husband is deployed. What are they to do?

This means that many women who theoretically should benefit from greater opportunity and rights are left out in the cold:

1.       Women who can’t afford the day off – Not every female worker is salaried or receives paid time off. For those who don’t, a day without pay could tighten budgets or come at the cost of other household expenses like groceries or medicine.  

2.       Single moms – If you’re an unmarried mother, who do you turn to for child care needs and household duties on this day off? There are 8.5 million single-parent families with kids under 18 headed by women. For those who live in areas like Alexandria, VA and Prince George’s County Maryland whose public schools cancelled classes (at the last minute), they are in a bind to figure out childcare and the answer is not, make your husband do it. The fathers may not be accessible, able or willing.

3.       Women who rely on small businesses not owned by other women or minorities – It’s easy to direct women to avoid shopping for one day except for small women- or minority-owned businesses. However, 9.4 million or about one third (31 percent) of all privately held companies are owned by women. Some 8 million firms are minority-owned. These are not the majority of small businesses. Many more women are affected by a loss in revenue from businesses not owned by women or minorities. What happens to the women and children who depend on the income that the men (husbands and fathers) in their lives generate? Female workers at small non-minority or women-owned business will suffer twice by being asked not to work and for shoppers not the patronize their workplaces.

And one group, which gets totally overlooked are children. When your school is closed because your teachers are calling out for the day, your mom (and dad) can’t afford to take the day off from work, and there are no last-minute childcare options for you, what are you left to do? Maybe parents should just drop their kids off all at the playground for the day with snacks and hope for the best.

As my colleague Hadley Heath opined recently,

Many women can't take the day off to make a political statement. How would I explain to my 7-month-old daughter that I'm not going to change her diapers or make her bottles on March 8? She's a demanding customer, and the work I do for her is emblematic of the unpaid work that millions of women do every day as homemakers, mothers, and caregivers to their elderly relatives. It's not optional. And we don't do it entirely out of obligation: Our work is also our joy.

But I don't feel that I need to take a day off to demonstrate to my family or my community how important my work is.

Sounds like this is a day for women in great socio-economic positions, but not for anyone else. Where is the solidarity in that?

Independent Women’s Forum’s mission is to improve the lives of Americans by increasing the number of women who value free markets and personal liberty. Sister organization of Independent Women’s Voice.
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