March 8 2017
Historically Americans have held some significant marches to protest wide-spread injustices and inequalities. The Suffragette Movement and the March in 1913 protested women’s disenfranchisement and inequality under the law. Martin Luther King and the March on Washington demanded a reversal of the institutionalized racism that persisted well into the 1960s. “A Day without Women”, however, – a protest to spotlight the “economic injustices” against women – does not follow suit.
Today women will gather in cities around the country to “call attention to” issues such as pay equity, gender discrimination, sexual harassment, and job insecurity. We are certain to hear about the grossly overstated wage gap, the need for mandated paid leave, and government funded childcare, among other things.
Of course, this “woman-as-victim” narrative is nothing new. For years progressives have worked to convince Americans that women are victims of a relentless sexist society and therefore in need of constant special attention from government. Feminists on the left increasingly act as if women don’t have choices; and too often they (re)fashion women as objects rather than agents.
But in contrast to the great marches of the past, A Day Without Women is protesting against something that simply isn’t true – that the overwhelming majority of men simply don’t value women in society. That boys and men need to be reminded of what their world would look like without us.
This is – I don’t know how to put it delicately – plain and simple an insulting notion that runs contrary to the experiences of all the women who are surrounded by thoughtful men as husbands, business partners, colleagues, customers and friends. Should I – or most women I know – suddenly “disappear,” there are a lot of men who would be affected (and they know it). And I’m not talking about who does the laundry or washes the dishes.
I’m talking about, for example, a marriage. My husband doesn’t need to be reminded what life without a best friend and confidant would be like; or what it would feel like to lose the mother of his children. I’m also talking about the mutually beneficial relationship fathers have with their daughters, brothers with their sisters; the connection made between professors and students, colleagues, employers, and friends.
There has been a consistent anti-male thread running through the modern feminist movement, but it has intensified in recent years, culminating this week in an event so deeply divisive it should be resoundingly rejected by women of all political stripes as raw, anti-male sexism. From the panic over a “rape culture” on college campuses, to the #YesAllWomen social media campaign, to the uproar over “street harassment,” the narrative is that most men abuse women. That most men badger, sexually assault, and discriminate against women. In fact, that most men wouldn’t even care if we disappeared altogether.
The real tragedy of “A Day Without Women” is what it teaches boys and men. We are telling boys and men that misogyny and even violence against women is the norm. It portrays men in general as bumbling idiots, dependent on their wives simply for their scheduling and shopping talents – forcing them to be “surprised” in some comical, outdated fashion when elementary school teachers don’t show up in the morning. It endorses the idea that most fathers don’t think their daughters are worth their attention.
And this is simply not the case.
Of course there are bad actors – husbands who abuse their wives, men who prey on women, and bosses who mistreat female employees. But at a time when women are equal under the law, gender roles have evolved, and women have more educational, professional, and personal freedom than ever before, mistreatment of women is thankfully more often the exception than the rule.
If we want to create a stronger society -- one in which women are respected, have greater economic opportunity, and have happier relationships – then it’s time to stop creating rivalries between men and women. And it’s certainly time to stop shaming men.
Rather than marching in red, let’s change the perception of normal social behavior by recognizing most men strive to be good people: fathers who see all the potential in their daughters; male bosses who applaud and promote their female employees, husbands who encourage and support their wives.
On this International Women’s Day, let’s spend less time dividing men and women and more time engaging in how to ensure true gender equality around the globe.
Sabrina L. Schaeffer is executive director of the Independent Women’s Forum.