On October 24th, 1975, 90% of women in Iceland did not go to work. Nor did they stay home. They left their posts as workers, mothers, homemakers, and wives to gather in the streets, listen to speeches, sing songs and discuss what they wanted to see change in Icelandic society. For a little over 16 hours, Iceland ground to a halt, businesses unable to function, perplexed fathers cooking for their children for the first time, the streets clogged with women who wanted to see a change.
The movement had no specific goal.
Among the women of Iceland’s many grievances were pay discrepancy, lack of representation in government, lack of access to certain job markets, but most of all they were frustrated with the way they were perceived. They were the legal equals of men but were still expected to stay home, to raise children, to perform a role that they had always traditionally performed. If they were to take a job, it was assumed that most work was too complicated for women and that they made good nurses and secretaries.
Five years later they had elected the world’s first-ever female President. Over the next twenty years, they would enact legislation mandating that 40% of any board must be made up of women (or men – the Icelanders do equality really well), see women’s involvement in the labor force climb to 88%, and close the wage gap more than any other western nation.
March 8th, 2017, in addition to being International Women’s Day, is slated to be A Day Without A Woman in the United States, organized by the same women from the Women’s March on Washington.
“In the spirit of women and their allies coming together for love and liberation, we offer A Day Without A Woman. We ask: do businesses support our communities, or do they drain our communities? Do they strive for gender equity or do they support the policies and leaders that perpetuate oppression? Do they align with a sustainable environment or do they profit off destruction and steal the futures of our children? We saw what happened when millions of us stood together in January, and now we know that our army of love greatly outnumbers the army of fear, greed and hatred. On March 8th, International Women’s Day, let’s unite again in our communities for A Day Without A Woman.” (via CNBC)
Cue the conservative backlash. You can find a lot of these articles, I’ve chosen to link the one published by this website because I think it embodies all that is wrong with the argument against women’s solidarity: These women don’t have a specific political goal. They hate men. There is no room for this divisiveness in the modern world. What exactly is so bad for women right now? This is just liberals who hate Trump finding a reason to protest. The list of inane, rhetorically empty bullshit stretches longer than I have room for here.
Here is a small list of why women should be marching, and deserve to take the day on March 8th:
- women still make on average 20% less than men for identical work;
- women account for 24.8% of state legislators,19.1% of congresspeople and 21% of Senators, despite comprising 50.8% of the population;
- of Fortune 500 CEOs, 4% are women;
- since 2011, state and federal legislatures (remember, the ones composed of mostly men?) have enacted 334 restrictions on abortion and closed 30% of women’s health clinics nationally;
- 1 in 3 women will be the victim of domestic violence in her lifetime, an incidence rate of 1 incident of abuse every 9 seconds;
And don’t draw the conclusion that women are protesting men or the government – they are not protesting. The Day Without A Woman is an initiative to raise awareness around the conditions in society that allow shit like the list above to continue. Their criticism is of society as a whole and that includes all of us, men, women, even the pussy-grabbing President.
If you can look at the data and conclude that there is no room for improvement for women’s rights in America, no cause to raise awareness around, then please share your rose-colored glasses with me.
When most men write articles condemning Women’s Action in the world, they cite their own inspirational mothers. Mothers who never fail to be hard-working, hard-nosed broads who raised a family on a can of beans and the sweat of her brow. So, I would like to invoke the trope and talk about the example of my own mother.
From 1996-2002, my mother ran a department in one of the largest IT firms in the world. She made almost $50,000 a year less than the man administering an equivalent staff. She was expected to wear high heels and a skirt suit every day. She would often come home lamenting some off-color remark made to her by some man, something about her tits, or her ass, or her smile. In her words, “They didn’t want me in their club and sure as hell didn’t want to be reporting to me. You had to be better than they were just to get by.” She came home late, she left early, and to this day when I think of a powerful person, I think of a woman in a suit.
Over the last 20 years my mother, and thousands of women like her, brought you some familiar changes. They brought you the much lampooned politically correct office environment. They brought you awareness about the wage gap. They brought you the statistics about women in executive positions and in government, the kind that allows me to make the case I am making.
They didn’t do it for the special snowflakes. They did it for the basic dignity and respect owed to them by their coworkers and colleagues who wouldn’t give those things willingly. They did it for real, no caveats, no bullshit equality. And women like my mother are still doing it – because we are still not there.
So, next time you hear that women enjoy every equality, that all of this affirmative action squawking is just laziness or a mask for a hidden liberal agenda, think about the fact that my mother still doesn’t get paid as much as her male counterparts. People still wonder if she can handle complex tasks. There is still a fundamental inequality that needs to be addressed.
It’s worth noting that in Iceland, in 2010, women walked out of work at 2:25 p.m. That was the time they were paid for commensurate to the rate earned by Icelandic men. Thirty-five years after their first women’s protest and there is still work to do. So let’s roll up our sleeves and get started – as the good people at Women’s March remind us, ‘it’s not a sprint. It’s a marathon.’