A Day for All Women (Not Just the Privileged)

I’m usually pretty behind on the news, though this week I’ve been paying attention to the A Day Without a Woman strike set to happen today. The organizers of the strike are calling on women to either refrain from shopping, wear red, or stay home from paid or unpaid work. While they acknowledge this is not a possibility for many women (and say that they strike for those women, too), it strikes (no pun intended) me as a fairly privileged event—and therefore not for all women. 

One of the problems with feminism is that historically it has not been a movement for all women. In first wave feminism there was a division among the suffragettes about whether they would include African-American women’s issue in their platform. Some believed they should, while others believed they should not. In second wave feminism it was about the “trapped American housewife” finding freedom from her identity being found in her home and children. It was not about the trapped African-American woman who was often the domestic help. Her identity was decided for her, and she wasn't given the luxury of fighting for something different. In third wave feminism abortion on demand is the price for freedom for women, yet abortion clinics still are mostly in minority populated areas, where African-American and other minority babies are aborted at a much higher rate than others. Women and children (particularly minorities and the poor) are sacrificed on the altar of choice. 

There is a deep-seated privilege in most movements, because it is the privileged who can spend time speaking out about issues. Sometimes this is a good thing, especially when the privileged use their voices for the marginalized. But in the case of the protest this week, I can’t help but wonder if this is all another classist attempt by a majority population that misses that the voiceless ones will inevitably suffer because of their privilege.

To be clear, I do think society benefits by having women in every sphere. I do think feminism accomplished great good for women, though I think it missed the mark ultimately. I do think there are very real evils still committed against women all across the world. I just don’t think an international strike solves those problems, especially when it does it on the backs of the vulnerable and helpless. For example, an entire school district is closed today because of word that teachers were going to strike. As one friend noted, what does this do to the families who have no other childcare options? In all of this, I'm left wondering if there is a better way than choosing to stay home or opting out of work for the day.

On top of all this, what the strike misses (even if they acknowledge it in passing) is the fact that many women either cannot afford to strike (for fear of losing their job or because they need the money) or are in caregiving work that makes striking impossible (think mothers, women caring for sick family members, etc.). Not to mention all of the vulnerable people who will suffer if those caregivers choose to strike anyway (like with medical professionals and teachers and mothers). If part of caring for women’s rights is valuing the caregiving work they do (and thus fighting for paid leave) a strike seems to fly in the face of that.

For the Christian, we have a better answer. Sometimes we work in quiet faithfulness (which I believe is the response for today). Sometimes we stand up for the marginalized. There is a time for peaceful protests. There is a time to stand up to government and the injustice that comes from its hands, but not at the expense of the voiceless. As women who have been given a place of privilege in society, let us use our privilege not for our own good, but for the good of others who have no choice but to work today. 

***For insight on how the church stands with women today (and every day), this post at Desiring God is good and clear.