Editorial: On resistance and privilege

International Women’s Day on March 8 marked the first Day Without a Woman. This day played into a string of recent protests speaking out against the values and actions of the new presidential administration. On March 8, women were encouraged to “take the day off from paid or unpaid labor,” “avoid shopping for one day (with exceptions for small, women- and minority-owned businesses” and “wear red in solidarity with A Day Without a Woman,” according to the event’s website.

While this event had admirable intentions, it is important to acknowledge the immense amount of privilege associated with the ability to simply leave work for a day. A Day Without a Woman, while striving to positively represent the many contributions women make to society, actually served more as a reminder of the spectrum of privilege on which women exist and the difficulty in participating in peaceful protest that comes with socioeconomic insecurity.

One of the policy cornerstones of the feminist movement is the idea of paid family leave. According to the National Partnership of Women and Families, only 14 percent of workers in the United States get paid family leave through their employer. This is especially pronounced in lower-income jobs. Although protest is a vital, constitutionally-mandated right, we must acknowledge that the ability to skip work is never afforded to some women. Additionally, the economic toll of not working for a day can be detrimental and even unrealistic for women living paycheck to paycheck. By the same token, while the idea of women taking the day off from unpaid labor sounds great, it is ludicrous to think that single mothers can abandon their parental responsibilities when no one else can pick up the slack. Shopping at small businesses is a nice notion, but paying such stores’ typically higher prices could be difficult for women with limited incomes.

A Day Without a Woman recognizes that participating in the strike is less feasible for some women. Its website encourages everyone who cannot strike to show their support by wearing red in solidarity, and it recognizes that people in vulnerable populations — including women of color, women with disabilities, LGBTQ individuals and Muslim women — face greater risks of employer retaliation.

“We strike for them,” the website reads, referring to single mothers and other women who were unable to participate in the strike.

A Day Without a Woman highlights a bigger problem: that the elements of intersectionality and privilege affect who is able to take action and join protests. Especially during this time, when individuals are eager to resist and engage in activism, we must critically reflect on such efforts and the ideas they perpetuate. As we move forward, we must do our best to find ways in which all groups can have their voices heard.

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