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“God, when will these liberal white women find something else to complain about?” – male acquaintance from my college study abroad program
“These women who are taking the day off are just embarrassing themselves and other women.” – female friend of a friend that I met at a bachelorette party
“What is this strike even accomplishing? I’ve never felt inferior to a man in my life and I don’t have time to take the day off. Are these women who are striking just lazy?” – older female relative
I have a confession to make: I’m one of these “lazy” women who didn’t work Wednesday and spent the day observing International Women’s Day and A Day Without A Woman. To be completely transparent, I actually spent the day traveling home from a trip that had been planned months before the strike, but had I been home in DC I still wouldn’t have worked.
As I scrolled through my social media feeds throughout the day seeing the occasional post like the ones above, I wanted to reach out to the authors to explain to them why I and many of my friends chose to observe the day. However, since we all know that engaging in political arguments on Facebook has a whopping 0% success rate, I wanted to share my perspective on why I opted into both International Women’s Day and A Day Without A Woman with all of you instead in hopes that it would spark some constructive discourse.
First off, it’s important to note that I and a majority of my friends who participated in the strike are privileged as hell. I don’t mean that we have trust funds and are all set to take over our families’ multimillion dollar businesses. When I say that we’re privileged, I mean that we all have graduate degrees, health insurance, livable salaries, and paid vacation that allowed us to take the day off without worrying about losing our jobs or making our rent payments.
By almost every measurable global statistic, I’m individually doing just fine, and I know that. It would be extremely easy for me to fall into the, “I don’t need Women’s day” camp. I successfully work in a very heavily male-dominated field to the point where in the six years of my career so far, I have only just this year FINALLY had another woman in the office. I’ve been incredibly lucky during this time that I’ve had wonderfully supportive bosses (all male), generally respectful colleagues, and the confidence to immediately shut down any inappropriate behavior, intentional or not.
“Ok, Quinn, we get it, you’re making it. Why did you participate in this dumb strike again? Things seem fine for you,” I hear you rolling your eyes from D.C.
The thing is, I didn’t participate for me… or for my equally educated, successful, and confident female friends… or even for the Facebook likes. I participated in International Women’s Day and A Day Without A Woman because I have the resources and agency and ability to do so for all the women who can’t. The entire point of the day was to raise awareness about areas where women are far from equal to men, both at home and abroad, and to demonstrate how vital women are to the economy, their families, and the world by opting out of those institutions for a day. That’s why I participated.
I participated for the single mom who couldn’t afford to take off work because she works three jobs to feed her family.
I participated for the 493 million women globally who can’t read or write and deserve access to education.
I participated for the brilliant women who were asked to take notes in a meeting or get someone coffee even though they weren’t the most junior person in the room.
I participated for the 603 million women who live in a country where domestic violence is not considered a crime.
I participated for my fresh out of college mentee who came to me crying at lunch one day because our well-known client said something sexually inappropriate to her and she didn’t know how to respond.
I participated because only 1 in 10 world leaders are women and only 29 hold CEO positions on the S&P 500 list.
I participated because there are 20 million trafficked women and children worldwide, and 98% of them are female.
Lastly, I participated because my grandmother was the first female detective in her state and my mother was the first female to ever hold her position at a Fortune 500 company. If they hadn’t fought for the right to achieve what they did and paved the way for other women to do the same, I wouldn’t be where I am today.
So, yes, I would probably be just fine without International Women’s Day and A Day Without A Woman… but the thing is, it’s not about me. Just because it isn’t a problem for me doesn’t mean that it isn’t a problem. I feel a responsibility to use my relatively privileged position as an ally to help amplify those voices that get lost and to help in any way I can.
I also understand the instinct that some people may have to say, “well I worked hard and made it through shitty situations and didn’t complain, so why can’t other women do the same?” To that I would say that rising tides lift all boats; helping others in no way diminishes the amazing things you’ve already accomplished for yourself, and anything we can do to improve the situation of women anywhere helps people everywhere, men included.
Maybe you were one of the people who couldn’t afford to take the day off, maybe you weren’t sure what it was about, or maybe you didn’t even know it was happening. There’s still plenty of time for you to get involved and support women and girls globally. Some of my favorite female focused nonprofit organizations include: The Global Fund For Women, Women on Wings, Girls Not Brides, GirlStart, and Girls Who Code. Whether you’re a woman who wants to help other women or you’re a man that wants to be a good ally, these organizations are all great places to start.
So yeah, I’m one of those “lazy” people that participated in International Women’s Day and A Day Without A Woman, but if even one thing I did helps another woman feel more comfortable and confident in herself or helps a man decide to be a more active ally, I’ll consider it a success..
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