Why We Strike

Women made their value known yesterday.

Editor’s note: Yesterday, we ran a piece about women who weren’t participating in the International Women’s Strike or A Day Without A Woman for personal or financial reasons. Today, we cover those who did.

Yesterday, Migdalia Rivera was on strike. Taking the day away from work wasn’t convenient for her, but the strike was incredibly important to her as a Latina woman and single mom.

“I have faced discrimination in the workforce on various levels,” says Rivera, a campaign specialist for social media and blogging at Moms Rising and founder and editor of Latina On a Mission. “Not only do I earn less as a Latina — Latinas make 55 cents to every $1 a [white] man makes — but I’m sure I was passed over for opportunities because I’m also a single mother.”

For Rivera, the decision to strike was easy.

“The strike shows the collective power of women,” she says. “We’re an essential part of the workforce. Yet we’re not valued. Our work is not valued. If it were, we would not be having this strike.”

Rivera was joined in her efforts by women around the world Wednesday, who stepped away from paid and unpaid labor to partake in The International Women’s Strike and A Day Without A Woman. These initiatives, planned specifically to take place on International Women’s Day, were to show women’s impact on the socioeconomic system and economy, to stand up to violence against women, to protest the gender pay gap, and to advocate for reproductive autonomy.

Although many women didn’t march or opt out of work, others felt the day sent an important message.

“Women are being asked to be the shock absorbers of an economy of low wages and thin social services, and today we’re saying no,” says Sarah Leonard, a spokesperson for the International Women’s Strike.

The strike had notable successes. In Alexandria, Va., public schools were shut down after more than 300 staff members requested the day off.

“This is not a decision that was made lightly,” said superintendent Alvin Crawley in a statement to parents. “The decision is based solely on our ability to provide sufficient staff to cover all our classrooms, and the impact of high staff absenteeism on student safety and delivery of instruction. It is not based on a political stance or position.”

New York Magazine’s The Cut suspended all publication for the day and editors vowed not to work “the second shift” of housework and childcare.

The Cut staff had many conversations before deciding to strike,” editors wrote. “… The Cut can’t possibly speak to or for every single American woman, but we decided to strike today to show solidarity with the women around the world who are standing up for equal pay and equal opportunity, reproductive freedom, an end to sexual assaults, an end to bigotry of all kinds, and policies that support our families like parental leave, health care, and child care.”

Whitney Kippes, the CEO of Imaginary Book Club, planned ahead in order to shut down her website for the day. People who tried to access the site were directed to information about the strike.

For Kippes, who is a full-time freelancer, striking took careful planning, but she was upfront with all her clients about the reason she would not be working. She spent yesterday taking care of herself and protesting.

“I have a full day planned of self care,” she says. “I have a few books I’ve been wanting to read, plans to get coffee with a good friend, and a Planned Parenthood rally in the afternoon to raise my voice with others.”

Liza Fitzgerald, a teacher in New York City, also decided to strike from her teaching job.

“I struggled with my desire to take a stand by taking the day off, and my obligation to my amazing students,” she explains. “However, after a lot of contemplation, I decided the best lesson I could give my students is by taking an active stand and not going to work in protest. Actions speak louder than words.”

Some women and businesses that chose not to strike still found unique ways to support International Women’s Day and bring awareness to issues like unequal pay.

Smoothie chain Bananas Smoothies & Frozen Yogurt honored the day by selling the Common Cents smoothie, which cost 80 cents for women and $1 for men, a difference that represents the current wage gap. Staff at the Morristown, N.J.-based chain came up with the idea last month.

“We were astonished by this wage gap and we wanted to bring awareness to the issue,” says Andrea Carella, brand manager for the company. Smoothies normally sell for between $3.99 and $4.99, and Carella says that the company would be taking a loss on the Common Cents smoothies.

“We know this isn’t something that we’re going to make [money] on, but that’s not the point,” she says. “It’s about bringing this issue to light and sparking the conversation.”

Dena Ogden, a writer from Spokane, Wash., took the day off from paid labor, but opted to work on projects that she is passionate about.

“I have a novel in the works, one with a very feminist protagonist, so it felt appropriate to spend some time on [that] today,” she says. “That’s a bit of a blend of both participating and not participating, but it’s what works for me and my family.”

Michele Simone, a self-employed interior designer in Newburyport, Mass., wasn’t able to strike, but she honored the day by making a donation to an organization that supports women.

“Supporting Planned Parenthood with a donation is a great way to stand with my fellow sisters,” she says.