By Branwyn Wilkinson
For a day without a woman, I sure didn’t notice any absence of women this past Wednesday. I certainly wasn’t absent. I started my day with my usual shift at work, then attended both of my classes.
At work, there wasn’t an absence of man (make that ‘woman’) power, since I work in a woman-dominated office. We were all there on time for our scheduled shifts. While there were absences from my classes, there weren’t enough to be considered a statement. I saw a lot of feminist apparel, but I also saw on Instagram that girls chose their clothing specifically to “support the protest even though they had a midterm.”
I can’t think of a better way to sum up college women’s lack of participation. We’re not really in a good position to go on strike, even for just a day. Most college students are part-time workers, so if we don’t go in, we don’t get paid. And most of us need that money.
If we don’t go to class, we miss material, so we’re the ones getting hurt in that case. While I absolutely support anyone who participated in the Day Without a Woman, I think those of us who didn’t still lived out the goal of International Women’s Day just as well. Because the point of going to college is to better ourselves. So committing to that in a world that still undermines the success of women is just as much an act of defiance. Because yeah, the world would be a lot worse off without women’s contributions.
In the past century women have made leaps and bounds. We entered the workforce. We rose to high level positions in that workforce. We ran for and were elected to public office. Every new place we went we brought new ways of thinking and doing things.
One day isn’t enough to capture all of that, though. I understand and support the statement a Day Without a Woman was trying to make. I’m just not sure it had the level of impact some were hoping; at least it didn’t in my corner of the world. While I did start the day hearing about school closings because of lack of teachers, by the end of the day the media had turned to school closings because of out-of-control winds.
Just as one day wasn’t enough to capture a reality without women in the workforce, one month isn’t enough to capture all of women’s history. Women’s History Month faces a lot of the same questions as Black History Month: why should women’s or black history only be relevant one month out of the year? By giving these histories a “special” month, are we conceding that they shouldn’t be included with the rest of history? When working to overcome a prejudice like sexism or racism, it is important to normalize the targeted group. While women’s and black history months offer a chance to celebrate these groups, they also highlight that these groups are still outside of what is considered “normal.”
To add to the mixed feelings about Women’s History Month, though it is important to celebrate our past, we must be careful not to dwell on it. The past is just that: the past. We can turn to it for inspiration from our earliest feminist sisters. We can look to it to see how far we’ve come and find the strength to keep going. But we must not stay there.
The truth of the matter is that we’re a lot further than we were even 50 years ago. While we’re still working for some of the same things as the original feminists, a lot of our needs have changed. Sometimes talking about past struggles can overshadow present ones, and those are the ones we need to be talking about.
Showing the world itself without women in the workforce and economy is a powerful statement, but it’s not something that would ever happen. We’re in the workforce, we’re in the economy, and we’re here to stay. Also, highlighting the contributions of women may not be the best way to gain the rights we need. In the past, knowledge of contributions often hasn’t been enough to get lawmakers to take action.
We are past the point of needing our presence and contributions recognized, especially in the U.S. They already are. Yet they still haven’t gotten us the things we need, like equal pay, or recognition that we aren’t, in fact, trophies or sexual objects. Or safety walking the streets. Or guaranteed access to healthcare, just to name a few.
I agree with the statement of a Day Without a Woman. We do contribute to our society in the same ways, and just as much, as men do, and therefore, we do deserve equal treatment. I have mixed feelings about whether a one-day strike was the best way to make that statement, though.
Personally, I make that same statement every day of my life. I make it by going to class even when I’m tired, or sick, or it’s cold out. I make that statement by getting good grades. I make it by getting good grades in math classes. I don’t get a lot of recognition for it now, but I know it’s going to get me places in the future. I’m prepared to show that I measure up against men; I’ve already been doing it all my life.
It is these small battles that will change, and are changing, the way the world thinks about women. So many people already realize that actions like objectifying women and denying them access to healthcare are unfair and just plain wrong.
When we come together as a force determined to succeed despite odds stacked against us, we will. Women are a force to be reckoned with, and this power is made clearer in our presence than in our absence.