CEDAR CITY – Organizers of the January Women’s March on Washington are calling for women all over the world to show their strength again, but this time, they want to demonstrate the power and impact women hold on the economic landscape.
To do that WMW organizers are asking women to take the day off from work Wednesday and encouraging them not to spend money except for in women-owned businesses.
Dubbed “A Day Without a Woman,” the protest is the first national action by the WMW organizers since the international marches held the day after President Donald Trump’s inauguration that drew millions of both women and men into the streets in support of women’s rights.
Today’s event coincides with the U.N.-designated International Women’s Day organized by women in more than 30 different countries. WMW organizers say they want to “stand with women around the globe” who supported their efforts Jan. 21.
“The International Women’s Day recognizes the enormous value that women of all backgrounds add to our socio-economic system,” Jean Bjerke said, a member of the Cedar City Women’s March on Washington group.
“Organizers call on women and their allies worldwide to act together for equity, justice and the human rights of women and all gender-oppressed people, through a one-day demonstration of economic solidarity.”
The event is inspired by the recent “Day Without an Immigrant” protests held last month, said spokeswoman Cassady Findlay. She said the action is aimed at highlighting the effect of women on the country’s socioeconomics system and demonstrating how women’s paid and unpaid work keeps households, communities and economies running.
“We do all of this and get paid less than men, get sexually harassed, get inadequate family leave,” Findlay said. “We provide all this value and keep the system going and receive unequal benefits from it.”
Unlike the Women’s March on Washington, today’s protest focuses on the absence of women, who are being steered to local rallies and community groups and away from work or shopping in stores or online. Organizers are asking women to wear red to signify love and sacrifice.
The Cedar City Women’s March on Washington group is calling on women locally to participate in the action by either not going to work for the day, volunteering their efforts to a cause that support women, wearing red or shopping at local stores owned by women, Bejerk said.
It is unclear how many women could participate in the action locally or nationwide, but Bjerke said she knows several women who plan to show some type of support.
“I suspect if we have 225 members in our women’s group that if each of them shared the information about this day that we’ll at least have a couple of hundred women participate in the strike,” Bejerke said. “The strike assumes our absence is the most powerful statement we can make, so there are not a lot of official organized activities.”
School districts including Alexandria City Public Schools in Virginia and Chapel Hill-Carrboro Schools in North Carolina have canceled classes in anticipation of employee participation.
Some businesses throughout the country have also said they will either close or give female employees the day off. The event website provides templates for “out of office” emails and an employee letter. The site reportedly had more than a half-million visitors, and more than 60,000 had clicked on the letter template Tuesday afternoon.
The role of women in American society is significant. According to the U.S. Census, women make up more than 47 percent of the workforce and are dominant in such professions as registered nurses, dental assistants, cashiers, accountants and pharmacists. They make up at least a third of physicians and surgeons, as well as lawyers and judges. Women also represent 55 percent of all college students.
Still, there are many inequalities that need to be addressed, Bejerke said. American women continue to be paid less than men, earning 80 cents for every dollar a man makes. The median income for women was $40,742 in 2015, compared with $51,212 for men, according to census data.
Bejerke hopes that today’s protest will bring that to light while raising awareness of the important role women play in society.
Palmira Figueroa, an organizer of the Seattle women’s march and a fundraiser for an environmental group, said the group recognizes many women cannot take the day off.
“It’s just a big ask,” Figueroa said. However, she said she does not plan to go to her own job.
“We also want to be in solidarity with our community, knowing that many who can’t decide (today) they can’t work,” she said.
Findlay said it is important for white women to be in solidarity with minority women.
“Throughout history, the strikes that have the biggest impact are the ones when people who are already the target of oppression participate,” Findlay said. “It’s when women of all backgrounds strike and stand together that we’re really going to see the impact.”
In Cedar City, there are many families who can’t afford to have the woman not go to work for a day. Bejerke said their group has come up with several ways women can still how their support and stand in solidarity without having to necessarily stay home:
- Some members, wearing red, will join for lunch at local women-owned restaurants. Others, wearing red, will shop at women-owned businesses.
- There will likely be many women around town and on the Southern Utah University campus wearing red or gathering informally.
- Some professors at SUU have said they will take 10 minutes at the end of each class to inspire students to write to their representatives.
- Some people plan to make donations to organizations that support women such as Canyon Creek Crisis Center or NOW.
- Some plan to take the day off work and volunteer with an organization that serves at-risk and underprivileged people such as Iron County Share and Care.
- A Day Without a Woman website.
The Associated Press contributed to this report as did Phuong Le in Seattle and Errin Haines Whack.
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