The Women's Strike You Didn't Hear About, and Why it Matters

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The Women's Strike You Didn't Hear About, and Why it Matters

What if you didn’t have to smile at sexist jokes to keep your job? Or be the only person responsible for sink-load upon sink-load of dishes? What if you didn’t have to change all the diapers or cook every meal? These are things most women do every day without complaint or even a second thought.

Until last week.

When Donald Trump was sworn into office, thousands of women were not watching. In fact, thousands of women were doing nothing at all.

While women who could march made necessary noise, a two-day global strike that happened in concordance with the march helped make a lasting impact.

“We want to change the conversation and focus on the power that we have,” said Candi Churchill, an organizer for National Women’s Liberation, which put on the strike. “We have power when we take collective action together.”

Women Strike aimed to draw attention to racism, bigotry, health care issues, child care issues, a $15 minimum wage and more. To get the point across, thousands of women were absent from their day jobs on inauguration day, but, more importantly, they refused to do any traditional woman’s work—from cooking to child care to being polite when they don’t want to be.

“I am striking from my paid job on Friday,” said Kendra Vincent, an organizer with NWL. “I am also striking from putting any time and energy into being less than my genuine self. There are a lot of social expectations on women, and it would be exhausting to fight it all the time. But on these two days, there will be no fake smiles.”

The strike offered an alternative to those who couldn’t just hop on a plane across the country, or who were scared of Trump supporters accosting them, or who were simply fed up with the white women in-fighting with regard to the Women’s March organization itself. Nearly 7,000 women pledged their participation, and more throughout the country actually participated.

It wasn’t about about two days of lazing about—it had become part of a massive, grassroots effort connecting one of the country’s largest groups together. Weeks after the march and strike, the women behind it continue to actively resist the country’s new regime. Through National Women’s Liberation and various other groups, these women are distributing calls to action, relaying information and forming a cohesive front with which to fight for rights for years to come.

“I am privileged enough to be able to show up and use my voice for those who are unable. I believe when women are empowered, whole families thrive and the nation thrives,” said Kimberly Teitelbaum, one of the strikers. “And the work doesn’t stop there. We have to show up in our own communities and within our own families day after day, finding ways to fight for strength and integrity.”

Other targeted groups are joining as well, and new marches are being organized for the coming months. After the Trump administration clamped down on the National Parks, the EPA and the USDA, scientists quickly organized a march event that is being watched by hundreds of thousands and gaining more steam every day. There’s also a march scheduled for tax day, along with a massive petition of the White House to have Donald Trump release his taxes to the public. These movements are cohesive and lasting, not flashes of rage that cool as quickly as they rise.

The idea for a women’s strike in particular formed after the election when NWL saw a massive uptick in attendance at their general meetings. They wanted a way to include women in every town and state across the country, who were cringing in outrage and despair but thought they didn’t have the means to make a statement with their feet. Instead of marching, these women halted the world on inauguration day.

“Pointing out how much women do and how much we’re taken for granted is a really good reason to strike, now or at any time,” said Brooke Eliazar-Macke, a public defender in Gainesville, Florida.

“For me, the strike is the political action to back up the march,” said Hillary Ring, co-organizer of the NWL Tallahassee Organizing Committee. “The march is a visible protest, and the strike represents my reasons for protesting.”

Some women can march and strike, while others gather information and spread it online, and still others make in-roads with their friends and family who may hold latent misogynistic views. All of this is aimed to foster a sustained movement of resistance across months and years of this presidency.