Today is, according to whoever conceives of such things, International Women’s Day, which raises lots of questions for me. I wonder if coming up with these special days is what the NCAA tournament selection committee does when it isn’t picking basketball teams? Is there a ranking somewhere so we know which days are the most important? For example, is this more or less important than International Talk Like a Pirate Day? Isn’t there a concern that this will overshadow National Peanut Cluster Day and National Proofreading Day, also on March 8th? Won’t having International Women’s Day immediately after National Oreo Cookie Day (March 6th) and National Pancake Day (March 7th) lead to some sluggish demonstrations? These are the questions that I hope the organizers have considered and thought through.
Of course, all of these “holidays” tend to get hijacked by one agenda or another. Originally this day had getting women the right to vote as one of its aims. Today International Women’s Day is also being called “A Day Without A Woman” brought to you by the people who gave us the women’s march around the time of the presidential inauguration. They suggest that this march is for women’s issues, but they seem to be very interested in immigration, the environment, and “LGBTQIA” (I don’t even know what all of the letters are for anymore). And they are very interested in “reproductive rights” which is code for girls in the womb have no rights. Ironically, females in the womb aren’t included or represented in any of these marches.
Political agendas aside there are real issues facing women today. The creators of “A Day Without A Woman” and I just wouldn’t agree on several of those issues. Here are three that surely everyone can agree on.
In the neighborhood of 85% of all cases of domestic violence occur against women.
Around the world poverty hits women harder than men.
98% of victims of human sex trafficking are women and girls.
As the father of two adorable girls I take those concerns very seriously, which is why I find the actions of the A Day Without Women agenda ludicrous. Per their website they urge women to do three things: take the day off, from paid and unpaid labor; avoid shopping for one day (with exceptions for small, women- and minority-owned businesses); and wear RED in solidarity with A Day Without A Woman. I thought these suggestions were a joke, but as it turns out they were serious. I kind of wonder if a guy wrote them because telling women not to go shopping in protest seems like something someone would do if they were trying to further a stereotype, not contradict one. Did they outsource ideas from Archie Bunker and Al Bundy? I also wonder who actually participates in these things. Giving up shopping for a day in protest is one of the most privileged things you can do. What else are they giving up, going without a latte for a day? Forgoing a pedicure for this 24 hour period? Most of the women I know are much too instrumental to the success of their families and companies to able to take a day off from paid and unpaid labor. I guess for me this whole thing runs counter to the women who have been formative in my life.
When she was alive my maternal grandmother would have had no problem avoiding shopping for one day. In fact she did this most days, and when she did go shopping it was probably for somebody else in her family rather than herself. The idea that she should shop at only small women and minority-owned businesses would have been rather comical to her. She never had the money to be so picky. She shopped wherever had the best deal to make the family’s dollar go the farthest. She was too busy caring for her family to be worried about the sex and ethnicity of a store’s proprietor. She worked hard her entire life, most of it in retail, and the idea of taking a day off when someone would pay you to come to work would have been unimaginable to her.
My paternal grandmother (who hated wearing red by the way) lived through the depression. She found new and innovative ways to save money because she was never sure when the Republicans were going to send the country into another depression. An idea that my grandfather held as gospel truth. They literally lived on a shoestring budget. She kept a tally of their bank account on ledger sheets, which she kept together with shoestrings so she didn’t have to spend money on a binder. She and my grandfather grew a lot of their own food, raised chickens for eggs, and when something broke they fixed it. For her a day without labor probably meant somebody didn’t eat, and she never let that happen.
My mom has always been the hardest working person I know. My dad and I can sit in front of the television doing nothing for hours, but not her. Even when she sits down she is doing something with her hands. She is in constant motion. When I was in my twenties she got colon cancer, and since then she is closer to being a mere mortal who actually gets tired at the end of the day. The next day that she exerts no labor will be her first. She has worked as a teacher, a bank teller, and various other jobs, and in every one of them she was criminally underpaid. Sometimes the person underpaying her was a man, and sometimes it was a woman. She took my grandmother’s thriftiness and elevated it to an art form. My grandmother shopped sales, but my mom can spot a clearance sign 12 miles away. It was this ability to squeeze a few cents out of nothing that was instrumental in getting our family through some lean times. Does she deserve a day without labor? Absolutely. Will she ever take one? I kind of doubt it. Due to an unforseen course of events my mom is actually watching all three of her grandchildren today so today certainly won't be a day without labor for her!
That of course brings us to my wonderful wife who works a job, raises three kids, oversees our kindergartner’s education, is the one who makes sure we are ready to host our church community group twice a month, is several months pregnant, and just turned in a book manuscript that she coauthored with me. If tonight is like most nights I will spend at least a few minutes begging her to sit down and get some rest. If it is like most nights she won’t listen.
Today our two daughters saw their mom get up, go to work, handle her business, take care of them and their brother, and do whatever she has to to make our family successful. Those girls will see their mom changing their world. She won’t do it by wearing red, by not shopping at a business owned by a white dude, or by avoiding labor. She will do it the way my grandmothers did, and the way my mom did, by showing up. Just like she does every day.