What would happen if women – for just one day – abstained from working, studying, or spending money and took to the streets instead? This Wednesday, the United States may find out.
Coming off the heels of the Jan. 21 Women's Marches, which by some estimates drew more than 3 million participants across the US, organizers are urging women to strike in protest against misogyny, inequality, and oppression. Those who wish to participate in 'A Day Without a Woman' are encouraged to ditch work and not to spend any money in an effort to demonstrate women's economic power and contributions to society.
The strike, which marks the first major action by organizers of the Women's March, was inspired in part by recent "Day Without an Immigrant" protests, which took place last month.
"We provide all this value and keep the system going, and receive unequal benefits from it," spokeswoman Cassady Findlay told the Associated Press.
According to US Census figures, women make up more than 47 percent of the workforce and are dominant in a number of professions, including registered nurses, pharmacists, and accountants. They also comprise at least a third of physicians, surgeons, lawyers, and judges, and 55 percent of all college students.
But data shows that women still earn just 80 cents for every dollar made by a man: The median income for women in 2015 was $40,742, compared to $51,212 for men.
To protest the gender pay gap, efforts to deregulate reproductive rights, and issues specifically related to the oppression of women of color, thousands of women are expected to participate in marches across the country on Wednesday in lieu of attending work or classes.
Rallies are planned in cities including Philadelphia; Baltimore; Milwaukee; Washington, D.C.; and Berkeley, Calif. Organizers in New York have scheduled a gathering in Central Park at noon. And in Utah, as many as 1,000 women are expected to gather at the Capitol to send a message to lawmakers that they plan to hold them accountable for their actions on women's issues.
Some businesses have said they will support the strike by either closing or giving female employees the day off. Meanwhile, a number of schools around the country are closing or canceling classes Wednesday in anticipation of an understaffing crisis. About three-quarters of teachers in the US are women, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
"This is unprecedented," Helen Lloyd, spokeswoman for the Alexandria City Public Schools, told the Los Angeles Times. "We’ve never had circumstances like this before."
It's unknown exactly how many women will participate in the "Day Without a Woman." Only a fourth of participants in the Women's March signed up in advance to participate in Wednesday's strike, organizers told the AP. But historically, experts say, strikes have proven to be "an extremely effective means of protest," as The Christian Science Monitor reported last month:
While no one has successfully staged such a large-scale, multi-issue strike in the United States, some observers say the uncertainties of the new administration's early days could create a breeding ground for success....
Without one specific goal, the strike could serve to unify Trump opponents, while communicating participants' concerns to each other and politicians. That, some analysts say, may be what's needed to propel issues from back-burner debates to national priorities, as Occupy Wall Street served to elevate issues of economic inequality to the docket.
A single day of striking on such a broad collection of issues would hardly reverse the course of the Trump administration. But for those who wondered if, and how, the marches could facilitate long-term action, a strike could become part of the answer.
"We're in uncharted territory. There's never been anything like the Women's March in scale and breadth of participation," Jeremy Brecher, a historian and author of the book “Strike!,” told the Monitor at the time. "I believe we're seeing the greatest mobilization of civil resistance that we've ever seen in American history, broadly including all the different things that are going on. Historically, worldwide, general strikes have been extremely effective means of protest over the course of modern history."
Wednesday's event will coincide with the United Nations-designated International Women's Day. Organizers of the strike say they want to "stand with women around the globe" who supported their protest efforts on Jan. 21 by staging similar marches overseas.
"For years and years, March 8 has been International Women's Day, and it has been a happy, happy day, which is fine," said Terry O'Neill, president of the National Organization for Women, to Reuters. "But the political climate that we find ourselves in right now requires us to have political power."
This report includes material from the Associated Press and Reuters.