A Day Without Women

This is the official logo for the March 8 event.

Organizers of the Women’s March are calling for a “general strike” on March 8, which they have dubbed “A Day Without A Woman”. The idea is that if enough women stay home from work that day, the rest of society will see how important women are to our economy — indeed our daily lives. In reality, of course, a lot of women can’t stay home that day; they’d be fired if they did and household budgets would collapse. Also, in real life, enough women will stay on the job that the effect won’t be felt by a terrible lot of people.

But it made me wonder… What if there was actually a day — a full 24 hours — in which no women existed? If scientists could somehow get women to blink out of existence, only to return a day later. Only males and non-adult females would exist for 24 hours.

Some things likely wouldn’t be affected all that much. All-male crews on fishing boats out at sea wouldn’t even notice, perhaps. But almost everyone else would notice, from remote tribal villages to the International Space Station — where one of the six people currently in space is a woman (Peggy Whitson, the oldest woman to have ever been in space, at age 56).

I thought of my own life. If it was a day my wife normally works, then I wouldn’t notice her absence most of the day — she’s usually gone by the time I wake up, and I handle the children in the mornings and afternoons. By supper, I would notice my wife missing, but I’m perfectly capable of getting supper for the children, bathing them, and putting them to bed. We’d probably be okay. Unless we needed to leave the house for any reason.

In my city, about half the gas station clerks are women, as are at least 80% of supermarket cashiers and 90% of customer-facing restaurant staff. We might have a difficult time buying food or gas, if we needed any. I couldn’t take the children to the local libraries, because they’re entirely staffed by women (with one male exception that I know of). Other businesses and institutions would encounter similar problems — large percentages of the staff are women — with exceptions at hardware stores, auto-oriented businesses, and a few other typically “male” businesses. My bank would be empty; it’s entirely staffed by women. A good number of real estate agents in Killeen are women.

Local government offices would be in a similar boat. Every time I’ve been in the local DMV, staff is 100% female, and the same is nearly true at the county courthouse. The city’s water office — almost entirely staffed by women. Police Department? The interim chief is currently a woman, as are several officers and almost all the dispatchers and receptionists.

If it happened to be a school day, our city would simply be in chaos. Most of the teachers, especially at lower grade levels, are women. My daughter’s teacher is a woman, as have been all the substitutes she’s had so far. The principle and most of the office staff are women as well. Most of the crossing guards are women. Many of the bus drivers are women. Not only would many children not be able to get to school, the ones who showed up would have no one to teach them. But most children couldn’t stay home either, because — you guessed it — no women. Most stay-at-home parents are women (I’m a rare exception). Most daycare providers are women. An awful lot of men would have to stay home from their jobs to look after their children.

Nearby Fort Hood would have its own issues. Despite the Army still being predominately male, about one in seven active duty soldiers is now a woman. And quite a bit of the civilian support staff on post is comprised of women, including my wife’s office, where even the boss is a woman.

My doctor is a woman, as is the pediatrician my children have always seen. All the nurses, receptionists, and other staff there are women too. My dentist and all her assistants and support staff are women.

In other words, the entire economy of our county would come crashing to a halt.

I imagine that similar effects would be felt around the nation, even in businesses where women are underrepresented.

Thirty-seven percent of news bylines are by women. At tech companies like Google, Twitter, Yahoo, Facebook, and LinkedIn, women account for about half of the non-tech jobs, and about one-third of the total workforce. Though women are vastly underrepresented in the film industry, about one in six employees of big-budget films are women, as are one in four lead acting roles. One of every four STEM jobs is taken by a woman.

In the U.S. workforce overall, 49.9% of the employees are women.

More than half of college students are women, 41% of tenured university professors are female, as are 61% of “adjunct” professors, and a quarter of college presidents are women.

A quarter of U.S. children live in households with only a mother (no father). Imagine if those 10 million women disappeared for 24 hours too. Most of those mothers work. In two-parent households, most women work. The children, when not at school, are either supervised by unpaid family members or friends (almost exclusively women) or by paid daycare workers (almost exclusively women).

A world without women, even for a single day, would be survivable — unless you need a police dispatcher or emergency room nurse — but probably not pleasant.

I know a few regressives who sincerely believe that women shouldn’t work outside the home, but I think most of us recognize the reality of life — that most women do work, and that even “homemaker” is in reality an actual job, despite being “paid” in an unorthodox manner.

This mental exercise is just that; it doesn’t affect our lives much to think about it. But I lay it out here for those who laugh at the idea of the proposed “A Day Without A Woman” strike. Perhaps feminists wouldn’t need to suggest such a day if the rest of society would recognize that women should truly have the same rights and opportunities as men, including the right to not be pregnant against her will.

  1. Am I the only one who sees this as a no-win situation? Those businesses that believe in gender neutral practices will be hurt more by their employee’s absence than those that don’t. So those that don’t will see it as justification that their practices are better precisely because their businesses are less impacted. In those cases where the business is dominated by women, it will just demonstrate the need to hire men into those positions. Which will in turn displace even more women as those men will need to be paid more than their counterparts.
    I thought that if you wanted to make a statement, it should be equal parts carrot and stick. I don’t see giving preference to small, women-owned businesses as making up for the under-staffing that the rest of the work-world will experience.
    It just seems counterproductive to the intended result.

  2. Dana says:

    “But I lay it out here for those who laugh at the idea of the proposed “A Day Without A Woman” strike.”

    I’m a women, I’m a Democrat, I’m closer to the left than the center, and I’m a feminist and I laugh at this idea. Having a day without immigrants made sense – people don’t realize how much they contribute to the economy and society (although, not enough immigrants participated to make that meaningful). They’re an “invisible” class of people.

    Women may not be treated equally by all but we’re not an invisible class. Even people who disagree with women’s rights are aware of the the issue. A day without women is misguided and as you noted, won’t have much of an impact. This isn’t going to bring about change or the attention the underlying issues needs.

    I asked a couple of colleagues (we’re professionals who work for a very liberal organization) if they are going to participate. First, most of them hadn’t heard anything about it. Second, most people’s reaction was “does this mean I get a day off; sounds cool.” I rained on their parade, noting that they’d have to use a comp. or vacation day if they wanted the day off. Then it wasn’t so cool.

  3. Wil C. Fry says:

    Michael and Dana, both of you raise valid points.

    Michael: “Am I the only one who sees this as a no-win situation?”

    No, you’re not the only one. While the examples you provided were from a business owner’s perspective, I thought about it from the women’s perspective. The women most likely to be able to skip a day of work without serious ramifications are the women least likely to feel the need to do so — they’re already doing fine and being treated well (for example: my wife, or the women that Dana mentioned, who have available vacation days or comp time). The women more likely feel a *need* to participate are the ones more likely to be harmed by doing so: being fired, demoted, or at least reprimanded in some way.

    Dana: “Women may not be treated equally by all but we’re not an invisible class. Even people who disagree with women’s rights are aware of the the issue.”

    On the second sentence, I’m not sure if I agree — and this might be due to our respective “bubbles”. I have had regular dealings with people who aren’t aware of any “issues” relating to women’s rights, and many people (even a few women) who claim everything would be better if all women left the workplace permanently. Yes, they’re severely uninformed, but they exist, and they vote. (Unsurprisingly, there’s almost complete overlap between them and the people who think all “illegals” should be deported at the business end of a gun.)

    Hopefully, at least one of those people will come across this entry — a few of them still follow me on Facebook, where I linked to this — and perhaps some seed resembling the beginnings of reason will be implanted in the recesses of their brain(s), to someday grow into feminism.

    As for the idea of a strike itself, I agree with Michael that it’s a “no-win situation”. I wouldn’t encourage my wife to participate (actually she has that day off already, as part of her normal schedule). This is why I went the route of a hypothetical day in which all women were simply non-existent, in order to list several of the ways in which women daily are necessary to our society.

    Perhaps I could have phrased my last paragraph differently: “…those who laugh at the ideas behind the proposed “A Day Without A Woman” strike…” The idea of the strike itself, feel free to laugh at. What’s more important to me is the build-up of frustration behind it, and the seemingly unassailable wall of resistance from regressives in our society who cannot comprehend that women are just as human as men.

    • With all that in mind, doesn’t a “We got this” day make more sense? Women encouraging men on March 8th to take the day off. It would be equal parts empowerment and to demonstrate that women alone can run things.

      • Wil C. Fry says:

        Also an interesting idea, Michael. Certainly in some workplaces, no one would notice the difference. Again using the example of my child’s elementary school: they’d be missing a gym teacher and a couple of janitors — and maybe two classroom teachers. Other workplaces, of course, are heavily male-dominated.

        I wonder if I can make time for a pair of short stories, one in which the men disappear for 24 hours and the other in which the women disappear for 24 hours. Some kind of time loop thing, perhaps.

    • Dana says:

      “better if all women left the workplace permanently. Yes, they’re severely uninformed, but they exist, and they vote”

      The people who think that women should stay at home and raise children are aware that many woman work, both out of necessity and out of desire – they just don’t agree that women should work. They’re probably also aware that those women who choose to work aren’t treated equally; they may disagree whether a woman in the work place should be treated the same as a man, but they’re not unaware that it’s an issue.

      Taking women out the work force for a day doesn’t raise the awareness of women’s issues. People know that women are teachers, clerks, nurses, etc. It would be an inconvenience but not anything that would raise awareness of what inequalities women face in the workplace (and the world) every day.

      On the other hand, many Americans (particularly the xenophobic ones following Trump) have no idea that immigrants play an important and contributing role in our American society. They think an immigrant means an illegal alien who spends all day lurking in the shadows, drinking and doing drugs and committing crimes. They don’t realize that immigrants (both legal and illegal) hold legitimate jobs and contribute both to the economy and the exchange of ideas (innovation, technology, medicine, etc.) Having immigrants stay home for a day does bring attention to their plight.

      • Wil C. Fry says:

        I agree of course that the women thing is different from the immigrant thing. They are two separate issues with different problems — and certainly with different solutions. Perhaps the only thing in common is that both are based in bigotry.

        As for those regressives being aware that women aren’t treated equally, I wonder. I’ve heard some pretty stiff rebuttals that “there is no pay gap”, “women already have the same rights men do”, and so on. Most of their “arguments” are direct copy/paste from the likes of Brietbart and Rush Limbaugh, so I’m sure they haven’t done much individual reading on the issue. When any particular instance of anti-women bigotry is reported in the news, they see it as an “isolated incident”.

        I definitely think there is a need to raise awareness — because I’m convinced that many red-state-Trump-voters don’t actually think there are issues that need solving. A “general strike” will likely not convince them, of course. :-)

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