What Is A General Strike? "A Day Without A Woman" Will Send An Important Message
Ever since the Women's March mobilized millions of people to protest against Donald Trump's presidency in January, it's acted as a springboard for advancing the movement. Now, a general strike has been launched called "A Day Without A Woman." But what is a general strike, and how is it different from other kinds of strikes or protests? On March 8, which is also International Women's Day, thousands of women are planning to skip work and use that time to politically engage in their respective communities instead.
If we're talking about numbers and scope, then the Women's March on Jan. 21 was one of the most successful protests not just in American history, but around the globe. Consider this: Women's Marches launched on all seven continents that weekend. Around 3.3 million people are estimated to have peacefully protested in the Women's March in the United States, and nearly a third of those marchers were in Washington, D.C. alone. More than 500 sister marches took place across the United States to support the main march. That means one out of every 100 Americans were marching that Saturday. You don't have to be a math whiz to know that that's yuge.
A general strike makes for a powerful next step in the resistance against President Donald Trump, and has proven to be an effective strategy in the past. The point of a general strike is essentially to press the pause button on the economy (including any institution that's important for a community to function) as a harsh reminder to the government that it works for the people, not the other way around. Theoretically, that means participating shops, schools, and businesses shut down for the entire duration of the strike.
On A Day Without A Woman, women and allies of intersectional equality are encouraged to play hooky from work and school, and to refrain from making any purchases throughout the day. It's a powerful strategy for standing up against Trump, especially since "boosting the economy" and "bringing back jobs" have been major themes on his agenda while many of his policies directly target women.
For instance, the Global Gag Rule that was recently reinstated by Trump prohibits foreign organizations from receiving U.S. funding if they provide or have anything to do with abortion services — even just sharing information and education about them. Many of those appointed to his administration have promised to defund Planned Parenthood, which would rob millions of people of necessary health care services; additionally, the ongoing efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act would severely impact the affordability of reproductive health care services.
General strikes aren't uncommon, and if they're successful and if enough people participate, they can even help to shape policies. Back in 1975, for example, 90 percent of women in Iceland participated in a general strike to protest gender inequality; a year later, the Parliament made equal pay the law of the land, while in 1980, Vigdís Finnbogadóttir was elected as the country's first female president. More recently, millions of workers in India advocated for better wages; as a result, the minimum wage increased. Last fall, in Poland, thousands of women hosted "Black Monday" in order to protest abortion bans.
Unlike other types of protests, a general strike is a specific type of protest that involves boycotting work and actively participating in demonstrations to highlight the struggles of communities put at a disadvantage thanks to structural issues in society. Ultimately, A Day Without A Woman will send out a message that the world needs women — so the government had better pay attention and listen to us. It's time to shut. It. Down.