Thoughts on the International Women’s Strike and What It Meant

The International Women’s Strike in New York City. Photo: James Keivom/NY Daily News via Getty Images

On Wednesday, the staff of the Cut took part in the International Women’s Strike, a day where women were encouraged by grassroots organizers to withdraw from paid and unpaid labor, take to the streets, and stand together in solidarity with “feminism of the 99 percent.” Up until the day, we had numerous conversations about what the strike would mean, and if its critics were worth entertaining or not. While our site went “red” (the color of the strike) for the day, members of our staff participated in rallies in New York City. Here are some of our takeaways from and reflections on Wednesday’s strike.

Mothers helped other mothers.
“My son stayed home from day care and in the afternoon, my husband took off work to be with him so I could help with my friend’s 6-week-old baby. She took a shower, wrote an email; I cleaned the wheels of her stroller while she nursed. In an ideal world, men would have been doing all this for us while we held up signs among a crowd of other angry, tired women. In reality, it just felt important to help another mom take a break during the time I was lucky enough to take one.”
—Jen Gann, parenting editor

Women of color were at the fore.
“I went to the rally at 12 p.m., that was organized by the Women’s March organizers. If I had to guess, there were about 1,500 people there. Maybe more. It was really well-done, with great sound systems so everybody could hear. I was impressed with Linda Sarsour — right away she got up and laid into the criticism that the strike was only for privileged people. She invoked several American boycotts, protests, and strikes (Selma, Black Lives Matter, and others) and yelled, “Tell me, were those strikers privileged?” She went on to make the (very real) point that if striking were easy and activism was a fun walk in the park then “everybody in New York would be out on the street right now.” The messages from that stage were very much about putting women of color at the front of the fight against Trump, and to my surprise the audience was really diverse. The mood was more solemn than that of the Women’s March on January 21, but it felt appropriate. The setting, outside of the Plaza Hotel, felt disruptive to the daily commerce of the area — a nice touch.”
—Stella Bugbee, editorial director

It proved that women are a vital part of the workforce.
“I’ve learned so much more about what it means to be a woman in this country since I starting work at the Cut. I’ve had many more conversations about feminism and women’s rights that didn’t happen in other places I’ve worked, or even within friend groups. That being said, I had some mixed feelings about yesterday (what to do all day, what other women I saw outside during the day were doing, etc.), but I spent a majority of my day reading pieces by other women on news sites, and the biggest takeaway was that if striking called attention to how vital women are in the workforce, then I can put my guilt aside. (My dad responded to that by saying “there was never any reason for guilt to begin with.”) Protesting felt important because I think there is something rooted and energizing about bodies organizing together for the same cause, and it felt even better because I was with the women I work with, who were also striking — including our boss and her family.”
—Emily Sundberg, Instagram editor

Kate Bush is good.
“The best part of Wednesday was meeting up with the women I work with to attend the rally together. I felt proud to stand next to them wearing whatever red items we could scrounge up, and just be present and take up space in solidarity with women who could not strike. I enjoyed the nearby ‘Kate Bush Is Good’ sign, and dogs in red bandannas, too.”
—Marissa Cetin, social-media editor

International Women’s Day got its power back in America.
“In so many countries around the world, International Women’s Day is a day of political action and a celebration of women’s ingenuity and power. In America, in recent history, it’s become a day to forget to send your mom a card and post a hollow Facebook update about empowerment. This year’s strike felt like the chance for American women to reclaim our radical labor roots, demand (and not ask for) recognition of our contributions to society, and let our anger be known. At the rally in Washington Square, though it was a beautiful sunny day and a much smaller crowd than January’s Women’s Marches turned up, it felt like we had finally begun moving in the direction of concrete, radical action. Deciding to abstain from paid labor is a privilege for many, but forgetting (or not even knowing) that many more women have taken that risk without having a backup plan shows your privilege more. Labor movements have always had working women and immigrant women on their front lines, and Wednesday’s rallies were another powerful example of that fact.”
—Dayna Evans, senior writer

Feminism and labor have always been connected.
“The strike made me want to think more — and DO more — about the connection between feminism and labor. Given the individualist, consumerist bent of so much of what’s lately fallen under the banner of feminism, it feels like an important corrective.

Also, a thought from a friend of a friend at the Washington Square march: Part of what’s going on right now is that people are getting used to the idea that every protest or rally or march isn’t necessarily going to be the most empowering and inspiring and transformative experience of your life. But you show up anyway. That seems like something important to keep in mind over the next four years.”
—Molly Fischer, senior editor

The decision to strike isn’t an option for all women.
“Yesterday I found myself trying to read the minds of the women I came across in their places of work. Had they chosen not to strike, or had they not had the option, or did they even know about the strike, or care? I was actually off work sick yesterday. I went to the doctor, the drugstore, the deli, the post office, and the bank. Each woman I interacted with, I wondered if they had not had the option to take the day off, how many numerous other choices had they not had in their lives because of their gender. I might have asked them, except they were surrounded by male work colleagues and bosses. I thought a lot yesterday about the varying degrees of powerlessness for women. Not even women in other countries who can’t go to school or can’t even get a driver’s license, but women right next to me.”
—Miranda Dempster, art director for the Strategist

Showing up actually matters.
“Yes, the group that gathered at Washington Square Park on Wednesday afternoon was smaller than I’d hoped. No, it wasn’t as loud as the Women’s March. Still, showing up matters! A crowd is only as big as the bodies within it. And I was glad to be there. But I also looked around at all the women who had come together — as we stood and waited and wondered when we were going to start marching — and thought about what International Women’s Day might look like if we weren’t under such an immediate threat? How could we honor the day if a critical mass wasn’t so critical? What would that look like? As I looked around at women whose arms were tired from holding up signs or who started to shiver in the cold, I kept thinking about other ways we could harness the energy in that park to support each other if we had a whole day. Imagine that. An International Woman’s Day every year. What would you do? Volunteer at a shelter? Help kids with their homework at an after-school club? Cook a meal for a single mom? Spend a day writing letters to Congress? There’s not exactly a shortage of gaps to fill.”
—Ruth Spencer, senior editor

Work environments where women support women are essential.
“It didn’t matter if we wanted to march, but ultimately stood around for hours, or how many people showed up. The chance to take physical action and attend a rally on Women’s Day as a team was worth it if only because we bonded over our dedication to the cause, choosing to spend our day out of work, with colleagues. Hopefully our choice paves the way for the need to create — and stand up for — work environments that support women.”
—Leah Rodriguez, producer

Watch what the Women’s Strike looked like in New York City in the video below.

Women Weigh In on What the Strike Meant to Them