A call for a general strike by women — and a mixed response

Hundreds of thousands of people from across the nation filled the National Mall in January for the Women's March. Organizers are now calling for a general strike by women on March 8, with mixed results.

The leaders of last month’s giant Women’s March on Washington have called for a women’s general strike on March 8, but already there are questions about how many will take part.

Organizers released few details about the planned midweek strike — called “A Day Without a Woman” — but said more information will be forthcoming.

“In the spirit of women and their allies coming together for love and liberation, we offer 'A Day Without a Woman,'” the organizers said in a statement. “We ask: Do businesses support our communities, or do they drain our communities? Do they strive for gender equity, or do they support the policies and leaders that perpetuate oppression?”

Spokespeople for the march and strike did not respond to requests for comment and information.

Having women withdraw from the labor force, and from dozens of unpaid but crucial activities, such as caring for ill or elderly family members, could offer a dramatic affirmation of their importance in society. Yet those very roles may limit the ability of many to join the strike, and some have decided not to take part.

“Our organization does not have plans to participate in, or organize anything related to, the general strike,” said Allie Artur, spokeswoman for Philly Women Rally, the nonprofit behind the Women’s March on Philadelphia. “So, any Philadelphians participating would be doing so independently, or through an affiliation with another local group.”

About 50,000 people — women and men — jammed the Benjamin Franklin Parkway on Jan. 21 for the Philadelphia protest, which coincided with dozens of marches nationwide and the main Washington demonstration that drew at least 500,000.

Philly Women Rally, which is independent from the national organization, is focusing on local organizing, Artur said.

“We hope that ‘A Day Without A Woman’ sends a message to Pennsylvania on many levels,” said Alexandra Hackett Ferber, a co-organizer of the Pennsylvania delegation to the Women’s March on Washington.

At the same time, she said, it is understood that asking women or men to miss a day of work can create a hardship.

“We will be promoting the strike via social media, encouraging people to participate in the capacity that they are able,” she said. “This may be missing a day of work, boycotting big-box stores, posting their thoughts and feelings to social media, or organizing an actual protest on the street.”

In the United States, 74 million women work outside the home — roughly six of every 10, according to the World Economic Forum and Washington Center for Equitable Growth. Two of every three mothers are their family’s primary breadwinner or co-breadwinner, though women earn on average only 79 cents for every dollar earned by men.

“Sorry I can’t get behind this sort of protest,” Tiffany Walker of Enola, Pa., wrote on Facebook. “As a nurse, I cannot abandon my patients.”

Susan Panganiban O’Malley wrote that a women’s strike targets men as an enemy.

“The companies and men and women who do not value women will just see this as a temper tantrum,” she wrote.

Others said it was crucial that women try to take part, that disruption was necessary to show the value of women. Some suggested that there were many ways women could support the strike.

“Go to work, do your job, take care of your family,” wrote Ellie Suhl. “Don’t spend money. Don’t go to the grocery store. Skip the mall. … Make women invisible financially for a day or for several days. If we all do it, it will speak volumes.”