Those taking part are encouraged to take the day off from paid or unpaid labor, avoid shopping for one day (though they may make an exception for small, women or minority-owned businesses), and wear red—which, according to Tamika Mallory, a co-chair of the Women’s March on Washington, was chosen because ‘it signifies love and sacrifice, and is the color of energy and action.’
Despite the tremendous amount of free marketing for the day provided by media outlets, and the major funds devoted to the effort, the day was a bit of a bust. A “day without women” turned out to mostly be like every other day, with a few notable exceptions.
Let’s look at a few of the mis-steps organizers and other activists took.
Striking from Smiling
The Washington Post reported:
While not every one plans to skip work, many who want to show solidarity with the growing feminist movement said they plan to strike from unpaid work that women disproportionately do, including cooking, cleaning and, some said, smiling.
Apart from the misguidedness of trying to fight the wisdom of specialism and division of labor — a tool for increased satisfaction and economic gain — the fight against female smiling is just, well, sad. Some of the women mentioned in the piece said they were specifically going to avoid “fake smiling” but the fact is that the world doesn’t have too much smiling, but too little.
Feminism seems too often to take female traits that separate us from men and make us feel bad for them. Yes, women tend to be better at nurturing the ties that bind and focusing on relationship health. This is not something to be ashamed of, but something to cherish and celebrate.
Turning off smiles for a day also reinforces the stereotype that feminists are humorless scolds.
Math Is Hard
Speaking of stereotypes, check out how the official Women’s March account tweeted about the day:
I have so many questions. Mostly I wonder who is birthing the other half of the population. Also, a stated goal of yesterday’s activism was to highlight the sexism of the pay gap. This is about how women are paid less than men.
Of course, nearly all of this gap is explained by the choices women and men make, not just in terms of what general careers they choose, but about how much risk they’re willing to accept, how much time they spend in their jobs, time they take off, and other factors. When it comes to career choices, one way to close the gap is to pick STEM careers — science, technology, engineering, and math. Not knowing how babies are birthed or how percentages work is not a great sign that the gap will be closed any time soon.
Hurting the Poor
While very few women skipped out of work yesterday, among those who did were unionized teachers. My local school district shuttered for the day after deciding to grant everyone who requested the day off the day off. This was great for the teachers who wanted a no-risk, no-cost way to demonstrate their political feelings or go to the beach.
It was not such a great moment for single working mothers of young children, who scrambled on local email lists for childcare options or had to lose out on a day’s wages so wealthier women could protest for something or the other — it was never made quite clear what the goals of the protest action were.
Yesterday, National Review‘s Jim Geraghty wrote, “Protests that block traffic on the morning commute don’t win over those being inconvenienced, either.” This angered the Washington Post‘s Wesley Lowery, who said, “For the millionth time, protests aren’t about winning you over.” Well, at least that explains the failures of the modern protest movement, which seems to think very little about achieving goals as opposed to signaling feelings about things.
But even taking Lowery’s critique of the notion that effective protest movements seek to persuade those who encounter them, traffic blockades and other aggressive actions that limit movement disproportionately affect poor people. A CEO who has to conduct business in his car while he waits for the road to be cleared is going to be fine. The waitress who is going to be fired if she’s late to work again is not. Perhaps all this can be justified as necessary for the cause, but at the very least it should be for a cause that people understand. Few understood the specific goals or complaints of the protesters yesterday, apart from skipping out of work.
Jillian Melchior wrote at Heat Street about an Ohio bookstore’s approach to Women’s History Month:
The feminist bookstore put up a sign explaining, “Illustrating the fiction gender gap on view through 3/14. We’ve silenced male authors, leaving works of women in view.”
On the bright side, they didn’t burn the books authored by men. But why are they selling them at all, if it’s such a problem?
Wearing a Common Color
In the announcement above, women were told to wear red because “it signifies love and sacrifice, and is the color of energy and action.” Now, the holiday is socialist. In fact, as Joe Carter wrote, a celebration of the day in Russia in 1917 started the Russian revolution. That’s why the day was celebrated primarily in socialist and communist countries for most of its history. So we can go ahead and admit that’s why the color red was chosen.
But the whole action reminded me of something my husband told me about protest days at the University of Oregon. Some leftist group organized a day where to show solidarity, you wore jeans. Crafty, eh? Everyone showed solidarity! That’s what the “wear red” action reminded me of. Red is such a common clothing color that I was surprised not to see more of it in Washington DC today.
Both Shopping and Not Shopping
Organizers suggested that activists avoid shopping yesterday. But then they said they could go shopping, so long as they shopped at stores owned by women and minorities. In my liberal neighborhood, women passed around lists of stores owned by women and discussed shopping parties.
You can’t make both shopping and not shopping be goals for people and expect a coherent message to come through.
Sexes of the World, Unite!
Nearly everyone tells pollsters they believe in the equality of the sexes, while small minorities — 18 percent last year — say they’re feminist. In most media outlets, that percentage seemingly skyrockets.
Despite the heavy amount of coverage feminist activism receives, it remains a fringe factor in much of society.
Still, women and men should remember that women who are angry or otherwise moved to political action frequently have had negative experiences with men. In the same way, some men who are angry about the relationship between the sexes have had negative experiences with women. The best antidote to grievance marches is for men and women to treat each other well.
Now, even if you haven’t been treated well by the opposite sex, you should not lose hope. But women who have been treated well by men don’t tend to riot over the treatment of women. Men who have been treated well by women tend not to wreak havoc in others’ lives.
Now get out there and treat your fellow man and fellow woman well, learning the joys that come from cooperation rather than competition between the sexes.