I found out about the general strike yesterday evening. (I don’t often read the news, but I do scan the headlines when I can stand it to make sure I’ve got the major stuff on my radar.) When I realized the strike was set for today, I was tempted to just ignore it. Last minute things are hard for me. Then I considered calling in sick. Participation without explanation. But the more I thought about it, the more I felt I had to commit to the spirit of the strike. I had to support the message that there is something wrong with the way millions of women are treated by our cultures, our institutions, and our industries.
I am one of the lucky ones. I have the support network necessary to take a day off from work without giving up meals or other essentials. I have the time and emotional room to think about the dilemmas faced by other women. I understand that when you’re struggling, really struggling, to feed and clothe your family, you don’t have extra energy or resources to spend. Every day is hand to mouth both physically and spiritually. So I want to say here that I am in awe of those women who have added this day to their responsibilities despite the extra burden it poses. Unlike me, some of them are going to go hungry in order to say what needs to be said.
There are those who have difficulty accepting that any inequity exists when it comes to the issues faced by men and women. I suspect these are the same people who can’t accept that minorities are treated unfairly or that the poor are poor for any reason other than laziness. I am not participating in this strike because I think these “unbelievers” will suddenly have an “aha” moment, throw off the shackles of their indifference, and dance my hippie dance of love.
I am participating in this strike because I need to remind myself that my fortunate circumstances are a rarity. There is a lot of talk about “impact” in the internet comments addressing this event. I hope that the various shows of solidarity related to Day Without A Woman have an impact on the unbelievers mentioned above, but I can only speak to the impact they are having on me. I stayed home today to spend time thinking about what my life might have been if I hadn’t been so fortunate.
I stayed home today to teach myself.
There are those who have difficulty accepting the words of someone as relatively privileged as I. They think I am ungrateful or that I am unqualified to speak about problems I, for the most part, do not have. On the contrary, it is specifically because I am grateful that I have chosen to speak out. It is specifically because I am privileged that I can speak out at all.
There may even be women who exist in the circumstances I wish to change who think I am presumptuous for trying to speak for them. They say I can’t possibly understand how things are for them because my life is different. I have long had an answer to this charge, inspired originally by my desire to relate to the problems faced by black people in the US. Just because I can’t understand your experience doesn’t mean I don’t believe you.
Women in the US and around the world who are fighting private battles against poverty, inaccessible medical care, physical abuse, humiliation, and plain old lack of self-respect … I believe you.
I believe you.