Today is International Women’s Day. In the U.S. the holiday is being marked by “A Day Without Women,” an initiative launched by the organizers of the January 21 Women’s March. They’re encouraging women to refrain from paid work and unpaid labor “to highlight the economic power and significance that women have in the U.S. and global economies, while calling attention to the economic injustices women and gender nonconforming people continue to face.”
With the women’s strike, U.S. organizers are, in a sense, reclaiming International Women’s Day as their own. The holiday originated in America, but in recent years, other countries have observed it more widely. As Slate reports, “the first official National Woman’s Day was declared in 1909 by the Socialist Party of America, which held several large events on a single day in New York City.”
One difference between the 1909 event and today is that the first Woman’s Day took place on a Sunday to ensure that working women could participate. The fact that this year’s holiday and its Day Without Women strike occur on a workday has prompted some critics to deem the initiative a luxury reserved only for privileged women who can easily call in sick or take paid time off. “[F]or women in lower-wage positions with few or no protections, leaving for even a day might mean going without necessary wages, or incurring the wrath of an abusive boss, or even losing her job entirely,” according to Elle.
In an article in liberal Jacobin Magazine, labor historian Nelson Lichtenstein counters that view by arguing that today’s Day Without Women is “brilliant” because it “halts business as usual.” He notes that in the past, some of the most effective demonstrations—the 1963 March on Washington of “I Have a Dream” fame and the first “Day Without Immigrants” in 2006, for instance— took place on weekdays.
“While more people might be expected to show up on a Saturday, the potency of their protest is diluted by creating a divide between what people do in the arena of politics and how they conduct themselves in the world of work,” he writes.
Nonetheless, women who skip work today do invite risk. “Unless employees have union contracts or civil service protections, they can generally be terminated at the discretion of the employer,” Lowell Turner, a labor relations professor at Cornell, told me. But the more people strike, the harder it is for employers to retaliate. The whole point of this kind of movement “is to up the ante, take risks, demonstrate collective power,” he says. “The strongest statement comes when workers (in this case women) walk out in large numbers together.”
In the thick of it
Former U.K. MP Louise Mensch is at the center of President Donald Trump’s unfounded claim that the Obama administration wiretapped his offices during the election campaign. Mensch, now a journalist based in New York, wrote an article in November stating that the FBI was granted a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrant to investigate several Trump associates' ties to Russia. The White House recently cited the report to justify Trump's allegations. But Mensch’s story says nothing about wiretapping, and she emphasizes that her article does nothing to support the president’s claim.
Yves Saint Laurent has come under fire in France for its latest advertising campaign, which features thin, scantily clad models in overtly sexual poses. The brand has a long history of pushing the boundaries, but not quite in this sense. Critics of the new campaign see it as a marked regression from the days of YSL’s iconic “Le Smoking” three-piece suit, which made headlines for its feminist approach to fashion.
Egyptian-American journalist Mona Eltahawy is fed up with men couching criticism of her beliefs by addressing her with the phrase, "Dear sister," as in "Dear sister, I say these things with greatest certitude of your Islam..." Eltahawy started the hashtag #DearSister, writing, "Save your lectures, whether you're a total stranger or someone I know. 'Sister Mona' is not interested." #DearSister quickly went viral, with over 18,000 tweets sent largely from women sharing similar experiences. "I think what happened was other women looked and thought, it is not just me," Eltahawy said.
The election effect
Men became more aggressive in negotiations with female colleagues after the U.S. election, according to a new study. Prior to the election, men were “less likely to use such tough strategies against female than against male partners, displaying what could be classified as 'chivalry' toward female partners," Wharton researchers found. After the vote, they observed a “general increase in aggression, and decrease in effective coordination, coupled with the specific increase of aggression towards women.”
State Street Global Advisors, with roughly $2.5 trillion under management, has issued a strong statement in support of gender equality. It announced yesterday that it would pressure 3,500 companies worth $30 trillion in market cap to aim for gender parity on their boards. "[W]e are calling on companies to take concrete steps to increase gender diversity on their boards and have issued clear guidance to help them begin to take action," Ron O'Hanley, CEO of SSGA said.
Valerie Jarrett, former senior advisor to President Barack Obama, has reached across the aisle to team up with Mark Holden, general counsel of Koch Industries, for the sake of criminal justice reform. Drawing upon her experience working in the Obama White House, Jarrett underscored the value of working with one’s enemies in Washington. “Compromise and common ground shouldn’t be bad words, but often times, in this town, they are,” she says.
The past year has been a roller coaster ride for the women in charge of the Ivanka Trump lifestyle brand. While Ivanka Trump formally separated herself from her brand in January, handing over control of the company to chief brand officer Abigail Klem, Donald Trump's presidency continues to complicate matters. “It's unprecedented what this brand is dealing with,” Klem said in her first interview since taking the reins. And despite boycotts against the brand, Klem says business is booming.
Reading in retirement
In India's on-going effort to close the gender literacy gap, older women tend to get left behind. A small village in Maharashtra is looking to change that with the launch of the “Grandmother’s School,” supported by the Motiram Charitable Trust. “These women did not have the opportunity to study when they were young,” said school founder Yogendra Bangar. “It’s not as if they want to go to college or work in an office now. But they do want to be able to read and write, and sign their names, like everyone else in their families.”
Actresses Deepika Padukone and Priyanka Chopra are used to being confused for one another by the U.S. paparazzi. While the two women may have followed similar career paths from Bollywood to Hollywood, each is now a bona fide star in her own right, and the repeated misidentifications and comparisons, Padukone says, are "bizarre."
News summaries by Linda Kinstler @lindakinstler
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--Former UN Ambassador Samantha Power, on a petition before the British parliament that would prevent women from being forced to wear heels at work.