Organizers caution that you should not take the name “A Day Without a Woman” literally. In fact, during a weekend brainstorm in January, what leaders behind the Women’s March first envisioned was quite the opposite: downtown streets from Portland to Phoenix flooded with red t-shirt clad women and their allies.
“There is going to be a sea of red, all over the country and all over the world,” says Tabitha St. Bernard, an organizer behind the strike, who reports 50 states and 40 countries will participate in Wednesday’s boycott of work and shopping, with exceptions made for emergency workers and female-owned small businesses.
St. Bernard credits the visual impact of thousands of pink woolen caps for amplifying the cause in marches following the inauguration of President Donald Trump. “Women were really able to see each other,” the self-described “fashion activist” emphasizes. Now they want women wearing red on Wednesday, a color reminiscent of the labor movement.
“It is a sign of revolutionary love,” says co-Founder and Global Coordinator of the Women’s March, Breanne Butler.
“Red, red, red,” says Nell Walton, the Women’s March organizer from Knoxville, Tennessee. “This is about as red as you can get.”
The color of love took on a different hue last November, when Walton witnessed 92 of her town’s 95 voting districts go red for Trump. “When you’re in a red, red state like this you have to be careful about bold statements. You really, really do.”
“We have seriously been called extremist kooks and radicals,” Walton stresses, referencing a letter signed last month by neighboring second district’s Representative John Duncan.
Wednesday will see a “low-key” women’s strike for downtown Knoxville, Walton reports, commemorated with music and poetry readings. A local falafel house will raise funds for refugee families. In addition to donning revolutionary red, inclined women may follow national guidelines: take off “from paid and unpaid labor” and “avoid shopping for one day” to demonstrate visible economic impact.
Marchers in New York plan to saturate the streets, gathering on 5th Ave & 59th St., just two blocks north of Trump Tower. In Spartanburg, South Carolina, a local progressive group will partner with a homeless project to collect tampons and feminine pads for women lacking access to menstrual hygiene care. Meanwhile, women in West Palm Beach, Florida plan a litter clean-up just ten miles south of President Trump’s “Winter White House” in Mar-A-Lago.
“Even on a day without women,” Emma Collum says, “Women can’t help but give back to the community.” Collum, who also serves as Florida State Director for the Women’s March, commends city-supported business shutdowns in places like St. Petersburg. “The whole town is taking the day off,” she says, outlining a full itinerary of events that culminates in a joint candlelight vigil and tree planting with farm workers.
Citing security and not politics, schools have given students a day off in Chapel Hill, North Carolina and Alexandria, Virginia. The director of communications for Alexandria schools, Helen Lloyd, likens the inconvenience to that of a snow day, but notes, “We’ve never had a request that 300 take staff leave at the same time.” In an effort to avoid rounding up 15,200 students in 16 schools gyms all day, the superintendent decided Monday to shut down Wednesday.
Overseas participants from Buenos Aires to Berlin will join in the strike, which also falls on International Women’s Day. In London, organizers say January’s March on London is “inspired a new wave of activism in the U.K.” with scores of people writing to parliament to lobby on behalf of refugees and migrants.
Though the Women’s March makes no official estimate on numbers, a national spokesperson reports over 20,000 have signed up to participate online with 6,000 downloading the “employer letter”, a template informing supervisors of their planned strike.
Critics of “A Day Without Women” have labeled the “sanctioned skip-day” a “privileged strike.” But organizer Tabitha St. Bernard insists such critiques run counter to the history of labor movements. Breanne Butler, the co-founder of the Women’s March, adds that protesters can choose to wear read in solidarity or participate in the #GrabYourWallet campaign if opting out of work is simply not an option.
“There is nothing privileged about a strike,” Butler says.
Texas Steering Committee Chair Melissa Fiero says her state has made a “conscious decision to take another approach.” The leader of “March On! Texas,” a statewide movement grown out of the Women’s March On Austin, instead calls for a “Day WITH Women.”
“To ask those who are the most impacted by a day with lost wages—or worse lost employment—to strike we feel is counter to that mission,” Fiero explains. Her team says they have created an interactive online database mapping women-owned businesses across the state and plans to host a women-run marketplace in downtown Austin.
Despite the mixed methods, the Women’s March provides a clear message: “Act Now.”
“Our reproductive rights are in jeopardy,” Butler pleads. “So many women rely on Planned Parenthood.” The women’s health organization is not eligible for Medicaid reimbursements or federal family planning grants under the GOP’s newly proposed alternative to the Affordable Care Act.
Emma Collum, the Women’s March Florida director, says she recalls her post-election fear vividly, but credits November 8 with “the awakening of collective sisterhood.”
“This International Women’s Day is a coming out party,” she declares. “This is our first birthday. This is ‘hello, womanhood!’”