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A day without women

On March 8, the United States saw another women’s rights protest with A Day Without Women. Women all over the country refused to work, wore red and stopped spending money. The purpose was to show what a huge impact women have on the American society and economy.
At the same time, Clemson University welcomed the director of the Women and Politics Institute at American University, Jennifer Lawless. She gave a talk for International Women’s Day about research she has collected on why women do not run for political office. When asked about the contradiction of working on a day that women across the country chose not to work on in protest, Lawless explained her Catch-22.
“I was stuck in a dilemma. Do I work on this day or not?” Lawless said. “But I decided to speak because encouraging a group of young women to run for office is one of the few jobs that I think is acceptable.”
A Day Without Women met mixed reactions due to the turnout compared to the Women’s March on Washington in January. The previous protest brought millions from around the world onto the streets to protest both the rampant sexism in the United States’ presidential campaign season and the prevailing systemic forces that perpetuate inequality among men and women. In comparison, the protest on March 8th, while still impactful, seems to have drawn smaller crowds.
Director of the Program in Women’s Leadership at Clemson, Diane Perpich, explains how she thinks the protest will affect political action.
“I think it’s only one of many actions that women will undertake over the next several years to advance the goal of women’s equality,” Perpich explained. “No one day or one action will achieve the movement’s objectives.”
As Perpich illustrates, the women’s movement, and feminism as a whole is still gaining momentum. Holding the protest on International Women’s Day served to mark March 8 as a day of women’s solidarity and freedom.
Clemson Undergraduate Student Government (CUSG) Sen. Madison Gregoris explained in more depth the influence of A Day Without Women.
“Our society hinges on women in order to function,” Gregoris said. “Ideally, the day was to show both solidarity with women across the country and to prove a point that women are essential in all facets of life.”
However, if this is the case, then another argument seems inevitable: that society also hinges on men. Gregoris eloquently explained the difference: “We live in a society that caters to men. In this patriarchal society, it’s easier to be a man. That’s why the pay gap exists; that’s why sexism exists. And so, the purpose of a day without women emphasizes the value that society doesn’t place on us.”
As a part of CUSG, Gregoris, among many other young women, is situated in the perfect position to see first-hand how women experience the world differently than men. Gregoris gives one recent example that she witnessed during the student body presidential election.
“When guys would go to campaign tables, they would walk up to the male candidate, immediately assuming he was the presidential candidate and not the vice. I saw this happen both with Killian [McDonald] and with Jess [Schnorr].”
Lawless specializes in research about women in politics and agrees with Gregoris in some aspects.
“Not all discrimination in politics is in women’s heads,” Lawless explained. “They perceive widespread and rampant discrimination in the political sphere. So, they think they must be twice as qualified to run if they want to get half as far as a male.”
One of the most interesting findings in Lawless’ work concerns the chance women have of being elected if they run. She found that women and men have the same likelihood of obtaining office if they both run. However, Lawless explains that women just aren’t placing themselves on the ballot.
“There is a qualifications gap which shows that men and women who have the same educational and professional background are not equally likely to believe they are qualified to run for office,” Lawless said. “With qualified men, you see about sixty percent running for office; and with women, you see only about forty percent.”
So then, without victim blaming but also calling attention to an issue that persists in modern politics, Lawless and Perpich charge young women, especially college age, to get involved.
“Stay engaged,” Perpich says. “Don’t try to protest everything and anything. Decide which issues are central for you, educate yourself about them, and then find ways to make your words and actions count. Oh, and run for office!”
In agreement, Lawless says: “Attend protests. Fund male and female candidates who support feminist agendas. And consider running for office yourself because that’s the best way to ensure feminist voices will be heard.”
Gregoris agrees with both women that it is vital to get off the sidelines when it comes to women’s protests, but also that men and women must obtain a complete understanding of feminism and privilege.
“As feminists, we cannot shame women for not participating,” Gregoris said. “We must consistently support all women regardless of race, religion, and sexual or gender identity; because that is the root of it all and that is what the movement is truly about.”

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