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March 8 is International Women’s Day. Women in the U.S. and around the world are honoring the historically political nature of the holiday with a women’s strike. In the ongoing fight for feminism that benefits the 99 percent, on this official “Day Without a Woman,” the organizers have made a call in the The Guardian “to mobilize women, including trans women, and all who support them in an international day of struggle—a day of striking, marching, blocking roads, bridges, and squares, abstaining from domestic, care and sex work, boycotting, calling out misogynistic politicians and companies, striking in educational institutions.”
Last week, when I sat down to write this column, the only thing I had on my calendar for March 8 was happy hour margaritas. I’m sure it’s possible to write a think piece about how drinking margaritas is a feminist act, but I didn’t want to be that woman, so I immediately got to Googling events I could participate in. As a full-time freelance writer, I don’t have to put my job on the line in order to stand in solidarity with other women. I have endless amounts of respect for the women who are risking financial instability to make a difference.
However, I do want to take a moment to think about the women who want to strike, but can’t. Whether it’s because they got mouths to feed, lives to save, their health won’t allow it, or a reason all their own. Because while those women might not be at an International Women’s Day event, they show up in other ways on regular-ass Wednesdays, not to mention every other day of the week. They show up when the system doesn’t, when families don’t and when friends turn their backs. They are there.
I’m talking about my friend who reached out to other friends about a co-worker in need. The co-worker just had a baby and learned she wasn’t going to be able to breastfeed. She was on unpaid maternity leave and didn’t qualify for government assistance—how was she going to afford formula to feed her newborn? A new mother should never be faced with that question. A new mother should never leave a government assistance office in tears. A new mother should never have to plead with her doctor for formula samples. She, like all new mothers, should be able to spend time at home bonding with her baby.
One Facebook status later, my friends had gathered enough formula, diapers and cash to take care of a stranger’s baby for months. I heard the woman said she knew God would come through and one of my friends joked, “Jesus taking credit for Black women’s work.” There won’t be a news story about their heroics, but because of them, a mother and child are healthy and happy.
I’m talking about my baby sister who has dedicated the last several years of her life to nonprofit work and community organizing in cities such as Louisville, Chicago, Detroit and Youngstown, Ohio. She did this work even when it meant dealing with daily micro-aggressions and full-on aggression. When it meant being down to her last dollar and a cup of Ramen felt like an extravagant luxury. When it meant sleeping in tents and then getting up the next day to do backbreaking labor like hacking trails through woods and boarding up abandoned homes. Who doesn’t mince words, even when she’s calling out the chief of police. There won’t be supporters gathered around her waving signs with witty sayings about how woke they are, but because of her, many communities are stronger.
I’m talking about the friends who won’t be there because they’re going through it right now, but who have always been there for us in the past. Who’ve stood up in front of state and city officials and told the tough stories about why women’s reproductive justice matters, why it’s mattered to them in the past, and why it will matter to another woman in the future. Who’ve pushed us as a community to seek out mental healthcare and who’ve made space for Black mental health and helped others find resources. Who’ve smiled and held us even when they were hurting and asked, “But how are you?” And who, when they feel strong again, will get right back to it. On March 8, there won’t be photos of these friends in our Instagram feeds, their strength on display for us to like and repost to all of our followers. Still, because of them many of us have often found the help we needed.
These women and so many more show up every single day. That’s just what women do. We show up for others. And on March 8, we’re showing up for ourselves en masse and the optics will be so powerful. But I want to honor the women who show up even when the world isn’t watching. I don’t know where I’ll be on International Women’s Day, but whether I find myself in a crowd of protestors or raising up my happy hour margarita in celebration, I’m going to say the names of these women. I won’t say their names in the somber tones we use for those we lost. Nah. I’m saying their names like a powerful incantation: Nubia. Ashley. Ryeshia. Pam.
Women like these might not be present today, but we will all be drawing on their strength to get us through—just like we always do.