Lafayette Women Opt Out Of 'Visible And Invisible' Work During Women's Strike

Mar 9, 2017

Credit Sarah Fentem / WBAA

On Wednesday, Melissa Gruver’s roommates found a letter informing them she was going on strike for the day—not only from work—but from responsibilities at home, too.

“We strike because we recognize none of the civil liberties we enjoy today would have been possible without immeasurable hours women have spent on streets, in kitchens and factories—in the past fighting for our rights,” the letter read.

Gruver was one of the organizers of Wednesday’s Greater Lafayette’s Women’s Strike, organized to coincide with International Women's Day. People around the world participated in the national general strike, an event focused on drawing attention to feminist causes.

The local strike was organized by the Younger Women’s Task Force and the group Showing Up For Racial Justice, which called for women to refrain from working from both professional and domestic labor.

Gruver says she wants more value placed on women’s productivity in both the workplace and at home.

“What we’re trying to do both by striking from paid and unpaid labor is make visible the invisible,” she says. “I live with two men, my roommates are men, and today they might notice I’m not doing some of the things I do around the house.”

Vanessa Pacheco, another strike organizer, said women often participate in emotional labor, too, such as when she coaches men in her life how to communicate effectively or when she’s polite to people who touch her long, curly hair without asking.

“Women’s labor in all forms is frequently undervalued,” she says. “We need to believe women receive equal pay for equal work, when are women actually laboring and we don’t acknowledge it?”

Walkouts were scheduled for women who couldn’t go on strike all day long. Late in the morning, women and allies gathered in three locations to celebrate and rally for feminist causes.

The optics of a strike—a traditionally working-class endeavor—were important for the event, organizers say. The modern feminist movement has sometimes been criticized for shutting out poorer women and women of color, and the organizers of the Lafayette event made sure to show they were “striking for the 99 percent.”

In Lafayette’s Riehle Plaza—one of the walkout locations— a megaphone was passed through a group of about 40 women—each giving their own statement that was met with a cheer from the crowd:

“My name is Katie Powell and I’m striking for a more robust welfare system!”

“I’m Susan Curtis and I’m striking against wealth inequality!”

“My name’s Megan Dillon and I’m striking because I’m sick of being called ‘a girl’ at work!”

When questioned if the event largely benefited privileged women—those who could afford to skip out on work—only, Pacheco says the point of the movement is using multiple tools to convey a point—and a strike is one of visible symbols available.

“Sometimes a strike is really a moment to really articulate what they’re willing to really give up,” she says. “As a person with privilege myself, I think I’m willing to ask myself: ‘Am I willing to put my job on the line?’ I had to ask myself that question and the answer was yes.”

Participants in the women's strike also wore red and refrained from buying things to demonstrate their financial power.

“Do what you can when you can,” Gruver says. “Folks can wear red, they can strike from gender roles for the day—choose not to wear makeup if they usually do. They can strike from dieting right? And maybe the rest of their lives strike from dieting.”

“We’re not participating in buying things or going to restaurants,” says Michelle Miller, who, along with her friend Kathy Mayer, brought a sack lunch to share. “If we do feel the need to do those things, we’re going to focus on women-owned businesses.”

“To me, it’s a huge transgression that 30 years after I first struck and participated in marches for women, we have to do it again,” saysMayer, a woman in her 60s. “But I’m doing it again.”

The strike also received support from local unions: The United Automobile Workers Local 2317, the United Association, Sheet Metal Workers and the American Postal Workers Union.

Throughout the day, events such as workshops on intersections feminism, yoga and film screenings were scheduled at the Hanna Community Center.