The upcoming "A Day Without a Woman" strike, which falls on March 8, International Women's Day, is a misguided protest against a straw man. No one (in the mainstream) discounts the contributions of women in the American society or economy, and the calls to action are unlikely to be successful.
Here's what they are encouraging strikers to do:
1. Women take the day off, from paid and unpaid labor.
2. Avoid shopping for one day (with exceptions for small, women- and minority-owned businesses).
3. Wear red in solidarity with A Day Without A Woman.
The first point is laughable. Many women can't take the day off to make a political statement. How would I explain to my 7-month-old daughter that I'm not going to change her diapers or make her bottles on March 8? She's a demanding customer, and the work I do for her is emblematic of the unpaid work that millions of women do every day as homemakers, mothers, and caregivers to their elderly relatives. It's not optional. And we don't do it entirely out of obligation: Our work is also our joy.
But I don't feel that I need to take a day off to demonstrate to my family or my community how important my work is. No one is arguing that women are not important to our society and our economy. No one would assert that if all women (or half of our population) stopped participating, the nation would just keep humming along. Imagine if all men went on strike: The result would be similarly devastating. Most of our nation's engineers, technicians, police officers, and military would go missing.
This protest follows a similar strike, "A Day without Immigrants." Regardless your perspective on the immigration debate, you have to admit this immigrant strike makes more sense. There are those who believe that, rather than contributing to our society and our economy, immigrants are posing threats to public safety or draining the American economy (or both). There are those who advocate for lower levels of immigration. This is not the case for women.
Of course, in contrast to my view, the organizers of the Women's March and others encouraging women to "strike" on March 8 would say that our society and our economy abuse and shortchange women. According to the Women's March Website, women are "receiving lower wages and experiencing greater inequities" than men.
It's true: women are receiving lower wages than men, but this does not mean women aren't getting equal pay for equal work. Women and men work in different professions, on different shifts, for different numbers of hours. In other words, according to a report for the Department of Labor, "The differences in raw wages may be almost entirely the result of the individual choices being made by both male and female workers."
That explanation will never be good enough for those who seek a perfectly equal distribution of resources between the two sexes. This fixation on perfect economic parity brings us to the second call to action for strikers: Stop shopping (for just one day! – as if this is difficult?) or shop at only those small businesses owned by women and minorities. While protesters focus myopically on how the resources in our economy are divided, they miss the more important point that a growing, free-market economy benefits all people of all races and genders.
In fact, free-market capitalism is one of the most equalizing forces in the world: If two parties see mutual benefit in a business transaction, it shouldn't matter to either party what the race, religion or background of the other party is. It usually doesn't.
This isn't a bad thing: There's an incentive for business owners, no matter their demographic characteristics, to seek to serve as many customers as possible. Businesses owned by men or white people aren't some evil to be avoided. To the contrary, they create valuable goods, services, and jobs that can benefit all people.
Of course, people are free to "vote with their dollars," as they do when they support (or boycott) companies with a high political profile (like Hobby Lobby or Chick-fil-A on the Right, or Starbucks and Nordstrom on the Left). But economic value usually supersedes politics when people are deciding where to shop.
If we want to take a day to appreciate how much we value women, that's fine. But we already have such celebrations: October is dedicated to Breast Cancer Awareness, a disease that primarily affects women. March is Women's History Month, and the second Sunday in May is set aside as Mother's Day, to acknowledge this role that many women play. Our society isn't one that dismisses women's contributions out of hand. Quite the opposite: in some ways, women have an honored place in American society, and that's a reason to celebrate, not strike.
Hadley Heath Manning (@HadleyHeath) is a contributor to the Washington Examiner's Beltway Confidential blog. She is a senior policy analyst and director of health policy at the Independent Women's Forum, and a Tony Blankley Fellow at the Steamboat Institute.