What a day on strike says about the women’s movement

Nation

JUDY WOODRUFF: At least 13 protesters were arrested in New York City today, as strikes and rallies unfolded across the globe in the name of women.

International Women's Day became A Day Without Women in some American cities. Thousands stayed away from work and took to the streets partly to demonstrate contributions that women make to the economy.

NELINI STAMP, Protester: There is a massive resistance movement that is growing. We are a part of it. But we need to put our bodies on our line.

JUDY WOODRUFF: In Washington, a march to the White House targeted a reinstatement of the so-called global gag rule. It denies foreign aid to groups that provide abortions or related services.

SERRA SIPPEL, President, CHANGE: This is about denying health providers from providing health care, just information about women's options and choices.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Overall, the marches were smaller than the one million or so who turned out after President Trump's inauguration, but leading women in Congress appeared outside the Capitol dressed in red, the color associated with the labor movement and today's strike.

California Democrat Barbara Lee pushed back against criticism that only privileged women could afford to stay home.

REP. BARBARA LEE, D-Calif.: We also recognize that there are millions of women are unable to walk out because they might get fired or cannot afford to lose their meager incomes. So, we walked out for them, too.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Teachers at the Washington rally said much the same, as the strike forced some school systems to close, leaving families to find last-minute child care.

KELLI WRIGHT, Teacher: There's power in numbers. And I happen to work for a school district that had to close because we all took leave. So, if we just keep fighting for stuff like this and we stand our ground, then change can come.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Later, another crowd rallied at the Department of Labor, calling for pay equity and other rights, at a time when American women earn 80 cents for every dollar a man makes.

President Trump tweeted a general statement of support this morning. "I have tremendous respect for women," he said, "and the many roles they serve that are vital to the fabric of our society and our economy."

And first lady Melania Trump and the president's daughter Ivanka hosted a small White House luncheon in honor of the day.

Meanwhile, protests played out internationally, from Mexico City, to Istanbul, Turkey.

For more on the women's movement and what today's events represent, we turn to Farida Jalalzai. She's author of the book "Shattered, Cracked and Firmly Intact: Women and the Executive Glass Ceiling Worldwide." She teaches political science at Oklahoma State University. And Rebecca Traister, writer-at-large for "New York" magazine and author of the book "All the Single ladies: Unmarried Women and the Rise of An Independent Nation."

And we welcome both of you to the program.

I'm going to start with you, Farida Jalalzai.

What do you think today's protests marches say about the state of the women's movement in this country right now?

FARIDA JALALZAI, Oklahoma State University: I think it states that it's essentially strong. It's burgeoning.

I think it's a moment that women have seized on to say, we're not going to just stop the post-inauguration activities. We're here. We're trying to build on momentum, and we're trying to bring to the floor lots of different issues that are about women's empowerment.

But, in many ways, it's larger than that. And so I'm very optimistic, from what I have actually seen as an academic, thinking that it could have just been a point that fizzled. And I'm seeing that there's this building of strength and just even conversations that we're having today that we wouldn't have had a year ago, actually. I'm very surprised, and pleasantly so.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Rebecca Traister, you're nodding your head. What is it about today? I mean, there were marches in some places, not everywhere. What did it say?

REBECCA TRAISTER, Author, "All The Single Ladies: Unmarried Women and the Rise of an Independent Nation": Well, I think — I think it says that the kind of mass reaction and mass resistance that we saw in such huge numbers in January is — it remains, that women are engaged politically, that they're interested in working together.

As Farida said, it's not — these are not issues we're seeing anymore in the way that we have historically, as compartmentalized, as just about reproductive rights. You had a reproductive rights demonstration. You had a wage demonstration.

This is in concert with women who have been striking around the world. There is an international — there is history of this strike and this movement around the world. This is the United States working in solidarity with women globally, which is new on this scale.

And I think what you're seeing is women in huge numbers participating in political resistance and raising their voices in ways that we have not seen in decades in this country. And it wasn't a one-off in January. You see another mass uprising today.

JUDY WOODRUFF: At the same time, Farida Jalalzai, what percentage of American women are represented by something like what happened today? We know not every woman's views are represented here.

FARIDA JALALZAI: Well, you're not going to represent everybody's views, but I don't think that the conversation has been limiting at all in terms of being more broad.

In fact, I think it's just been the opposite, where, when you look at the leadership, say, for example, of the women's march in D.C., this was led by and it spoke to lots of diverse women. And if we can't capture all women, you know, that's something that it can't be disappointing, because there's no way that we could capture every single heart and mind of every single woman, but that it's, I think, more broad than what we would maybe expect it to be, maybe limited to maybe white, privileged, upper-class women.

It's not. The discussion and I think the representation has actually been much broader. And, in many respects, it's because the demands have been there for it to be broad.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Rebecca Traister, how much room is there in the women's movement for debate and discussion around questions like pay equity, equal rights for women, and all of its interpretations?

REBECCA TRAISTER: Well, the women's movement itself has always been, by definition, cacophonous, full of dissent. It's been motivated by dissent.

In part, that's because it's a majority movement. When you talk about women's liberation or women's equality, you're talking about the liberation and equality of more than half of our population. And when you try to organize around a majority, what you get is an enormous array of perspectives, experiences, races, classes, economic positions.

And, of course, if you're going to try to work on a movement that extends to represent all those different positions and perspectives, it's going to be full of dissent, and differ people thinking that we should operate in different ways. That's a sign that the movement is healthy.

And I think it is — the fact that there is dissent within those — amongst the people who are participating is a sign that people are engaged and feel passionate about taking a hand in what direction we're going to go.

The fact that women oppose it as well, you know, that there are conservative women, we wouldn't have had patriarchal power structures if there weren't women there to support it. That's nothing new. There are always going to be women who in some way disagree about the direction that women's rights should go.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Farida Jalalzai, both of you are suggesting the women's movement of today is a movement that has evolved since the '60s and the — 1960s and 1970s.

How do you measure success for the kinds of statements these women today are making?

FARIDA JALALZAI: That's a really difficult question to answer, but I will give it my best shot.

Measuring success, sustained activity, asking, claiming different aspects of representation be represented fully. I think a lot of it is raising a lot of these policy areas and being broad, and not just focusing on even women's empowerment, but how do you empower marginalized groups?

And part of it does have to, I think, in some ways, be linked to the political elites. You know, there's a lot to be gained from mass movements. And I would like that to also be in accordance with more women actually running and attempting to be the lawmakers.

And I have this belief that, when you have women towards maybe the bottom end as citizens who are articulating demands, that I also want to see greater representation of women within political — the political realm as policy-makers.

And, to me, that's the success, the sustained conversation, the policies that are ultimately proposed and hopefully passed, and also the ways that we can say the diversity amongst public officials has broadened, to include people of different genders and races.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Right.

Rebecca Traister, what about that? How do you measure — clearly, part of this is getting more women elected with these views, but what more?

REBECCA TRAISTER: More women elected, more women running, even if they don't — more women participating in the process.

And the other half of that, which we have seen in an unprecedented way — not in my memory have I ever seen so many people participating in the act of political resistance, not just the demonstrations, but the calling and writing their representatives, finding out about policy and legislation.

I have never seen so many people, women and men, as politically engaged as they have been. And we can see some of the fruits of that being brought to bear. We see public officials being hesitant on health care reform, you know, on repealing Obamacare.

A month ago, I would have sat here and told you that's going to be the first — they have been promising they're going to repeal it. It's a bad idea.

The numbers of people who are calling their representatives and saying, don't do this, who are holding town halls, and that is being enabled by the mass women's movement, because the success of the marches and protests like this are making people feel like, wait, I want to be a part of this movement that resists this power structure.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, we see a lot of energy around what's going on today.

REBECCA TRAISTER: That's the crucial thing.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And today is just a snapshot. It's something we're going to continue to watch.

Rebecca Traister, Farida Jalalzai, thank you both.

FARIDA JALALZAI: Thank you.

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