I’m one of those people who likes to read a book before seeing the movie based on the book, so over the past few weeks, I read Hidden Figures, by Margot Lee Shatterly, an inspiring account of the black women mathematicians who had key roles at NASA during the Space Race. I capped my reading by seeing the movie, currently in theaters, just two nights ago.
The contrast between the trailblazing women mathematicians chronicled in Hidden Figures and the women leading today’s protest, A Day Without Women, leaves me stunned. For generations, even centuries, women have sought equality in all aspects of life. Women in the U.S., where the present protest originates, enjoy rights and opportunities of which women in many parts of the world can scarcely dream.
It seems paradoxical, not to mention confusing, that women would absent themselves from paid work when it’s only recently in human history that so many of us can enjoy these opportunities.
In reality, many women, even in our developed countries, work because they have to, not because they want to. They won’t be among the elites who can afford to demonstrate in this way.
And then there are the women who are primary caregivers. They too are encouraged to join in the protest as “unpaid workers.” Really? They’d better hope that the women (and men) at Child Protective Services don’t go to work either since they could be charged with serious neglect for abandoning their responsibilities as a primary caregiver.
Further, to suggest that these women “not show up” for their work underscores just how poorly the modern feminist movement regards the work that they do in their families.
As women, we have specific responsibilities whatever our states in life. Now we’re being asked to cast them aside, no matter how hard we’ve fought for them.
This sends a conflicting message. The organizers of this protest are saying to the world that women can’t be counted upon. They’re telling our male colleagues (paid and unpaid) that women won’t have their backs on this one day. In many ways, they’re reinforcing what I had hoped were unfair stereotypes.
I can’t even begin to imagine the women mathematicians from Hidden Figures deciding to stay home. They worked hard and made many sacrifices. In fact, they saw themselves advancing the cause of black Americans by showing up and doing work that most Americans, regardless of skin color or sex, couldn’t do. Not showing up for the job wasn’t part of the equation.
There’s more to this protest. For some, it’s a way to signal grievances against the current U.S. President, even though women voted for him. For others, it’s a slightly veiled demonstration to support abortion. All of these women have the right to express themselves and to protest.
But they don’t represent all women, and that’s the challenge for any women’s movement. It has to be diverse enough to include most women. That’s where this protest fails miserably.
One of only two premier supporters of the Women’s March entity which organized today’s protest is Planned Parenthood, the largest single abortion provider in the U.S. Other partners include EMILY’s List and NARAL Pro-Choice America Foundation. Not one pro-life group is included. And the March for Women clearly demonstrated that women were not welcome if they did not bow, or at least nod, to the god of abortion.
Women like myself who see abortion as a moral, not a legal, issue, won’t be represented. In fact, a recent poll found that 77 percent of all U.S. women think that there should be some restrictions on abortion and 59 percent think that abortion is morally wrong.
On this key issue alone, the numbers indicate that there’s no way that this so-called women’s movement is representative of even a slight majority of women.
But let’s move on to all the other women who won’t be there. There are the obvious millions of women who have been aborted. Look to China and India where sex-selective abortions and female infanticide have left a world with millions more men than women.
Then there are women and girls in developing countries who can’t go to work or school because they cannot afford sanitary products. I’m willing to bet, however, that they have access to contraceptives. From my time working in D.C., I recall meeting with experts who visited USAID-supported clinics that were overflowing with contraceptives, but lacked basic medical supplies.
And there are women in countries where they cannot vote or speak for themselves, much less work, study, or make decisions for their families. These are women who would probably consider the ability to shirk one’s responsibilities a luxury.
While the event supports trans women, that means it won’t be representing women who think that being a woman is more than hormones, implants, cosmetics, and a decision or experience about one’s sexuality.
Today, I’m proudly at work, serving in a job that I love, fulfilling a role that until relatively recently few lay people, women or men, were able to enjoy. It’s not exactly NASA during the Space Race, but I’m nevertheless proud of my accomplishment.
Moreover, as I’ve surveyed history and known many remarkable women, one thing I’ve learned is that #RealWomenDontQuit.
Pia de Solenni is a professor of moral theology for the Augustine Institute and serves as a consultant to the Office of the Bishop of Orange.