Why “A Day Without A Woman” is Beautifully Impossible

Today, March 8th, is International Women’s Day and it is also a day in America’s history where women are banning together to show the world what it would be like if we weren’t around. No waitresses in your favorite restaurant, no VPs at your bank, no nurses or nannies or CEOs. Today, women are on holiday. If the world feels off-kilter, now you know why. Adam’s lost his Eve, temporarily. The goal of “A Day Without a Woman,” according to the organizers who also spear-headed the Women’s March is “to highlight the economic power and significance that women have in the US and global economies, while calling attention to the economic injustices women and gender nonconforming people continue to face.  We play an indispensable role in the daily functions of life in all of society, through paid & unpaid, seen & unseen labor.”

There’s a children’s book, Miss Nelson is Missing! that I often want to read to my own kids when they’ve thrown their dinner on the floor, refused to care whether I count to ten and sat laughing like sociopaths in time out. In the book, Miss Nelson is a teacher whose class does not listen. They do not obey, do their homework or show her any kind of respect. One day, the class is greeted by a substitute, but not the substitute that dreams are made of, who lets them do whatever they please. This woman is a witch, literally. She wears all black and beckons each miscreant with long black nails. She doesn’t care if you suffer. It doesn’t take a large dose of her before Miss Nelson starts looking pretty good. By the time she returns, the students have seen the light. The inmates have been reformed. And the twist: Miss Nelson was the witch with a wicked sense of justice. It’s a Shakespearean comedy for the classroom.

Today, Miss Nelson’s gone missing. Today, our country must sit up straighter and pay closer attention because the world looks different and perhaps a little grimmer. The lesson needs to be taught that what we do matters and deserves respect. We’re tired of yelling over everybody’s heads, so we’re going to step into the shadows and see what happens. But here’s the thing: we can’t just go missing. Even the organizers, because they are women and know how to plan ahead for all contingencies, provide alternative ways to participate like wearing red or reducing your spending. They know we cannot just absent ourselves from our lives. Like it or not, we are the primary care givers. And honestly, I like it, a lot. We are the nurturers of those that wouldn’t understand if we did not show up for “mom” duty today. I am proud of that. I am so proud of the role I fill as mom and teacher and healer and guide. I am glad that my children do not have to know what it would be like to have me erased from the equation. I am proud that I am indispensable, as are all the female nannies and teachers and childcare workers who go to work because they know an absence today is not so easily explained to a child.

It will be interesting to see how it all pans out…this day where Miss Nelson leaves most of the world to fend for itself. As an economic statement, the message is vital: we must be given equal opportunity and pay in the workforce. As an emotional appeal, the message is even better: we are so fundamental to the foundation of this country both at home and at work that we literally cannot fully participate in our own absence. We must include contingencies because to completely absent ourselves would sink the ship. The damage would be irreparable. Today, as I wipe noses and pack lunches and find favorite blankets and sing secret songs, I will take pride in my own necessity. I will prove, just by showing up to my own life, that I am the woman who makes this whole thing rock and roll and I am indispensable.