How about a day without blowhards?
This is probably not the intended takeaway from last Wednesday’s “Day Without A Woman,” but it is the first thought I woke up with on Thursday.
Maybe this was due to the last thing I read the night before. It was an opinion piece in The New York Times headlined “Why Women Are On Strike.” That headline grabbed me, because although it was almost midnight coming out of the day America had (kind of) gone female-free, I still was not sure why it had (sort of) done so.
Not that I didn’t have some good guesses. After all, I had spent my whole adult life happily embracing the “feminist” label and feeling chronically mystified by voting, paycheck-collecting, jury-serving, mortgage-qualifying women who reject it. I had spent this past election cycle and its aftermath horrified by the implications of a Trump presidency for women — as distinct from, as well as in addition to, men — and thus counted myself eager to mitigate those. In the same scattershot, NPR-while-driving-kids way in which many women scrape together their sense of what’s happening, I had spent the weeks leading up to this strike catching bits and pieces of its rationale.
The most frequently cited sentiment seemed to be something about highlighting how valuable women are to the economy by withdrawing their participation in it for a day — which, to be honest, did hit me as a lose-lose proposition: either women would really strike and suck all that money and labor out of the economy, thus hurting no one more than themselves — or women wouldn’t really strike, and would instead do things like wear red to work, or take days off that they were entitled to anyway, or exercise extra purchasing power on the days before and after the day of boycott, in which case…big whoop. But, in fairness, I hadn’t really informed myself about the strike, so I didn’t have a clear view.
Neither, to go by what they told the Times, did the organizers.
Not that one could even be totally sure what the organizers had, in fact, organized. Prior to reading this article, I did not know that the "women's strike" was "in solidarity with" the "Day Without A Woman", but otherwise unaffiliated with it. But the rhetoric of the two sound just like each other, and the stated goals of one are as vast in number and scope as the goals of the other, so I forgive myself for being one of the 99.9 per cent of American women who conflate them.
Anyway, the Times story went that the U.S. strike was, in part, inspired by a strike that Polish women had previously called, in response to anti-abortion legislation: i.e., a specific focal point of outrage, which sparked an action that carried a clear message for those in power who cared to heed it and a measurable threat to those who ignored it. Now, that's a strike.
Also cited was a less specific, but still relatively targeted, action taken in Argentina in response to violence against women.
In the U.S., though, the woman-train added a whole big economics car. As the Times put it: "Ultimately, the goal of the strike is to build a movement of women who agree that the wellbeing of a society stems from affordable child care and health care and an equal living wage."
Great! I'm all for that!
Not that any of these actions are going to make any of those three any more likely to happen. For if the strike(s) were serious about achieving those excellent but vertiginously difficult goals, they would let up a little on the reproductive-rights piece, so as to harness the support of the millions of pro-life women who would eat their laundry for affordable child care, health care and a decent wage. Nope! It's pedal-to-the-metal on the whole liberal feminist agenda -- which happens, in very large part, to be my own agenda. Perhaps that is why I get so frustrated that we keep torching the whole thing in the name of a truly pointless purity. Then again, by now, this tendency is so familiar to me, it's almost comforting. It's like sugary breakfast cereal: I know it's bad, but I've been eating it since 1978, so it's home.
Besides, if any of the bricks in the old women's-rights monolith were to loosen, we might actually have to move out of the dream stage and into the sausage-making of real progress. As Paul "repeal-and-replace" Ryan can tell you, that is no fun at all.
No fear of that, though:
“The language of feminism in recent years has been used to talk about ‘Lean In’ feminism,” strike organizer Tithi Bhattacharya told the Times. “We do not want a world where women become C.E.O.s, we want a world where there are no C.E.O.s, and wealth is redistributed equally.”
OK, then, let's recap: That strike last Wednesday was not about being a woman, or about being a pro-choice woman, or even about being a pro-choice, redress-practical-systemic-economic-injustice-for-all-women woman. It was also about being an anti-Sheryl Sandberg, pro-communist and completely unrealistic woman. I’ve never in my life been so glad not to have had anything red and clean to wear on a day.
“Oh for crying out loud,” I thought, “I’m going to bed.”
Then I awoke with my one brief, shining thought: a day without blowhards.
Immediate inspiration aside, my vision is not merely of a day without kinda-sorta Marxist-y self-defeating feminist blowhards. I mean anti-feminist blowhards too. And rabid right-wing blowhards, I’m-still-with-her blowhards, God-save-the-republic-from-transgender-kids-trying-to-urinate-in-peace blowhards…..this action will be nothing if not inclusive of all blowhards.
Blowhards of all races, ethnicities, genders and ideologies: just for one day, deprive the culture of your increasingly massive contributions to it. Stay home. Stay off social media. Stay silent.
If you think that Hillary Clinton belongs in jail, or that Jeff Sessions is worse than Hitler, or that Barack Obama was the second coming of Christ, or that Barack Obama was the anti-Christ…keep those thoughts to yourself.
Vagina posters, pink pussy hats, RINO hunter mugs, Hillary ball-busting nutcrackers…. From midnight to midnight on this one calendar date, all that crap shall be shoved into the closet on pain of owner being locked in said closet with a hostile Facebook feed.
Fox News, MSNBC, Breitbart, HuffPo…feel free to party like it’s 1989 and you don’t exist.
Meanwhile, nice, normal people who can still hold a civil conversation: come out, come out, wherever you are! This is your day to be heard, seen, embraced — or left the hell alone, as many of you undoubtedly crave.
Candidly, as the founder and sole spirit of Day Without Blowhards, I’ve been having a heated sartorio-philosophical argument with myself. Half of me wants to encourage participating Nice Normal People to wear whatever they damn well please, including a lapel adornment that is totally void of moral significance. The other half of me wants to call upon NNP’s to put on a ratty old cardigan. Ideally, that cardigan would be gray, in celebration of that blessed neutral’s gentle refusal to get in anyone’s face. Also, gray is well known for having many, many shades in every realm of life outside the hissy-fit fiesta that has been passing for our politics. As for the ratty old cardigan, there's nothing more comforting -- and what nice, normal person isn't feeling in need of comfort these days?
Whatever you end up wearing, NNP’s, you won’t need to go into the street. But on this day, you can walk down it without being called a snowflake, a libtard, a racist or an Islamaphobe. If you voted for Hillary Clinton but believe that there are real lessons to be learned from the election of Donald Trump, try to come up with a slogan for that and chant away! If you voted for Trump but have become concerned about one or more aspects of his performance as president, go ahead and say so without fear that you are going to be stoned to death in a hail of four-lettered I-told-you-so’s.
Apologies in advance to those who feel they must paint every issue in terms of heroes and villains. This will be one day when we can all admit that almost nobody is either. Go ahead and give a doughnut of thanks to a police officer and to the most conscientious member of your local Civilian Review Board; as a reality-based movement, Day Without Blowhards recognizes that of course, we need them both.
DWB recognizes, too, that in real life, compromise is a natural, necessary feature of a functional democracy, and that it is a form of practical patriotism, not moral treason, to seek it. If you’re a liberal who’s worried about the lefty groupthink that is highjacking free speech on some college campuses, or a conservative who’s appalled by the bigotry-based violence and intimidation that is roaming so freely in our land, set yourselves down on that patch of common ground and have a picnic. Likewise for Democrats who know that it is stupid to talk as if Wall Street ought to be abolished, and Republicans sick of pretending that capitalism has to be allowed to run wild (except where corporations need a little help from their elected friends) or else it's not capitalism at all. And so on...
On the DWB, ignorance will not be bliss, but dimwit partisan talking points will not be allowed to pass for knowledge. We will endeavor to counter, and not reward, the tendency for the people who know the least about trade, immigration and health-care policy to shout the loudest about them. Granted, complexity should not serve as an excuse for letting a sleeping morass lie. But nor should brute oversimplification keep getting mistaken for “telling it like it is.”
Finally, like all self-respecting Days Without, the DWB will aim to ignite — or rather, gently nudge along — a movement far beyond itself. While marches and protests seek to muster troops for longer-term political fights, the DWB will try to set the stage for longer-term political discourse. Our country is currently riven by so many difficult and defining questions. The DWB is for people who believe that the thorniest parts of those questions should not be shouted down, drowned out, or fantasized away but clearly raised and thoroughly -- and respectfully, even kindly -- debated. It will take a lot more than one day to do that.
Don’t worry, blowhards! Your day of silence will be just that: one day. We all know that as of 12:01 a.m. the morning after, you’ll all be back, louder and more loaded for bear than ever. But for just 24 hours, the rest of the country will get a word in edgewise. Nice, normal people will be able to hear each other in the absence of the newly-normal national caterwauling. And from one midnight to another, we shall have nothing to demonize but demonization itself.