Just when you thought the Western world couldn’t sustain yet another protest march, the UK’s Women’s Equality Party declares Thursday, March 8th, 2018 a “Women’s Day Off”.
It’s loosely based on a one-day strike in Iceland (the country, not the shop) in 1975 when 90% of women walked out to highlight gender inequality.
Iceland’s female President of the time, Vigdis Finnbogadottir, fondly recalls: “It completely paralysed the country and opened the eyes of many men.”
So would a similar strike work – or is it even needed – in Britain today?
Iceland in 1975 had a population of 100,000 women. In 2016 Britain, there are 14.6m women aged 16+ in employment, 8.4 million full-time and 6.2 million part-timers (men = 14.5m full-time and 2.3m part-time).
The obvious barrier to a mass strike is one of legality. Strikes of any nature have to be legally conducted via union ballots, which is basically impossible across every employment sector.
In vital, female-dominated sectors such as nursing (81% female), for public safety reasons there is very little willingness to strike.
Would the teaching unions use Women’s Day Off for yet another mass walkout (74% teachers are female) when public sympathy is at an all-time low? It seems unlikely.
So the Women’s Day Off is left with either throwing a mass sickie (caution: huge danger of being photographed by the Guardian) or taking an orchestrated day’s holiday.
But few of the UK’s 6.2m female part-time workers even get holiday pay. Those on zero-hours contracts might lose their jobs (women are 55% of the UK’s 697,000 ZOC workers) which wouldn’t do much good for the gender pay gap, would it?
So who would attend? The WEP and equalities campaigners will be there, but they wouldn’t even be taking a day off: protesting is their job.
Ditto liberal journalists, academics, activists, authors and lecture-dodging students.
The idea of an entire gender taking a day off might seem silly, but as we’re at it, what would happen if we threw a Men’s Day Off?
First, it wouldn’t take us 13 months to organise. We’d have it sorted the morning after 13 pints.
For maximum impact Mens Day Off would be on March 9th, 2018. For who’d clean up the shattered whirlwind of anti-patriarchy placards left behind in Trafalgar Square?
Who’d empty London’s bins overflowing with a tsunami of spent Starbucks cups? When was the last time you saw a bin woman, or a female street sweeper?
It will be mostly men picking all this shit up. pic.twitter.com/epUBGhfbmf
— マイル (@martian_munk) January 22, 2017
Of course, not all men would take the day off, for criminals are master opportunists. So who’d keep the bad guys in check?
Women make up an impressive 47% of UK prison workers, although with a mere 21,442 female officers to contain 85,523 inmates, you’d put money on mass prison breakouts.
As men make up 71.4% of police officers, you’d expect anarchy on our streets, too.
People couldn’t even escape somewhere more orderly – like Guatemala – as the International Society of Women Airline Pilots estimates only 3% of pilots are women.
Similarly, the trains would grind to a halt. There’d be no water, sewage, electricity or gas.
In short, we’d be up to our neck in doo-doo. Our cities would look like scenes out of the Walking Dead.
The Women’s Day Off would seem like a picnic in comparison. So maybe we should embrace it?
There could be big benefits. The Loose Women and BBC Woman’s Hour studios would fall silent. All the UK’s shoutiest people will be in places we can avoid.
For the first time since the 1980s, Britain’s University campuses would be male-dominated spaces, where men could “bantz” with impunity without fear of being thrown off their courses. In that sense, it could actually be a holiday for us, too.
It is for this reason I am today throwing my full weight behind The Women’s Day Off 2018.
See you in the pub?