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On Wednesday, March 8, women across the world will participate in the International Women’s Strike, a day of action meant to shine a light on all the important work that women do. Participants will be wearing red, striking from their jobs, refusing to shop anywhere other than small women-owned businesses, and abstaining from uncompensated domestic labor like housework and child care. But for musicians, who make their own work as artists (often in addition to a day job) and rely heavily on live performances for their living, striking from playing or making music on this day isn’t an easy decision. Many of them are already pushing against the patriarchy through their art.
MTV News spoke with more than a dozen musicians living in America about how they will (or won’t) be participating on Wednesday.
Eva Hendricks of Charly Bliss
“I am planning to strike! I am lucky enough to work at a small business, a coffee shop in Williamsburg that is owned by a woman, and she has an incredibly strong, political voice. We talked about it a few days ago with my other female coworkers, and she couldn’t have been more supportive. My male coworkers were also supportive and are happy to step up that day and work our hours so we can stand in solidarity with the strike. I do think it’s important to think about women who can’t participate in this event, whether they can’t afford it or are single moms. If Charly Bliss was playing a show on March 8, I don’t know if I would feel comfortable with [that]. One of the biggest goals of the strike is to show the impact of a day without women, and women make up, to me, the most important part of the music industry! Will I make and play music on my own that day? Probably, but I definitely wouldn’t want to participate in any consumerist aspects of playing music on March 8.”
“I wouldn’t want to leave people high and dry who bought my tickets on [A Day Without a Woman], but I happen to not be working that day. On Election Day and the Women’s March, we were performing both of those days — having a voice to use onstage has been my outlet. I definitely have not been quiet about how I feel for the current administration and how minorities and women have been treated thus far. I lost some fans on Facebook when my Tiny Desk concert came out and I was wearing my ‘Icky Trump’ shirt, but it’s fine, those aren’t the kind of fans I want anyway. A lot of people in country music are scared to speak out on anything socially or politically heavy because of how people like the Dixie Chicks were treated, but I’m not scared of that at all.”
Laetitia Tamko of Vagabon
“I’m always striking every day! I strike by existing, by demanding respect, by forcing my way into places that people make it difficult for women — all women — to be in and to thrive in. That feels like resistance, personally. I think, in a lot of ways, [striking and marches] have been an incredibly great way to see the turnout, but it also makes me think, Wow, if the turnout is this big here, why isn’t the turnout this big when it’s time to show up for other specific, marginalized groups of people? That’s my criticism, but I do think there’s also a great deal of impact that comes from women showing up. Marching and striking is difficult for a lot of people. It’s emotionally taxing, and it doesn’t end after the protest is over. It’s not like you go home and say, ‘Yay, we did a great thing, let’s call it.’ I know when I was in New York and going to a lot of Black Lives Matter protests for Trayvon Martin, for Mike Brown, and all the unarmed black kids, I needed so long of a recovery time. I’m not doing anything specific [on March 8], because I don’t think this is a one-day thing. It’s not like Valentine’s Day, where you set aside time to buy your loved one a gift. Protests should be an everyday thing.”
Lindsey Jordan of Snail Mail
“I’m a high school senior, so I’m not specifically striking, because I can’t get away with ditching school. But a bunch of my friends are organizing an awareness day at school so we can still make a point. Everyone’s going to wear red, and there’s a speaker coming from UMBC to talk about women’s history. My friends and I are working on flyers to hang up with information about the wage gap, discrimination, and sexual harassment, which are still big issues in 2017. I don’t think playing music is something I would consider part of the strike, because at least for me personally, our band uses music and [live] shows as a platform to talk and connect with a lot of people. As long as you’re making space for marginalized people and making art everyone can enjoy, it’s not something I would consider skipping for the strike. It’s a step in a positive direction.”
Katie Bennett of Free Cake for Every Creature
“I will not be striking on Wednesday. Right now I’m in grad school at Rutgers getting my MFA, and then a few days a week I work at a coffee shop. If I had more financial resources, I might consider striking. But at this moment we’re doing a pretty big tour in June, and realistically I need to make money and save money. We think it’s really important for us to go out and represent women in music. So in order to do that, the reasonable thing to do is for me to work on Wednesday. I absolutely consider music as a legitimate form of work, just like going to a job in a lot of ways. With the Women’s March, I thought it was important that women stood together on that day, but afterward it was a bit of a letdown because nothing specific happened. So I’m hesitant to go quiet on making music for the strike, and then have it be seen as me just going quiet on making music.”
Stephanie Knipe of Adult Mom
“I identify as a femme, gender nonconforming person, but my relationship with womanhood is still very strong even though I don’t really think of myself as a woman. And I feel comfortable participating in the strike, because I think that trans and queer people need these spaces as well. I don’t work a traditional job, but I think what I’m going to do is look at it through an emotional-labor context. I’m going to see how silent I can be that day and how little I can help men that day. I also am not going to shop at all, and I want to potentially donate the money that I would have spent on that day to the organizers of the day. I’m looking a lot into different GoFundMe campaigns around my community so I can donate more directly to people instead of giving money to the ACLU. What’s interesting to me about striking is that when you are taking off work or jeopardizing your salary and income you might end up doing a lot more [emotional] labor. You almost have to do more work to not do the work.”
Victoria Ruiz of Downtown Boys
“I will not be striking on Wednesday, and a huge part of why is because we are on tour. It is not really financially viable to be a touring musician unless you play all the time. To strike might actually hold back our ability to be the band that we are. The strike seems like a symbolic way to galvanize a lot of energy and anger about our situation. It’s great that people are doing that — but I also think our music does something similar. A strike is an escalatory step that you do after there has been a lot of organizing and a clear set of demands. And I don’t really know if women in the United States have demands that we’ve hammered down and that we know are not being met. I also have a lot of feelings about white feminism right now — the Women’s March was incredible, but I also think it needed stricter race analysis and class analysis, and it wasn’t as inclusive to trans women as I’d like my feminism to be. As for the emotional labor aspect, it’s just not realistic. It’s different when a group of workers goes on strike and disrupts the machine of capitalism — you strike so the machine cannot function. And right now, I don’t provide any emotional labor where there isn’t a reciprocal relationship. A lot of my labor and my work is always attacking hegemony. I’m not sure if I’m the model woman that the women’s strike is campaigning for, but I’m very happy for people who are striking, and I think we all need to do as much active resisting as we can.”
Musician and visual artist Fatima Al Qadiri
“I’m prepping [to show in] the Whitney Biennial right now, so I’m on a pretty intense schedule. I think I actually might be finished installing before the strike, so I’d love to participate in it if I can. In general artists are self-employed, so they don’t have the same relationship to work as most people. But showing solidarity is very important. When I think of women striking, I always think of what happened in Iceland. In 1975 all the women in Iceland went on strike, and it completely changed rights for women, just that one day. And then in 1980, Iceland elected its first female president. So that day was extremely meaningful and regardless of what it does historically, I feel like these protests — day without women, day without immigrants — they get under the skin of the current administration. It’s really important to prove the value of labor, the value of women and immigrants.”
Haley Fohr of Circuit des Yeux and Jackie Lynn
“I am participating, but not [by] striking, exactly. I am living my life in solidarity with the movement. I don’t really have any work to skip, and I rarely make any purchases outside of what’s been gifted to me. I buy music equipment and that’s about it. My plans are to have band practice for eight hours. My music is not politicized in that way — it’s very personal — but I think everything is politicized on this day. I think, in solidarity, if I had to play music for people, I would become a ghost. It’s a privileged thing to be able to do, but if I did have a show I would pull away. I surround myself with mostly women. I live in an apartment with all women and we have a weekly dinner and it’s very femme-oriented. But I think making a very concise statement of becoming a ghost for an entire day is the way to go.”
Annie Fidoten: I won’t be striking in the traditional sense, mostly because my main job right now is being on tour with T-Rextasy. I do odd jobs like dog-walking that don’t require me to report to a boss or any sort of central organization I could intentionally not report to. I think that harnessing our music as activism, like playing a show to raise money for organizations — as we’ve been trying to do on tour by donating merch money to Make the Road New York and the Immigrant Law Center of Minnesota — would be a more concrete action to take as a relatively privileged female musician.
Vera Kahn: I’m participating by going to a Jews for Racial and Economic Justice rally. I don’t have a job, so I can’t strike. The least I can do is attend some kind of intersectional protest.
Lyris Faron: I also don’t have a traditional job because of T-Rextasy and our touring schedule, but I will be attending some of the events in NYC such as the Intersectional Women’s Day Speakout and some of the lectures at NYU. This feminist day of action has an emphasis on supporting women of color, trans women, and working women, which is very important. Performing and songwriting do not feel like work to me. I think there are certain tasks that enable music-making that are work, like emailing and online tasks, driving to a performance, and doing interviews, so I will not participate in these kinds of activities.
Ebun Nazon-Power: Currently I am at school in Amherst, Massachusetts, and I plan to attend a teach-in and walkout in honor of the International Women’s Day strike. I plan to go because all womxn (including womxn of color and trans womxn of color) need to work together in solidarity to address issues that have plagued womxn for centuries. I really hope that wherever these strikes take place, people understand the importance of trans womxn’s rights and issues as well.