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IDS coverage of women who are taking the day off, women who cannot afford to, and female-owned businesses.

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Women take off work to stay vocal on International Women's Day

Julie Hardesty wouldn’t be there to put new archival work into the production system. She wasn’t going to work on her proposal for a conference. She wasn’t available for open-source communications between departments and universities.

Instead, she was going to craft with her mother.

The pair first stopped by Herman B Wells Library to make pins of iconic women, including Michelle Obama, Rosa Parks and Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Then they headed to Yarns Unlimited, where they met dozens of women, clad in red and knitting tiny pink Pussyhats. These pins symbolized iconic women to come.

Hardesty, a metadata analyst for IU’s library technologies, used one of her vacation days to participate in A Day Without a Woman, a national protest. Women have had the legal right to equal pay for equal work for five decades. However, A Day Without a Woman organizers said they are still fighting to have their voices be heard within the workforce. The protest fell on International Women’s Day.

“I don’t know if anyone else did or not,” Hardesty said. “I’ll be interested to know when I come back if anyone else did.”

As part of its “10 actions/100 days” campaign, the Women’s March on Washington organziers urged women to take the day off from paid and unpaid labor. The labor strike was inspired by the bodega strike that took place in New York City and the Day Without Immigrants that happened nationwide in response to President Trump’s executive order banning immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries.

Hardesty said the most uncomfortable part of taking the day off was not the potential backlash from her peers but knowing not all women could afford to do so.

“People understand that being able to do this requires a certain amount of privilege to just take the day off,” she said. “I recognize that, and I felt like it was still important to make a statement and do it. “

The A Day Without a Woman campaign aimed to magnify women’s influence both in the workforce and economically. In addition to taking the day off work, women were encouraged to wear red and shop at female- or minority- owned businesses.

“Taking one day is not going to point out the idea that women are not valued in the workplace,” Hardesty said. “I don’t think that really gets across, but I feel like it’s something that keeps the idea in front of people that there are inequities for women in the workplace.”

In a staff of 34, Hardesty and her female coworkers make up about 30 percent in the library technology department, she said. On a national scale, 25 percent of mathematical and computer scientists are women despite women making up 44.5 percent of the overall workforce in 2010, according to the 2013 National Science Foundation report.

Although she considers her male counterparts to be supportive in the workplace, Hardesty does see the gender disparities in her field. Her female coworkers don’t discuss the gender gap, but they feel it.

“It’s not pointed or planned, but just knowing that everybody who’s in charge is a guy — there’s that acknowledgment,” Hardesty said.

Farrell DiBart, a web developer for the Kelley School of Business, has always found herself in male-dominated realms — it’s where she feels most comfortable. DiBart admits it’s difficult to find other women who like computer games and “Dungeons and Dragons,” but that’s what makes her feminism stronger, she said.

“I want women to feel more comfortable in all spaces as opposed to just those boxes people have us in,” she said.

DiBart took the day off from two roles. Her job at IU and her job as a mother of six-month-old twins James and Esme.

“A lot of the reason I took this day off was because I thought to myself ‘When was the last day I had the day off?’ and I couldn’t remember,” she said.

Using her designated paid time off, DiBart adorned her own pink Pussyhat as she joined women at Yarns Unlimited in making pins that would be donated to Middle Way House.

She is the only woman on her team of six that update all the websites for Kelley. The department is hiring a new batch of interns soon. DiBart is hoping for a woman.

“I spend a lot of time around guys, and I honestly just wanted to come here and be around women,” DiBart said.

IU gave DiBart 12 weeks of paid maternity leave, but she came back to work a week early. She wanted to save a week for emergencies.

Even with the support of her male coworkers during and after her pregnancy, DiBart said she still finds it challenging to be away from her twins while she’s at work. She can’t help but miss them.

“During the weekends I just hold them,” she said.

In addition to making and selling pins, women wrote postcards to Indiana representatives like Sen. Todd Young, R-Indiana; Rep. Trey Hollingsworth, R-9th District; and Sen. Joe Donnelly, D-Indiana. These direct messages to those in charge are how the message of the Women’s March on Washington will continue, Hardesty said.

“If women are going to be treated equally then we need to keep the issue alive and keep it in front of everybody,” she said, “not just when a man goes and says something crazy in the public realm.”

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A basket of Pussyhat pins rests on a table Wednesday in Yarns Unlimited. Owner Mary Ann Gingles invited women to gather in her shop for A Day Without a Woman and International Women’s Day.

Emily Miles Buy Photos
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On a Day Without Women, women show up to work anyway

They were supposed to be absent.

Wednesday was A Day Without A Woman, a protest organized by leaders of the Women’s March on Washington. Women were encouraged to abstain from work — paid or unpaid — of any kind and to spend money at women- and minority-owned businesses if they spent any money at all. Through their absence, the organizers hoped to draw attention to the socio-economic roles women fill in society despite inequalities and discrimination in the workforce.

However, some women felt their role in the workforce was too important to leave even if it was only for a day.

Christine Popp runs Popp Law Office , a four-woman immigration law firm on College Avenue. All four women worked Wednesday. Popp said she was late discovering A Day Without A Woman, but her decision to work would not have changed regardless.

“I support the people who decided to take the day off,” Popp said. “For us, we are doing better work by being here.”

Popp said the hardships her clients would face if she was absent did not justify her taking the day off.

“My clients work,” Popp said. “They have to take the day off. If they are mothers, they may have to arrange childcare. I try not to cancel because it’s not easy to come here.”

Some of her clients are already concerned with their status in the current political environment, she said. Among them are women who have experienced domestic violence or other incidents that make them a more vulnerable community.

“Many are incredibly frightened about what is going on and applying for legal status is important,” Popp said.

Although none of her staff took the day off, Popp said she would have supported them if they had wanted to do so.

Templeton Elementary teacher Erika Peek also said she felt her absence at work might affect her students negatively.Instead of missing work, Peek wore a red shirt and a pink Pussyhat to school.

“It’s important for me to show a work ethic to my students and also to be a role model for the girls in my class,” Peek said.

IU chemistry professor Sara Skrabalak said she had considered participating in the day-long strike but realized she was scheduled to speak at Pittcon, a laboratory science conference and exposition already.

“I was very conflicted on what to do,” Skrabalak said.

She debated with her friends and they came to a conclusion: her presence at the conference would have more influence than her absence.

“One fewer woman at the conference won’t really make a difference,” Skrabalak said. “Most people agreed that if I cancelled on the talk, it would largely go unnoticed.”

To combat this, Skrabalak decided to wear red as she delivered her lecture and included a closing slide in her presentation detailing the discrepancy between women and minority representation in science-related fields.

“I am hoping that it will force the audience to take a moment to think about representation within the scenes and within the broader workforce,” Skrabalak said. “The strike is meant to highlight just how much work women do. I hope that people will take a moment to really acknowledge that.”

Skrabalak said wearing red and giving her lecture were more minor points of activism.

“I routinely write and call my representatives and senators on a variety of issues,” Skrabalak said. “That’s a really important way to ensure our voices are being heard.”

For these women, the day was about choice: The option to participate was something they could actively choose or reject, but for some women there was no choice. Those who act as care-givers are unable to quit giving care for a day unless someone else steps in to fill that role. Many low-income workers are unable to take days off. They may not accrue paid time off or cannot afford to lose a day’s wages.

At a local Walmart, some female employees were not aware of A Day Without Women. One suggested that if any women had taken the day off, it would have required requesting paid time off well in advance.

According to the Center for American Progress Action Fund, if every working woman participated on Wednesday, the United States’ economy would have lost $21 billion dollars.

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IU gender studies professor reflects on intersectionality in feminism

Amrita Myers went to her meeting Wednesday while wearing a red shirt and red shoes.

The IU history gender studies professor said she wore the color as a feminist celebrating and raising awareness for International Women’s Day, but she said her red clothes were also meant to stand in solidarity with women of color.

“It’s a symbol of unity among women from all backgrounds,” she said. “It crosses those lines we put up.

Myers’s idea of equality aligns with intersectional feminism. She said all women face obstacles due to gender, but women who are also part of other minority groups face different sets of struggles that straight white women cannot fully understand.

“Women of color or who are from the LGBTQ community or are from a lower socioeconomic status, they all face oppression as women but also face oppression due to their minority status in other areas,” she said.

She said taking off work for the Day Without a Woman protest also conveys a lack of intersectionality in modern feminism. While taking a day off work is a great symbolic gesture, she said people must understand there are women who can’t afford to take a day off.

“There are women who’ll get fired or not be able to feed their children if they take a day off,” she said. “Being in the economic position to take off work is a privilege in itself, and we need to recognize that.”

She said the Pussyhats worn by some feminists also exclude minority women, 
including transgender women and women whose vaginas are not pink.

While her research centers around women of color in the 17th and 18th centuries, it still applies to the idea of intersectionality today.

“On one end, black women were seen as liars, whores, temptresses and lazy adulteresses,” she said. “But on the other hand, they were seen as happy, jovial laborers so excited to serve their white masters.”

She said some of those same stereotypes continue in media today, especially in brands like Aunt Jemima.

“There’s a reason Aunt Jemima was called ‘slave in a box,’” she said.

Myers said modern media also continues to show white women in power while women of color are subservient. This idea of these women as subservient laborers means they are oppressed by men and by white women, she said.

Myers said white women are often uncomfortable with facing the face that there is an intersection between racism and sexism.

This discomfort on the part of white women is one reason why LGBT women or women of color have left mainstream feminism because they cannot trust white women to be true allies and check their racial privilege, Myers said.

“A lot of white feminists are uncomfortable facing their racism or homophobia or issues with the transgender community,” she said. “They can’t accept that their idea of feminism is just for women who look like them.”

Despite this lack of intersectional understanding, Myers said it is important to unite across these borders in order to achieve gender equality.

Myers said people can no longer care only about their own group. If minority women are silenced group by group, there will be no one to serve as allies and fight alongside white women.

“White women are never going to be free until we are all free,” she said.

As a result, Myers said she encourages women from all groups to recognize their privilege. Despite her experience as a woman of color, she said she too has educational and class privilege.

She said there is no need to be ashamed of privilege, but people must recognize their privilege and use it to help those who are less 
privileged. Sometimes this help for other women can come in the form of money supporting woman-owned businesses.

“Money talks in America,” she said.

Another step is to celebrate and empower women every day not just on International Women’s Day. Myers said while International Women’s Day is a great way to push for equality it needs to be more than that.

“Really, every day should be about standing by women and supporting women from all different backgrounds and walks of life,” Myers said.

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Middle Way House honors Toby Strout at knitting event

As the women crocheted and knitted Pussyhats and other items, they discussed ways to advocate for women’s equality. In the back of the room, others made phone calls to legislators to express the need to fight against domestic violence.

Middle Way House’s “Knit One, Call Too” event Wednesday was both a celebration of International Women’s Day and a way to honor Toby Strout, who was the executive director of the organization for 30 years. Strout died Feb. 27.

Participants were encouraged to make calls and write to their senators and representatives to discuss the importance of renewing the Violence Against Women Act, which provides grants to Middle Way House and other organizations dedicated to supporting victims of domestic violence. Participants also learned to knit or crochet to contribute to the Wrapped in Love project, which makes tree wraps that are displayed downtown. The project is part of an annual fundraiser for Middle Way House.

Middle Way House executive director Debra Morrow said she wanted people to show their support for VAWA because without the act the organization would not have the funding to provide its services. This event is also a way to honor Strout’s life of activism, Morrow said.

“With it being International Women’s Day, what better way to honor her than to come and support something she believed in so strongly,” Morrow said.

Rachel Guglielmo, who volunteers with the Bloomington chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, made a call to the office of Rep. Trey Hollingsworth, R-9th District, to discuss the importance of VAWA.

“We want to urge Representative Hollingsworth to vote in favor of renewing the Violence Against Women Act,” Guglielmo said as she ended her call.

She said she is concerned with how guns are connected to violence against women.

“Despite the NRA line that women in situations of domestic violence should try to protect themselves by buying a gun, women who own guns are much more likely to see guns used against them instead of in self defense,” she said.

International Women’s Day is a way for people to become politically engaged, even if they do not take the day off work for the “A Day Without A Woman” protest, Guglielmo said. They can still make a phone call to politicans, have a conversation with community members and know they are not alone in their concerns, she said.

“It’s important for all of us to engage in advocating for the laws and policies we want to see,” she said. “We can’t just assume they are going to happen without us. We’re the ones who make them happen.”

Kelly Kish, who is a Middle Way House board member, said the organization wants to continue following Strout’s example.

“If she had been here today, she would have been the loudest voice,” she said. “We want to keep her voice loud.”

Anna Strout, who is Toby Strout’s daughter, said the event is reminder of her mother’s work in fighting against domestic violence.

She said it is important to bring the community together to build momentum and continue to move forward in advocating for women’s issues and social justice.

“Toby Strout, my beloved mother and community heroine, would always say these are community issues, and we have a responsibility to treat them as such,” she said. 

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Local business women weigh in on International Women's Day

Sue Aquila started Bloomington Bagel Company to take control of her own destiny. On Wednesday, this meant making free coffee available to any woman who walked through the door.

“We believe that fighting for equality requires lots of caffeine,” said Aquila, owner and founder of BBC, who offered free coffee to all women customers in honor of International Women’s Day. “The crap we put up with can only be offset by caffeine.”

However, Wednesday was not only a day in honor of women, it was also a day of organized protest. The Women’s March on Washington planned A Day Without a Woman, which encouraged women to take the day off from paid and unpaid labor, avoid shopping except at small or woman or minority owned businesses and wear red in solidarity. A Day Without a Woman’s goal is to illustrate the value women add to socio-economic systems and what occurs when women do not participate in the system.

If every woman in the United States were to strike, it would cost the U.S. economy $21 billion, according to the Center for American Progress Action Fund.

Aquila said she was unsure how many women in Bloomington would participate, so instead of closing all BBC locations she chose to offer the day off to her female employees and free coffee to all women customers.

“We felt as a company that was founded by women and is run by women that we wanted to do something to support the community,” she said.

Ann St. John, the co-founder and CEO of St. John Associates, which recruits doctors for hospitals across the country, also chose to not take the day off. It would be a waste of time, she said. Instead, St. John will use her forces for good and volunteer at the local Boys and Girls Club.

Yarns Unlimited owner Mary Ann Gingles said the store will be a gathering place for women on A Day Without A Woman. They will be selling pins, buttons and bumperstickers with all proceeds going to Middle Way House in honor of Toby Strout and creating a space for women to knit pussy hats.

“The number one goal is to bring women together,” Gingles said.

As an advocate for women triathletes’ equality, Aquila has long been involved in the fight for women’s rights on a national scale. However, this is the first year she has fought locally for women’s rights.

Women make up 51 percent of the population, but are marginalized in the current political climate, she said. The proposed Affordable Care Act replacement would not properly fund maternity leave and contraception.

This is why more women need to be running for political office and calling their representatives to create the change they want to see, she said.

Red, the color people will wear in solidarity of A Day Without a Woman, is representative of this, St. John said. She said she has a button on her desk that reads, “Speak your mind even if your voice shakes.” Red reminds her of this quote and to be bold.

“We all need to be more vocal,” Aquila said. “We have to take every step possible to have our voices heard.”