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.”