- The Washington Times - Monday, March 6, 2017

It’s being billed as “A Day Without a Woman,” but apparently only pro-union, pro-choice, anti-Israel women who can afford to skip work need apply.

The one-day “general strike” is coming under fire from the right and the left for its mixed political messages, as well as the havoc caused by the closure of some schools Wednesday driven by anticipated staff absences.

At least two large school districts — Alexandria City Public Schools in Virginia and Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools in North Carolina — have announced that they will close in anticipation of hundreds of staff absences, igniting a backlash from parents.

A possible reason for the absences? The U.S. protest is being led by the Women’s March on Washington, whose partners include the nation’s two largest teachers’ unions — the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers, an arm of the AFL-CIO.

Conservative pundit Mollie Hemingway, who lives in Alexandria, posted phone numbers Monday for the school district along with the message, “Local gov’t schools are shuttering for leftist propaganda day. So thankful my daughters have better role models at their Lutheran school!”

The Wednesday protest, which coincides with International Women’s Day, is billed as a worldwide “one-day demonstration of economic solidarity.” Participants are urged to take the day off from “paid and unpaid labor” and wear red.

Organizers also have called on supporters to avoid shopping “with exceptions for small, women- and minority-owned businesses.”

“The goal is to highlight the economic power and significance that women have in the US and global economies, while calling attention to the economic injustices women and gender nonconforming people continue to face,” said the statement.

Like the Women’s March, however, the event is embedded with political messages that many women may find objectionable.

The Day Without a Woman manifesto includes strong support for unions, a “living wage,” “fair pay” and “solidarity with the sex workers’ rights movement,” without explaining what those policies entail.

One of the group’s premier partners is Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest abortion provider, which effectively shuts out pro-life women, said Kristan Hawkins, president of Students for Life of America.

“Does Planned Parenthood, a main sponsor of the Women’s March, approve the closing of schools and putting unnecessary burdens on women, especially working mothers who rely on a regular school schedule?” said Ms. Hawkins. “Are they OK with children from low-income families who will go hungry on Wednesday? Women’s empowerment shouldn’t rely on putting other women and children in precarious situations just to make a point.”

Then there’s the Israel angle. Among the international organizers is Rasmea Yousef Odeh, a Palestinian activist who was convicted in a 1969 Jerusalem terrorist bombing that left two Israeli men dead and was released 10 years later as part of a prisoner exchange.

“So, here we are in 2017 and a convicted terrorist who murdered two people with impunity (even Odeh’s cousin confirmed in a documentary that she was responsible for the attack) is a leading figure in the contemporary women’s movement,” said Willem Hart in an op-ed on the B’nai B’rith Canada website.

He pointed to the prominent role in the Women’s March in January played by Linda Sarsour, an outspoken advocate of Shariah law and the anti-Israel Boycott, Divest and Sanctions movement.

“And, just as Linda Sarsour’s political agenda was given credence in January, not to mention landing an audience of millions of people, now yet another vehemently anti-Israel, anti-Zionist, and antisemitic ‘activist’ will be given a platform to spew her radical ideologies,” Mr. Hart wrote.

Despite the protest’s staunch left-wing agenda, even some progressives are uncomfortable with the event, arguing that only “privileged” women have the wherewithal to take a day off without economic consequences.

“The idea behind the strike is a noble one. Who doesn’t want economic equality for everyone?” said feminist writer Maureen Shaw on online news outlet Quartz. “But in practice, most American women cannot afford to opt out of either paid or unpaid labor. This fact, coupled with the very broad aims of the strike, is concerning.”

The idea is modeled on events like last month’s “A Day Without Immigrants,” which was intended to highlight the economic importance of noncitizens. One key difference is that while most immigrants are not instantly recognizable to those who interact with them on the job, most women are.

“We are nearly half the labor force now. We are just as important in the workplace and to our families’ fiscal welfare as men. All things being equal (which is what we’re after, right?), we are too essential to play hooky,” said Los Angeles Times columnist Meghan Daum.

In its Monday statement, the Alexandria school district insisted that the decision to close for the day was based on staffing, not politics.

“The decision is based solely on our ability to provide sufficient staff to cover all our classrooms, and the impact of high staff absenteeism on student safety and delivery of instruction. It is not based on a political stance or position,” said the district.

Both the Virginia and North Carolina school districts were flooded with messages on their Facebook pages from parents and others. Some praised the closures as a way to stand with teachers, while many blasted the districts for kowtowing to political pressure.

“It’s illegal for public servants (and yes, that includes teachers) to strike in North Carolina. I would hope that CHCCS would put a stop to this nonsense — as in FIRE THEM,” said Megan Elise in a post.

• Valerie Richardson can be reached at vrichardson@washingtontimes.com.

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