Cartoon by Bernard Bouton

Beyond #MeToo, With Pride, Protests and Pressure

The New York Times

ROME — In the era of #MeToo and Time’s Up, International Women’s Day arrived on Thursday with a sense of urgency and determination.

For many women, there was a keen awareness that there had been a major shift in the firmament when it came to gender parity, the treatment of women in the workplace and sexual dynamics.

But others — scratching out lives in developing countries in Africa, toiling away at jobs with little pay in Latin America or scrambling to raise children without help in the Middle East — most likely had little time left over to reflect on the one day of the year designated to celebrate “the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women,” as the website says.

Nonetheless, Margrethe Vestager, the European competition commissioner, said on Twitter: “There is a lot to fight for: Engage! Women and men alike. We need power to make equality a reality.”Some women, fueled by impatience over the long-running fight for equality and the sense that the glacial pace of change would just not do, found large and small ways to protest — with pots and pans, raised fists and howls of rage.

A ‘domestic strike’ and a discount

To highlight gender inequality, feminist groups in Spain asked women to spend no money and to ignore chores for the day — to go on a “domestic” strike.

The actress and mother Penélope Cruz said she was on board. Joining several left-wing politicians, two prominent members of Spain’s governing conservative party, Agriculture Minister Isabel García Tejerina and Cristina Cifuentes, the head of the regional government in Madrid, announced that they would observe a day of work-to-rule, in which one works exactly the hours assigned and no more.

The newspaper El País posted a video explaining why it was not fully staffed: The women were away.

Hundreds of women gathered at midnight in Puerta del Sol, in the heart of Madrid, to kick off a day of protests across the country, with about 120 street demonstrations scheduled later on Thursday. Women banged pots and pans and shouted slogans during the protest.

The mobilization in Spain had the backing of most trade unions. Ten unions called for a 24-hour strike, while others called for two-hour work stoppages. Service on Madrid’s metro system was significantly disrupted after the Transport Ministry announced that 300 trains would not be operating. Renfe, the national railways company, canceled more than 100 long-distance trains because of the strike.

The women’s strike was covered extensively on Spain’s morning television and radio shows, but not by the country’s most famous female presenters, who stayed away from work.

“If women stop, it has to be noticed,” Ana Rosa Quintana, a TV presenter, wrote on Twitter.

The issue also generated some political controversy. The regional Parliament of Valencia was split on Thursday, as right-leaning female lawmakers took part in a session while their left-wing counterparts left the assembly and hung signs on their chairs that read, “I’m stopping.”

The leader in Valencia of the conservative Popular Party, Isabel Bonig, argued that striking lawmakers ridiculed the sacrifice made by other women because they could leave the parliamentary session for a few hours without suffering any financial consequences — unlike other women in other professions.

Data from the European Union’s statistical provider Eurostat show that women in Spain were paid 13 percent less in the public sector and 19 percent less in the private sector than their male counterparts. In 2016, women’s gross hourly earnings in the European Union were on average 16.2 percent below those of men.

The call for a strike went out in England, too, where it was organized on social media by a group called the Women’s Strike Assembly UK: “Today #WeStrike! Wear red, bring an umbrella & join us.” And in France, where the gender pay gap is 25 percent, according to one paper, Libération, Thursday’s edition was sold with two prices: 2 euros for women, and €2.50 for men >>>