With the death of Ruth Bader Ginsberg, justice for American women hangs by a thread. No march is going to stop Mitch McConnell from cutting it.
We need a 21st century strategy that uses powers women already command to stop a threat aimed uniquely at them.
I propose that American women announce they will systematically reduce 2020 Christmas shopping unless the Republicans back off.
Think about it. The American economy runs on consumption. Roughly 70 percent of US GDP comes from household purchasing, a third of which occurs each year in November and December.
Last year, retail holiday sales passed $12 trillion dollars, about $1,500 per household. But the impact doesn’t stop at retail. Dashed expectations would ripple out to every manufacturer, service provider, and farmer in the supply chain for the holiday: food, housewares, liquor, travel, clothing, electronics, books—you can name the rest.
Even on a slow day, women control between 70 and 80 percent of consumer decision-making, but when it comes to the shopping explosion of the fourth quarter, they rule. In most households, it’s the women who orchestrate the celebrations and gift-giving. Even when men provide money, it’s women who make the purchases when they stage the holiday.
In the not-so-merry season of 2020, the US economy needs women to shop. But let’s suppose America's female citizens instead pledge to reduce whatever their COVID holiday budget is by 20 percent. That’s a big enough threat to have impact in the aggregate, but small enough for households to achieve with modest changes that don’t diminish the event: buy cheaper wine, offer only one dessert, and put fresh fruit in the stockings (big apples and oranges take up a lot of space). Get really radical and stage a “regifting” celebration. Let’s face it, we can all afford to spend less on this holiday.
The campaign could go viral quickly. We might even have a bit of fun. Instagram videos getting ready for Cheapo Christmas or Hardball Hannukah. "Nasty woman" hashtags like #HaveMitchforChristmas. Craft-your-own posters for the yard. DIY bumper stickers and buttons. Missing-cat flyers on telephone poles. Visualize. Improvise.
Any woman with a keyboard and a credit card could participate; unlike a strike, you don’t have to be a working person to do this. Low-income and vulnerable women are not excluded: they are being asked to spend less, not risk their jobs. And, anyway, there could be no employer retaliation because the entire action would unfold in private.
The impact would be visible in the week-by-week reports of consumer activity that mark the lead-up to the country’s biggest spending season. Retailers start counting traffic early and usually sweat profusely if it looks like shopping could be even five percent low. Just think how they would react to the threat of a 20 percent downturn, squeezed out over a painful 90 days while the clock ticks on McConnell.
No woman can blink. If the Democrats take the Senate, the immediate threat will pass with the recess on December 21—with plenty of shopping days left to blow money. (We can tweet that out, too.) If the Republicans keep the Senate and Trump wins the Presidency, this particular battle will be lost, but a new strategy would be in the toolbox. And, let's be clear, there will be even more bitter battles to come. (Don't even get me started on what the Roberts Court has done to equal pay.) Regardless of election outcomes, it's time to get serious about women's issues in America.
Will a partial freeze on Christmas spending hurt an economy that has already taken a massive hit? It will. But if it doesn’t look like it might hurt, no action women take will bother anybody. Detractors will say women are being selfish, as they always do when they disapprove of women claiming their rights. Any other group with this much to lose wouldn’t hesitate.
Women proved they could pull off something big when they staged the largest march in American history. That was a lot more complex than the 80 Percent Holiday Season and was done on the same time frame. Crazy as it may sound, this, too, is possible.
Want to do it? The first step is just to get the word out. Share this post. The bitly is bit.ly/80percentChristmas. Or compose one of your own. Or both! Feel free to use any of the images in this post. In addition to #HaveMitchforChristmas, you can start with #80percentChristmas or #ProtestwithImpact. If you're the kind of person who makes T-shirts or buttons, by all means do it. Be creative as you spread the word.
Let's have fun while we get serious. The Republican war on women has got to stop.