Friday, March 8, 2013

International Women's Day (Women)

Today is International Women’s Day.  Even though this holiday is largely unrecognized in the United States, it is a significant holiday for the rest of the world.  It is the day where every female is appreciated from the baby girl to the grandma.  Gifts are given, cards presented, and appreciation expressed.  I had no idea what IWD was until we lived in Russia (1994-1996).  There is some debate whether the holiday started in the US by the socialist party in 1909 or by the communist party in Russia in 1909.  However, it is the Russians who made it a holiday where everyone gets the day off first.  And the Russian men take this day very seriously.  It is celebrated at the same level that Americans celebrate Mother’s Day.  Imagine a day where every woman in your life was given the same treatment you give your mother on Mother’s Day.   I did not know I was living in the debated birth country of IWD, but from my research it appears that the day is taken seriously in other former Soviet countries as well as Pakistan, China, Armenia, and Kazakhstan.  In other countries it is a day of political protest.  These were marked last year (2012) in Turkey, Sri Lanka, and Palestine.  These protests ranged from different issues that women still struggle with today across the globe: equal pay, sexual assault, verbal and non-verbal sexual harassment, equal working rights, poverty, and hunger.
            Even though IWD was birthed in a political ideologue that most of us do not give credence to, we must admit that having some appreciation for our achievements is always welcome.  Women have come a long way since 1909.  Here in America we enjoy many rights and privileges because of brave women who took a stand to change social perspective and ultimately laws of the land.   The biggest one of all was obtaining the right to vote.  Once we had that, things started changing for the better.  However, some laws took quite a while to achieve.  And some of the changing was not laws but social expectations.  When expectations changed about what a woman could and could not do, it opened doors of opportunity that women had never had before.  I am so grateful for all of the brave pioneers that blazed the trail for me to enjoy. 
            But with all of this has also come some aspects that I believe may have been harmful to women.  Without intending to do so, other women have attacked femininity as weak and backwards.  I remember growing up in the 80’s thinking it was wrong to want to put on makeup and fix my hair.  Back then all of us were encouraged to play with cars, grab a hammer, pick up a gun, and do everything a man could do.  We were encouraged by our teachers to be scientists, architects, and mathematicians. It felt as if they were trying to beat the woman out of us all.   I remember the day I told one of my teachers that I had chosen to become a teacher.  She almost cried.  Didn’t I see that the world was before me?  Didn’t I see all of the choices I had?   Why in the world did I want to teach?  But God created us as women.  We have feelings, dreams, and desires.  We fall in love, get pregnant, have babies, and raise children.  And it is okay to not want to be a truck driver.  It is okay to want to color your hair, get your pedicure, and cuddle up beside your husband.  Those things don’t make you any less of a woman.  It is who you are.  So for all of you out there who are grateful for all of the new horizons opened to us, but feel unsure about embracing your femininity, go ahead.  Being a woman is GREAT! 

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