march 8, happy international women’s day

Originally published on 03/08/2013

Today, as all of you know, is March 8th.  This perhaps is only significant to you if you are either an early twentieth century socialist or live somewhere in the in the former Soviet bloc.  Thus, as many of you may not know, today is International Women’s Day.

Despite the fact that International Women’s Day is today almost exclusively celebrated in Russia and Ukraine, it was first celebrated as a national Women’s Day in America after a declaration by the Socialist Party of America in 1909.  I suppose it may be less celebrated it in America due to the dissentient feelings towards all things related to communism over the next one hundred years.  But who knows.  Anyway, I had never heard of it until I started studying Russian back in 2008.

But what exactly is Women’s Day?  Well, originally I suppose it was a day to recognize the women in the work place.  Or perhaps it was a struggle for women’s rights.  In the international scope, it may still carry some of these meanings.  But for the average Russian, March 8th is somewhere in between Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day.  A day when we commemorate (but mostly the living) our women and express our gratitude for all that they do.

Finally, I get to the point of my post:  To express my deep gratitude to all the women in my life.

Living in Russia has given me a different perspective on womanhood.  This perspective is founded on three broad principles:  women are strong, women are teachers, and women are spiritual.  Of course, women are all these things in America, and everywhere else, too.  But living here has helped me see these things more clearly as I’ve searched for similarities between our cultures.

Russian women are strong.  First of all watch the YouTube video above.  Yup.  They’re strong.  If a babushka can kill a wolf with an ax…  Well, anything is possible.  But really.  Russian women are strong.  They have lived through so much.  Whether it was every fourth man dying in WWII or the military conscription of 25 years of the past, Russian women have frequently been left to raise families alone.  And even when there is a man to help raise the family that hasn’t always been a good thing.  Traditional folk music speaks of women being beaten by husbands, usually in connection with how their husband was a drunkard.  This has been around for a long time.  Seeing the babushkas here, being around the women, and knowing the history, has helped to realize how truly strong women are.  I would like to express my gratitude to women for being so much stronger than men; for enduring us and loving us men all the same, no matter how terrible we (men) are.

Russian women are teachers.  As men have left women to raise their families, women have become the main transmitters of culture and tradition.  Women, like tradition, are deeply important in Russian culture.  This love of tradition is the coalescent factor that holds the Russian family together; there is a different respect here for parents and grandparents, especially the mother and grandmother.  Women are the teachers, the ones who raise the traditional family.  Not just in Russia, but anywhere that holds that providing for the family is a male role, leaving the women to teach and nurture the children.  That takes a lot (women are strong), but says a lot about how particularly wonderful, and important, women are.  Women, in the end are the reason we all exist the way we are.  Thank you.

Russian women are spiritual.  Seriously, go to any Russian Orthodox temple, not only is the number of church goers is overwhelmingly women, but I feel like there are even more temple workers that are women – cleaning, changing candles, caring for the temple.  That implies a lot.  I think this is directly connected to the womanly attribute that makes women such great teachers.  In general, I think of Russian culture as a giant home with the mother the spiritual figure of that home.  Indeed, Mary, as the Mother of God plays a much larger role in Orthodoxy than other Christian religions.  She is the most important mother figure, connecting motherhood with holiness and womanhood with divinity.  Truly women are divine.  Thank you for the spiritual giants you are.

Anyway, a lot of blathering just to say I love you.  Russian women, American women, any other women, you’re all great.  I am grateful for all the women in my life who have helped me to know Christ, to know myself, and to know life.  I am grateful for all the things women have taught me about the world.  And I am grateful for the example of moral, emotional, and physical strength women are to me.

A special shout out on International Women’s Day to:  my mom, my beautiful wife Ashley, Elena Minyonok, my auntie Karen, and my grandma Ralston and Cardoza.  Obviously, I can’t name all the women that have played a role in my life throughout the years, but any women from high school, my mission, and post mission experiences, know you’re all loved and your memories are cherished as well.  Thank you all.

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