Disclaimer: this post has been sponsored by adidas. As always, all opinions are 100% my own.
I don’t know a lot of people in the US who celebrate International Women’s Day, but when I was growing up in post-Soviet Russia, this holiday was always a big deal.
Over the years my relationship with this holiday has gone through a lot of transformations. I enjoyed it, I rejected it, and then, most recently, I came to embrace it once again. This recent positive change happened thanks to becoming a mother – but not for the reasons you may think of.
When I was growing up, International Women’s Day was always widely celebrated in my country (FYI it always happens on March 8th). Besides the fact that this was a national holiday (yay, no school!), it was also the only holiday in the ex-USSR that was about women exclusively. However, the nature of celebration had switched dramatically from what the founders of this holiday had had in mind.
If originally International Women’s Day celebrated women’s rights, equality, and universal suffrage, then over the years of Soviet and then Russian patriarchal regime its meaning was boiled down to admiring women as beautiful decorative objects. The post-Soviet society aimed to convince women that they were nothing more than fragile objects of beauty – objects that needed the support of men to survive.
This bizarre approach has been institutionalized on the political level. Every year around March 8th, the president of Russia delivers a speech in which he says something to the effect of, “Dear women, please stay as vulnerable and fragile as you are now!” – and in a Stockholm syndrome-like way, women not only take it but full-on enjoy this patronizing treatment. A true woman needs to be feminine, demure, and above all, submissive to her husband, not climbing up the corporate ladder or otherwise fulfilling her dreams. Russian women have been convinced to follow this way of life and now see it as enjoyable.
As a kid and later a teenager growing up in Russia, I didn’t dig very deep into the true meaning of the Women’s Day. Sure, I enjoyed receiving candy and having a day off from school, but I also was a little puzzled thinking about why women were supposed to be treated with such admiration on this day, but the day before or after – or the entire year in between.
When I moved to the United States at the age of 21, I was a bit surprised that this holiday wasn’t celebrated here – in fact, few people even knew its date. I went with the flow and soon stopped doing anything special on this day.
As years went on, I went through a long chain of experiences that gradually made me reevaluate my own position in this world as a woman. I will spare you lots of details here, so let me just say that there were a lot of unpleasant discoveries and a few lost friendships.
Since my “coming of age” as an adult woman happened in the US, I adopted a progressive, feminism-centered approach to identifying as a woman. Every year when the International Women’s Day rolled around, I thought back of all the women in Russia who still think that being reminded of their fragility was somehow a compliment. There isn’t a lot of feminist discourse in Russia to this day, so few women ever get inspired to learn about the origins of this holiday. They aren’t aware that this holiday was meant to celebrate women’s strength, not weakness. And that’s how the patriarchy wants to keep it.
A few years into my life in the US, an interesting thing happened. I was getting more confident in calling myself a feminist, yet I chose to dismiss celebrating International Women’s Day. This happened because the only way I knew to celebrate this holiday was the the way they did it in Russia, and I didn’t want to be a part of that.
Fast forward to today, and once again I’m beginning to reconsider this approach. Why so?
Well, a big change happened in my life: in October of 2017 I became a mother. Not a day goes by that I don’t learn something new about myself and get enamored more and more with my daughter’s world.
Yet my change of heart towards International Women’s Day has happened not because I’ve softened, embraced my femininity as a mother, got firmly planted in my kitchen, etc. Ok, to some extent those things did happen, but they weren’t pivotal for this change.
I’m embracing International Women’s Day because I want my daughter to grow up strong, confident, and respectful of the hard work of women who had fought for her rights and established this holiday over a hundred years ago.
As my daughter gets older, I’m not going to give her boxes of chocolates or excuse her from household chores like they do it in Russia on this day. Instead, I’ll give her books about strong women in history, take her to museums and libraries, go to women’s marches, watch movies with strong female leads. I’ll do anything I can to make sure she grows up strong, fearless, and appreciative of the accomplishments of strong women before her.
My relationship with International Women’s Day may have gone through a lot of transformations over the years. Today I’m glad to say that I value it once again because of the fearless women who had overcome adversity to make sure that future generations of women had an opportunity to stand strong and follow their dreams. And I have my daughter to credit for realizing this.
This post has been sponsored by adidas. All opinions are 100% my own.
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