Disclaimer: this post may appear a bit (or a lot) too preachy - that is because it is, well, political and has, um, an agenda :) But don't take it personal for a moment: I don't consider myself in any kind of a position to preach to any of my friends on here. I respect you and your opinions just the way they are. Rather, consider it an exercise in persuasive writing directed towards some unspecified female population. If it does strike a chord for you though - feel free to comment.
I have to make an apology to those who may have expected a traditional 8th of March congratulatory vignette here and never got one. In fact, this is one gift to myself I've given for several years now: not to congratulate anyone on that day and thus celebrate the true meaning of the holiday: the liberation of women. So how's that related? I'll explain.
You see, I grew up in ex-USSR. And ever since it was, well, not ex yet, but very much alive, ever since I can remember myself, 8th of March was the day of stress. Imagine your typical Mother's Day, and then imagine that you owe the same type of attention you'd give your mom - some flowers and a note, at a minimum - to every respected woman in your life: all your relatives. All your teachers. No doubt, your boss. In some instances, your co-workers. If you're smart, your business partners. Yes, if you're a woman yourself, you'll get some goodies too - but the sheer stress and expense of trying not to forget anyone and stretch your finances in the likeness of a shower cap trying to fit a globe makes them seriously not worth it. Ever since I left that area, I celebrate the feminist, liberating spirit of the holiday by not participating in this circus show, besides an obligatory call to family members.
The tradition that I embrace, instead, is Women's History Month (the whole month of March). The month to remember where we've come, what we've accomplished. As it just ended, I happened to ponder why feminist movement has fallen out of favor these days. Some say we've won all we needed and it's time to make love, figuratively speaking (because literally we've never stopped) and not war. Some say feminists won more than most women bargained for. Some say without any real battles to fight feminists have become a caricature to their fore-mothers. I say it is because women had fun fighting for freedom - until they realized it was mostly freedom to give.
Today, we have the right to serve in the military and give lives for our country (and, as recent polls show, majority is now in favor of allowing women in direct combat). To give our time and effort to something else besides our family if we work outside of home. To give ourselves in love to the partner of our choice. Even the coveted freedom over our own finances implies to be used to give - either to charity, or as part of a transaction. Let's face it, we wanted to be able to spend that money :) Yes, it's old news: freedom almost always means more responsibility. It's like growing up: most kids want all that freedom and they roll their eyes when you talk to them about the burdens of being an adult, but we know better, don't we?
I think that we as women 'grew up' into adulthood as citizens and sometimes, some of us anyway, feel nostalgic for the peaceful and carefree times of our social 'childhood' - traditional times. The atrocities of oppression are forgotten as suppressed memories of child abuse. After all, it all happened to someone else, right?
Wrong. It still happens to someone else - and will continue to, as long as we find ourselves too weary to fight any more. I just hope that 'someone else' won't be our daughters one day. I wouldn't want my baby girl to be abused by her teacher because she has special needs and can't report him (still happens today). I don't want her to have to work harder in college so her male classmates could bully her and copy her work (still happens today, to my mother's students). I don't want her to get less birthday money because her mom doesn't get paid as much as her co-workers, or doesn't get deserved promotions as fast (we all know this sometimes still happens - attempted Wal-Mart class action in point).
So let's not become complacent, but I'm not calling for marches of protest either. God knows there's been enough of those already, everywhere. Let's just exercise our freedom, give our passion or time or money to causes that matter to us: even if they have nothing to do with the feminist cause, by the very act of being responsible adults of the society, conscious citizens, we affirm the position of all women, so when some speak out for our kind, in their countries or abroad, their voices will be heard.
P.S. I wouldn't have written this post if the month of March (by pure coincidence) didn't actually turn into a month of giving for me. As many of you did, I gave to Japan disaster relief; I had given a lot of hours to my volunteer job; I contributed to my regular charities (still pending review, as per my New Year's resolutions) and I attempted to give blood, directly on March 8. Regretfully, the military can no longer use my blood - I have been in Germany for too long :(, but that felt like a very appropriate thing to do on such a day. And that got me thinking about the whole 'free to give' idea...