Wednesday, March 8, 2017

International Women's Day 2017

Today is International Women’s Day. It is actually the 100th anniversary of the celebration. There was a celebration at the end of February (the 28th) 1909 put on by the Socialist Party of America called “Women’s Day”, but it was really the 8 March 1917 “Women’s Day” textile worker demonstration in Petrograd (now Saint Petersburg) that got the celebration cooking along. The textile workers’ demonstration also got the Russian February Bourgeois Democratic Revolution cooking along.

The February Bourgeois Democratic Revolution was called a “February” revolution because when it started the Russians were using the old-style Julian calendar. The Soviets would skip over the 1st through the 13th of February 1918, and declare the Gregorian calendar (the one we use today) as the official calendar for the Soviet Union. Then they would mess around with different length weeks and other stuff until they decided it would be best if they had the same calendar as the rest of the world. Women’s day was put on as a celebration to honor the revolution-inciting demonstration, and moved to the new date of March 8th as the Soviet calendar solidified.

Of all the celebrations of International Women’s Day my favorite occurred in 1973. The Lunokhod (“Луноход”) 2 rover had been driving about Le Monnier crater on the moon since the Soviet Lunik 21 lander had dropped it off on the 16th of January. The rover was slow, and the control even slower; at night it would hibernate to conserve the solar energy its old-style solar collectors could barely supply. In the 4 months it operated before it died it only traveled 37 kilometers; that’s a little over 300 meters a day. On the 8th of March the signal was sent for the rover to perform two circular movements that most American teenagers would immediately recognize as “doughnuts”. Last year I told a group of former American teenagers that the Soviets had left a temporary monument to International Women’s Day on the moon, and then I showed them a picture of the tracks. One of the male American former teenagers commented that it was cool that the Soviets drew boobs on the moon to celebrate International Women’s Day, and that men in the USA could never get away with something like that. I pointed out that it was an “8” for 8 March, and that the UN did not officially recognize International Women’s day till two years (1975) after the Soviets had done doughnuts on the moon to impress women everywhere.

The February Bourgeois Democratic Revolution really did get the Russian Revolution started. Czar Nicholas II of Russia would abdicate on the 2nd of March (Julian, which would become the 15th of March Gregorian). A provisional government would, almost immediately, give women the right to vote. A little over a year later, at 2 am on 17 July 1918, Nicholas II, and all the other Romanovs the Bolsheviks had on hand, were shot by a squad of Cheka (Bolshevik secret police) led by Yakov Yurovsky. Yakov personally shot Nicholas several times in the chest. He then had the bodies dumped in an abandoned mine, and then had the bodies retrieved from the mine, and was moving them to another site when the cart carrying them broke down on Koptyaki road, and he just had a pit dug right there; the bodies were discovered and identified in 1991. Autopsies confirmed descriptions of the execution, including the difficulty the huge quantities of precious gems the Romanov women had sewn into their clothing had caused the executioners; unable to kill them with a few rounds to the chest they had repeatedly bayoneted them, and then shot them in the head.

Decades after the execution of the Russian royal family (and a handful of servants) it was believed that one woman (Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaevna ) had survived. The hasty pit of royal remains that was discovered in 1991 did not contain Anastasia’s body, and this fueled magical theories surrounding Rasputin (a magical snake-oil salesman in Czar Nicholas II’s employ) and the escape of Anastasia. Several people claimed to be Anastasia, one imposter (Franziska Schanzkowska) argued for over 50 years that she was Anastasia (She died “Anna Anderson” on 12 February 1984 after immigrating to Charlottesville Virginia and marrying a history professor by the name of John Eacott "Jack" Manahan). There was talk of the return to power of some hidden Romanov descendant of Anastasia when the destruction of the Berlin wall was completed in 1992. Disney even made an animated movie in 1997 about Anastasia’s escape, and that movie spawned merchandise, books, toys, and at least one computer game. In 2007 the mutilated and burned 90-years-dead remains of Anastasia and her brother were discovered and confirmed with DNA testing

Today “A day Without Women” protests and marches have been organized all over the place. These are an obvious product of the same dissatisfaction with the policies and promises of the 45th POTUS that led to the huge (much larger crowds than the inauguration I am told) women’s march(es) that occurred all over the place on January 21st. Some places the protests have caught on, but here in rural Utah most women I have talked to don’t know or care about the protests. There is this weird free-floating feeling here in Utah that there is just one woman who counts, and that is Hillary Clinton, and that she lost, so protestors should just “get over it”. The fact that the president keeps mentioning her in his press conferences and speeches helps to reinforce this idea that Clinton’s electoral loss is the main point of all the protests that question anything the current president is promising or doing.

When I hear the news of “A day without women” I think of a singular woman this day is without. The woman isn’t HRC. I do nurture a little shock that HRC is not the POTUS. I think she was the best candidate for the job, and a majority of Americans agreed with me. She lost the election fair and square (I reserve judgment on the impact of Russian meddling though). The fact that the president is doing things in his job that annoy many of the same people who did not want him to be POTUS does not mean that their opinions about how well he is doing his job should be dismissed out of hand. I have a feeling that Trump will continue for some time to treat his term in office as a victory lap for the election instead of as an actual job.

The idea of women protestors flies in the face of Christian scripture. It is no surprise that the right-wing Christian conservatives that populate The White House are unable to respond to the voices of these gatherings of females; even on this International Women’s Day that was born from an event where the collected voices of some women toppled a government, and ultimately condemned their country’s leader, and his entire family, to death.

“But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.” 1 Timothy 2:12 (KJV)

The woman I miss this International Women’s Day is a great old friend from high school days. Her husband of about 30 years (I attended their wedding) found her cold and unresponsive on the morning of March 6th; she had died, hopefully without pain and peacefully, in her sleep the night before. In high school she was my friend and one of the several unfortunately unrequited foci of some of my overflowing romantic teenage attention. Each picture that her many friends on social media post (she herself had dropped off most social media sites quite a while ago; she complained of the constant irritation the posts brought her) remind me of how beautiful and goofy-looking she was. We had conversations about Rasputin, and the aspects of magic that one could just know were everywhere. She was a breast cancer survivor, and a mother whose love for her children seeped out of her pores whenever she mentioned a child’s name (her daughter is around the same age as AYD), and she had struggled for decades with heroin addiction. Living with her must have been at times crazy, and complex, and weird, and wonderful, and at other times all four at once. When I was struggling with the decay of my marriage she took me in for a couple days, and talked to me in a way that gave me the type of awkward confused hope every tomorrow should have. That hope lives on despite the fact that there is, today, a hole in the fabric of tomorrow.


Kimberly Wilson said...

I am so very sorry for this terrible loss. I am sure your friend would appreciate this tribute to her.

adult onset atheist said...

Thank you.

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