This is for me and for all of us only.
Today is International Women’s Day. This started in Russia when women there gained the power to vote. Though we North Americans have a different kind of history promoted to us from childhood, Russians are first at a lot of things.
Yesterday I was reading over my youngest boy’s shoulder and noticed that the first man in space was not Neil Armstrong (though the latter was the first man on the moon, way back in 1966). Y’all know I’m not great about science-y stuff. Anyhoo the first man in space was Youri Gagarine (in the French book my kid was reading) or (in English Wikipedia) Yuri Gagarin, in 1961. (As my hubby, who works with some Russian guys, tells me, Russian names do not translate easily to English, since in the Russian language itself there may be several versions of a name. My dad studied Russian in his youth and I remember him saying it was a case language. Case languages change name and noun endings — not only verb endings! — depending on the gender and the word/name’s position in the sentence, if I remember right.
So according to my seven-year-old kids’ French-language “1001 questions and answers” book there was first this Russian guy, Youri, who went up in space, orbited the earth once in this adorable little rocket with a bubble on the top, which he laid in facing upwards.
Of course answers generate more questions and my kids’ question was why did the diagram have a little line pointing to the guy’s space-bed in the front, with the apparently self-explanatory words “ejection seat.” As usual I didn’t have an immediate answer for him but we pondered the possibilities. Why would a man need or want to be ejected out of a rocket, like, for example, into space, if say, the rocket was about to explode? I thought there was no air up there, yo. (Actually the book tells us there is air, but only a molecule here and there). Perhaps during the landing, while re-entering the Earth’s atmosphere. That is the most dangerous part of any space flight, the book said in another question/answer.
Y’all know I love men. What an imp! (Thank god my husband doesn’t read my blog. ;))
But my husband has a smile like that. Which is basically why I fell in love with him — because of his smile. They say that Yuri might have become an astronaut on the basis of his smile. Well I don’t know about “they” but I’m saying that now. That’s how things become “they” in world-gossip-I-mean-history factoids. Lol. Check your sources people, check your sources. I am a housewife. Not much more.
Yes I am much more actually. That’s what I’m getting around to talking about here, in my own personal, womanly, idiosyncratic roundabout way. And I’m running out of time to hit publish! I have to be late for the school run in a minute. I haven’t even made coffee yet. These days I hit the page while the kettle water is boiling and I either never make the coffee or else I make the coffee and it grows cold as I type. Wah. First world problems.
First here are another couple of factoids. This French book told us, in the paragraph after the one about Youri, that the next person in space, before Neil, WAS A WOMAN. Maybe this is not news to you all. But I hadn’t really picked up on that fact when I was a kid in school, though of course I’m sure they mentioned it as an aside somewhere. (There was all this focus on the moonwalk. Plus my parents had gotten commemorative glasses for that back in 1966. My sister and I grew up drinking out of them.)
And yes, the first woman in space was another Russian, VALENTINA TERESHKOVA, just two years after Yuri, in 1963. She went around the earth 48 times in the time span of three days. So we could say she was the FIRST HUMAN BEING TO EVER GO AWAY FOR A WEEKEND IN SPACE. Right? How do you like that for my own little version of history? (Er, edit: So what if her trip started on a Sunday.)
What the hell is my point. My point was not to talk about space people and their weekends away but that’s the way it goes when I want to make a point.
My point is that both Valentina and Yuri had other functions besides being astronauts. They were/are parents, scholars, sexual beings, and creative beings, all at once. And so are all of us. Oh crap except some of us are not astronauts. And some of us are not parents. And some of us (like Buddhist nuns and monks for example) abstain from sex. Why in hell did I take this ramble? Not making me look good.
Well, I’m just a housewife, maybe. But I’m also a scientist in my own way (I bake and read and look things up and try new things and stuff). I’m a lover (to one guy, my smirky-smiled husband), I’m a mother (to four), I’m a teacher (to anyone poor soul who’ll listen to me preach total randoms) and most of all, far and above anything else, I’m a creative being. And so is every other human being, on this planet.
Sometimes our curiosity brings us for a (non-)weekend away in space, where no woman has gone before. Sometimes it just brings us to a little house in the Auvergne, France, for a bunch of years, where we can watch flowers grow.
But the most important thing is that we know, we must know with all our hearts, that we are multi-faceted, there is not one mould for woman nor any man; we can dance, we can sing, we can mother and/or father, and we can be lovers, but most of all we must continue to be curious, and we must create.
Now please go make something.
“The future is exciting. Let’s build a gender-balanced world.
“Everyone has a part to play – all the time, everywhere.
“From grassroots activism to worldwide action, we are entering an exciting period of history where the world expects balance. We notice its absence and celebrate its presence.
“Balance drives a better working world. Let’s all help create a #BalanceforBetter.” https://www.gloriasteinem.com/
p.p.s. Just back from the school run! Made it on time! Actually one minute early (buffs nails on shirt). Basically my kids are freaking amazing organizers. Did you know that Yuri’s mom was a milkmaid? His dad was a carpenter and a bricklayer. And Valentina was a textiles factory worker, before becoming a cosmonaut.
p.p.p.s. Wikipedia entry for “la Journée Internationale des Femmes” (International Women’s Day). That link is to the French version, which is always different (not just in words, but often in content as well) from the English version. (Click “English” in the left-side menu, or any other of the available languages, as you like, to see other versions.) History is written in many ways, and many versions. How will your your story be told? I hope you’ll tell it yourself.