Last week we took a decidedly serious look at International Women’s Day in Russia. Yes, it did arise from important issues of equality, recognition, status and more. It’s the time for inspirational quotes, as Rudyard Kipling once said: “A woman’s guess is much more accurate than a man’s certainty”. There’s plenty more on the Women’s Day Celebration blog here.
Let’s not forget that it is also a celebration. It can (and should) be enjoyed as well as respected, particularly if you are on the receiving end of all the ‘consideration’! It’s sometimes referred to as the “Day of Spring and Flowers”, which seems strangely romanticised and at odds with the struggle that gave rise to the occasion.
So how does IWD pan-out today? Well, for most of those involved, it manifests as a hybrid of Mother’s Day and Valentine’s Day – hopefully without the Oedipal connotations that this implies (good grief).
Think gifts. That’s chocolates, flowers, cards, poems, cake, miscellaneous presents – the whole pantheon. The idea is not to drop off the merchandise and “we’re done” though – there’s also the Queen for a day issue.
There’s an expectation/obligation, as a male, to put yourself out by doing some extra carrying, fetching and generally relieving the women in your life of those traditional roles that still exist across various societies (even though we in the West like to trumpet equality). I’m going to say the word “housework” at this point, as an example.
It’s still there: I was recently on a call to a woman in Samara, with whom I practice Russian. She’s very bright, self-employed, creative and successful. She also decided to end the session because she “had to” clean the flat before her husband got back from work. It happens. It’s also not uncommon for Russian women (and those of related cultures) to live with their parents late into their 20’s, work full time and still return home each night to prepare their dad’s tea – lest they be judged a “bad daughter”.
I also got a glimpse (by proxy) of what IWD can be like from the male side. In a previous life, I spoke to an English ex-pat who described a March 7th full of foreboding, a half-nation in fear of tomorrow’s impending storm. Picture anxious males with thousand-yard stares rushing around to grab the last garage-forecourt flowers (or Russian equivalent) and price-inflated knick-knacks, lest they really, REALLY mess-up the next 24 hours and have to deal with the extended post-mortem guilt-drama.
Anyway, this article was supposed to be fun. I’ve drifted off-track again. Outside of the earlier addressed benefits, there’s also the compliments, the taking-out and treating nice, the away-days and the shopping trips, whilst you (the male) are relegated to the role of chauffeur, cash dispenser and baggage handler. But she’s worth it, right?
Well, if you are obliged to make tea for your father for the rest of the year, then you may as well milk it on March 8th. That’s only fair.
[Photo by John Kopiski]