CHALLENGING EXPECTATIONS INTERNATIONAL WOMEN'S DAY
By Stephen Wilson
"I don't want presents on this day. I find it funny to
see so many men running around buying expensive
flowers and presents for their girlfriends. But what
women need is for men to respect them and not to
scold them at home. They should try and create a
more peaceful environment at home where both of
them feel relaxed!" stated a young economist from
Siberia called Anastasia. She was not referring to
International Women's Day which is held on the 8th
of March but Saint Valentine's Day. It seems that
many men feel under obligation to lavishly shower
their girls with presents on both occasions despite
the fact that the former is largely a Western
tradition. Yet I suspect her words apply to both
occasions suggesting different women want
something more than just presents and pretty
speeches but active respect and acknowledgement
where they are not treated as an abused object or taken for granted cleaner.
Witnessing the eve of International Women's Day
itself remains a fascinating spectacle. Men appear
to rush around two days before the event purchasing
flowers at a cheaper rate to avoid the spiked-price
rise on this date. You see men frantically hunting out
all kinds of gift shops. Given the amount of flowers
which are sold on this date you might as well rename
it : The Day Of Florists!
The original political roots of such a day remain
obscure to most young Russians. It is no longer
held to be a day of protest as in the west but often
another 'Day off'. The day was originally
commemorated to remember American and German
female strikers seeking to improve better conditions.
Clara Zetkin and Rosa Luxemberg, on the 8th March at the second congress of the Socialist
International , persuaded delegates to commemorate the efforts of women protesters in
Prussia during the revolution of 1848.
Now if you read government posters hung up in
shops around Moscow you simply hear that it is
The Day of Spring, Beauty and Love. One wonders
if women are being fobbed off. The fact is that the
social status of women has tumbled alarmingly.
Even physically beating up a woman is no longer
viewed as a serious crime but a mere domestic
dispute where the police are under no obligation
to intervene even if it results in murder. A recent
horrific case arose when a woman appealed to
the police to defend her from her ex-husband who
was threatening her with death. The police woman
answered: "We will only come to you when you
are dead". Shortly afterwards, the poor woman
was murdered by her ex husband. The police
officer who answered her happened to be a
woman! The abuse of women ought to be seriously
addressed on this and many more occasions!
A recent survey indicates that the attitude of Russian
women appears to be ambivalent and don't justify
prevailing conceptions that Russian women are
very passive, submissive and complacent concerning their plight. According to one survey by the Atlantic service Rambler, as many as 27% would prefer to cancel such a celebration as they don't see much to be happy about.
However, some research by sociologists indicates
that most Russians share in carrying out domestic
chores such as doing the shopping, taking the dog
for the walk as well as giving lessons to their children.
However, 57 % of women expect men
to fix things and 75% believe he should contribute
more to the family budget than women. Svetlana Wilson told me: "I'm not against celebrating such a day. I only object to being told that I have to celebrate this day by the government. I would prefer to celebrate out of my own choice".
A 16-year-school girl Natasha told me : "I like how
they are celebrating it in the West with meetings and
rallies where they can raise issues. But in Russia how we celebrate it in comparison seems primitive".
I once came across a Russian musician who told
me: "Unlike in the West, we don't have emancipation in Russia." I lamented, if only it were true. Dream on!