Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Man, I Feel Like a Woman!

Happy International Women's Day!

IWD, or the 8th of March (vo-sem martom in Russian), is a very popular holiday here. It's somewhat of an amalgamation of Mother's Day and Valentine's Day, a day where women are showered with flowers (mimosas and tulips are the most popular, and only in odd numbers - even numbers are for sympathy and funerals) and small gifts. It's not just your wife or girlfriend you celebrate, either, but ALL the women in your life. Cynics say its the one day a year that Russian men are nice to women, but I'm not going to touch that hot topic!

Women's Day has an important history in Russia - demonstrations marking Women's Day in 1917 was a crucial first step in the Russian Revolution, when women took to the streets to protest the war and starvation that was sweeping the country. Following the October Revolution, Alexandra Kollontai, a Russian Communist revolutionary (and the world's first female ambassador, to Norway) persuaded Lenin to make the 8th of March an official holiday in the Soviet Union, although it wasn't made a public holiday until 1965.

A 1932 poster reading: "8th of March is the day of rebellion
of the working women against kitchen slavery" and
"Down with the oppression and narrow-mindedness
of household work!"

The holiday used to be a very clear political event, intended as a piece of propaganda that emphasized the fact that the Soviet woman was liberated from her former second-class citizen status. Today though, the holiday is much more apolitical and all the cards I've been seeing in the shops in the past few weeks mostly feature flowers and other suitable "feminine" designs rather than hardy, buxom Soviet women escaping from their kitchens!

A funny anecdote concerning Women's Day and the recent Men's Day (Defenders of the Fatherland Day, February 23): one of my students, Oleysa, has a 6 year old son named Maks, who was asking where his present was on February 23rd. "I'm a man, too!" he exclaimed. Then, when he realized Women's Day was coming up, he asked his mother plaintively, "When is it Children's Day?? There's Men's Day and Women's Day but no day for children! This isn't fair!"

Oleysa just laughed and told him, "Everyday is Children's Day!"

So for all the women out there, enjoy today and make sure the men in your life show their appreciation - because tomorrow everything goes right back to Children's Day for the next 364 days! :)


  1. How ironic that Women's Day arrives on one of my "home days". And I'm lovin' it! The very thing that I am liberated from is what brings such utter contentment. I get to do a little baking, a little cleaning. Add to that a nice long walk in the sunshine, and I've got a perfect day. Of course, I love my school days too. How lucky am I?

    Enjoy your holiday. Loved this post. What a tie-in with Fall of Giants which I just finished.To think, we will actually walk where these women took to the streets.

    PS we don't call it "Children's Day around here - as you know,we call it Michael Day"

  2. Exactly! I couldn't say it better myself. Its all about choice, and having the freedom to choose what fulfills you, whether that is staying at home and raising children, going out in the workforce, or both.

    And as for "Michael Day," I'm pretty sure that day trumps Women's Day too...after all, who's going to be enjoying the fruits of your labour today when he comes home from school "starving"?? ;)