Thursday, 7 March 2013

Old Hags' Day

Tomorrow is the International Women's Day, another holiday I do not celebrate. Women's Day once a year, and the rest are men's days?

Many years ago I was asked to speak at the International Women's Day manifestation in Stockholm, to tell my poor oppressed sisters about the liberated women of the Soviet Union. I could not make the date, so I didn't have to explain to my oppressed sister how wrong she was in her perceptions. Women in the Soviet Union had to work full-time to make ends meet AND do all the house work on top of it, because men would never do a thing in the house, but once a year they were expected to give their wives a bunch of flowers and a bottle of perfume. After that, they had an extra occasion to get drunk because it was a holiday. The day after, they took an extra holiday to treat the hangover.

In school, Women's Day was about female teachers. At home, it was about mothers and grandmothers, a variant of Mother's Day. In my family, we did not celebrate it. We made the most of it being a holiday and went skiing.

At my workplace in Moscow, the union – which was just another administrative structure, nothing like a real union – had funds to give every female employee a present. After a couple of years of paper doilies and plastic pins, we asked for cash. The male union reps took a sigh of relief.

If there was anything political in Women's Day it was about oppressed women in the capitalist world who needed our solidarity. We didn't care about oppressed women in the capitalist world because we had enough of our own problems. When feminist movement started in Russia after the fall of communism, the highest point on the agenda was every woman's right to stay at home and take care of her family. 

Fortunately, Staffan never tried to honour me on Women's Day. I would have been deeply offended.

My wonderful great-aunt used to say, when greeted on Women's Day: “I am not a woman, I am a librarian”. Rather than Women's Day, I'd celebrate a Hug-a-Librarian Day. Three hundred and sixty-five days a year.


Robin said...

Beautifully said.

Clémentine Beauvais said...

Very interesting. I was listening to an interview of Simone de Beauvoir late in her life when she talked about how shocked she had been when they'd all discovered that Soviet Russia wasn't, in fact, the promised land for all women...

That said, International Women's Day stripped of those connotations remains something that I value. Not simply because of the increase in talks, events, demonstrations in the week surrounding it... but because of the heigtened visibility that's given to them in the media. So I wouldn't say it's just one day in the year of people doing stuff for women's rights: it's one day in the year when the general public is more likely to be made aware of those things.