Women’s day, oh sorry!

Posted: March 9, 2016 in Rusland, Russia, USSR, Vrouwendag, Women's day
Tags: , , ,

Friday evening. Nine thirty. The ambiance in the metro is one of happiness. Almost craziness. Instead of the usual silent- looking-to-each-others-feet pose. Young women and slightly older ones sit or stand with colourful bouquets of flowers in their hands. Occasionally, I see a lady with balloons in various colours. They all smile blissfully. It takes me some time before I realize all this is because of the forthcoming international women’s day. It might be that it is only the fourth of March, but it is the last working day before the 8th. As Russia will yet enjoy another long weekend. Indeed, on the occasion of women’s day. And this long weekend has just been kicked off with a party. One in which all female employees have been feted by their bosses and male colleagues. They were put in the spotlight. They were praised with loud voices. They were thanked extensively for their splendid services. They were buried under flowers and alcoholic consumptions. And now they are all here in the metro. It might be that they are a bit tipsy. More obviously, they still enjoy the courtesy and the beautiful words that were spoken to and about them. Clearly they are daydreaming about how great life could be if it would be women’s day every day.

Except women’s day Russia also has a men’s day. On the 23rd of February. Similarities between these two days are hard to find. Women on women’s day expect, from all the man in their (immediate) surroundings, to be congratulated, flowers, attention or a real present. Men on men’s day can consider themselves lucky when they get a pair of socks or some happy underwear. Actually, only men who have served (or still serve) the Russian army are entitled to receive such gifts. All other men can forget about any attention.

The idea behind this must be that life of a man in the Russian army is as troublesome as life of a woman in Russian society. Naturally, women cannot change their fate and destiny. They will have to cope with reality of the Russian social order. But men have options to escape from the horrendous institution called Russian army. In fact, this is what every reasonable thinking man is doing. His utmost to stay far from the accursed Russian army; postponing or cancelling the service by starting (fake) studies, paying a bunch of rubles, talk with influential officials. Everything is allowed and possible. In earlier days men had the chance to be sent to Chechnya. Nowadays it might be Syria. Or any god forgiven place in this immense country. But whenever or wherever they go, every man is always confronted with the whims of their superiors. Both in war zones as in peaceful areas. These whims can be defined as physical and mental mistreatment, disdain, contempt and humiliation. The maltreatment of young recruits is notorious, and regularly young men simply die.

Therefore, it can hardly be called a provocation when I conclude that two years in the Russian army is worse than being a woman a whole life long. Is this why, if men manage to escape from their army duties, they lose the right to be pleased on men’s day? Is this a fair price to pay? Is this the logic of the female mind?

Anyhow, all women that I know in Moscow, and I have to admit, there are quite a lot of them pretend it is women’s day on any given day in the year. They walk around proudly on high heels and in fancy little dresses. They are busy with their career. Drink fruit teas in hip cafes. Chat with their friends while sipping champagne. Spend hours in beauty salons for even redder nails and less hairy bodies. Torture themselves in expensive gyms. Practice yoga to cope with the stress of daily life in Moscow. Visit theatres and exhibitions as often as they possibly can.

At the same time they do expect nothing but courtesy from a man. He should keep the door open. He should take her coat. He should let her go first, wherever they go. Unless, the place is potentially unsafe, then he should go first. He should keep on asking her if she is well and feels comfortably. Regularly he has to tell her that she is pretty and only gets prettier. Naturally, he should please her continuously with small, or even better, bigger presents. And, of course, she expects him to pay the bill in restaurant, theatre or wherever.

And so I decided to boycott women’s day this year. No flowers or kind words from me. No special attention or a new perfume. In case there is a lady that felt treated badly because of my decision, then I apologize sincerely. Next year I will be there again. At least for those who will offer me a pair of socks or some happy underwear on men’s day. And who will please me with a cold beer, warm slippers and a dinner, prepared with love and care, whenever I visit them.

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