Is Every Day ‘Women’s Day’?

When I saw one of my friends had written ‘I can’t stand the Journée de la Femme’ on her facebook status it made me laugh out loud, as I had just been reading, with increasing irritation, a lot of  Twitter babble about ‘#IWD’ (that’s International Women’s Day on March 8 to the uninitiated).

I don’t know when people in Britain started remarking on the day.  I’d never heard of it before about 1 March 1995.  I recall the date so precisely because I’d been in Moscow for about three weeks and I was asking why the following Tuesday was to be a public holiday.  And it was during the subsequent few days that I learnt what a big deal it was.

It seemed that every Russian woman expected to be feted on the day, and, in the business world, any failure to send a gift of flowers or chocolates in the hands of a suitably charming young man would be noted as a slight.  The immediate consequence of this, for the firm of financial consultants for which I was working, was that a small focussed task force had to be set up, given the vital task of compiling a list of all our important contacts, buying flowers and confectionery, and building a crack squad of delivery boys for March 7.

Bearing in mind, that at the time, all of the key people at the State Pension Funds and Social Security Funds with whom we had frequent interactions on behalf of our clients were all ladies of a certain age, it was a big job.  We had conversations along the lines of Gennady should go to X because Irina Vladimirovna likes him, but Alexei should go to Y because he’s managed to charm Tatyana Mikhailovna, even though she’s usually such an old cow.

I felt a little queasy at it all, and even told Alexei he didn’t have to go if he didn’t want to, but he smiled at me ‘It is my job as a man.  And she is just like my Granny.’

I felt even more queasy when I went, with the rest of my department to the main office conference room for what I though was a team meeting to find that it was a ‘party’ for Women’s Day.  After each person had a drink, from the usual selection of beer, juice or Shampanski, one of the young men presented Alexandra, the senior Russian woman present, with a single carnation, accompanied by a flowery little speech about how kind and clever she was.  I was horrified to discover that I would be next, as all eyes followed Alexei as he approached me, carnation in his outstretched hand.

So, no.  I understand that the day has a greater social significance, where there is no Mother’s Day, and it is preferred that all women be celebrated rather than just one category, and I appreciate that the tradition of Russian speech-making requires that all women be kind and beautiful and that all men be honourable and brave, but that embarrassment of being patronised by a young man because that was all part of what one had to do in life, is a memory that can make me squirm even now.

Treat me well every day instead.

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4 Comments

  1. brendan stallard

     /  March 11, 2012

    Rowena,

    This issue continues to puzzle me.

    For instance, the decision by Bild to stop using pictures of nude women on their front covers.

    As a now retired occasional professional photographer, I can tell you this will have got a nice raspberry from a good few nude models for whom a big public exposure like that would increase their earnings by quite a few bob for years to come.

    That’s one side of the issue, another is that the decision was taken entirely by men. They sent the women home, for International women’s day, and THEN made the decision.

    The nude is a perfectly respectable artistic image, why not have nude men on the front cover, alternating?

    Or something, it just seems odd to this cove, that they sent the women home and then made the decision. It’s like that tiresome business about pregnancy. It’s always men telling women what they should do with their bodies.

    If men were the ones to get pregnant, this would be a NON-issue. I am reminded of Andy Hamilton’s vision of hell, (Old Harry’s Game) where in one pit he has Popes permanently eight months pregnant.

    “Treat me well every day instead.”

    Va Bene.

    brendan

    Reply
    • Hi Brendan
      The Bild decision had passed me by until you mentioned it and then there was a joke about it on ‘What the Papers Say’ on R4…. That’s a more complex topic I think. For the one model that makes it big from that kind of exposure there are the other 9 who are exploited and used with little reward.

      My recent art class exercises, especially last week in the National Gallery when the task was to study how painters in different periods have treated the nude, have made me realise that this is the type of thing that interests me least – I usually walk by the nudes and instead look at portraits or landscapes. Mostly my reaction is to think how much better people look with clothes on! I suspect I am not alone in that feeling, and it is the preference of the male audience which goes some way to explain why it is women who are depicted naked more frequently than men.

      Reply
  2. International Women’s Day has passed us by. In South Africa we have National Women’s Day on 9 August, which is a big deal and highly politicised. It has nothing to do with roses or how pretty and kind we all are.

    Reply
    • The UK only discovered IWD recently, and those who were marking it were trying to politicise it (or at least were indulging in endless twittering about asinine things men had done to them recently), which is partly what I found so irritating.

      Reply

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