Why ‘women’s’ holiday has nothing to do with our reality

“Congrats on Women’s Day!” my good friend happily said to me ten years ago.

“Congrats to you too,” I answered same way happily.

“Hey, why do you congratulate me?! I served in the army!”

It’s worth saying that in times of my youth, there was such a fool joke concerning those men and boys who didn’t serve in the army. For health reasons, for example. Because in times of total conscription, those who didn’t serve were at least neglected. Kinda ‘girls’. And this ‘kinda girls’ was mockingly humiliating.

My friend meant this.

“I congratulate you because you, I guess, have to share the senses of this holiday – the day of women’s solidarity in the fight for full political, economic and social rights,” I explained.

“Well, I do share. I’m normal,” he ensured me.

Because earlier, in pre-trend times, we had conversations over this topic. I knew his viewpoint on feminism and equality.

“So why don’t I congratulate you on this important day?” I asked.

“It’s somehow wrong to congratulate me, a man, on Women’s Day. But, agree, it would have been strange to see you and not to congratulate on March 8. It’d stupid. A holiday whatsoever. Although, I understand your logic. So, let score 1:0,” my friend answered.

I wasn’t going to compete with him but since then he had never congratulated me on Women’s Day. And he agrees with the fact that International Women’s Day is not about women, but about equal rights for women.

It seems that during the last years we have discussed this holiday inside and out, argued hundred times, crossed out those who think in stereotypes and those who infringe them, came up with definitions and senses. But every year, on the eve of March 8, it doesn’t stop us from once again analyzing the essence of this date and voicing our positions.

I have been insistently campaigning for 11 years (and googling it), I think that this crazy festivals of ‘women’s holiday’ must be stopped. These myths and lies about ‘honoring of wonderful women’ must be stopped multiplying. We have troubles with the situation of women in the country. And it’s not even about posts in the authorities, not about the observance of quotas determined by law in the electoral lists of political parties, not that a year ago 400 jobs were banned for women.

It’s about that we lag behind the developed countries which tackled the issue of domestic abuse and violence on the legislative level. They work preventively in this direction. They ratified the Istambul Convention on this occasion. They pay huge attention to the meaning of education and education on gender equality and respect.

International Women’s Day is another occasion to think about important for our society issues. And to stop thinking in the categories of ‘holidays’ when there’s nothing festive.

I’ll remind that the idea to fix International Women’s Day belonged to Clara Zetkin in 1910. It happened at the big meeting of women, organized by The International Socialist in Copenhagen. And the keynote was about the right to vote. They didn’t define at that conference on the exact date. The first International Women’s Day was held in 1 year and on March 19 in the German Empire, Austria-Hungary, Switzerland, and Denmark. A year later, in 1912, International Women’s Day was marked on May 12.

Regarding March 8, there a pile of versions, among them those that have nothing to do with reality. For example, I have repeatedly heard that on March 8, prostitutes in New York came out to strike, because some mythical soldiers couldn’t pay for their services, because they, in turn, weren’t paid salaries. Of course, there wasn’t any ‘march of prostitutes’.

In fact, on March 8, 1857, another strike took place in New York. Then textile workers went out on the streets – men and women. Women who participated in the demonstration fought for equal salary with men, for improving working conditions, for a 10-hour working day. This strike is known in history as March of the Empty Pots.

In 1908, again in New York and again on March 8, women went out on demonstration – and also it was about the protection of women’s rights at the workplace. Then in New York, the movement of suffrages gained momentum, and the strikes and demonstrations in 1909-1910 were held regularly. Women demanded the right to vote, opposed the harsh working conditions and the work of children.

In Russia, women went out to their demonstration on March 8, 1917 (according to the Gregorian calendar). At that time 2 million soldiers perished in the Russian Empire. Women came out with calls ‘bread and peace’.

The date of March 8 was defined worldwide in 1921. And during two decades this date was considered a socialistic women’s day.

But in the Soviet Union, this day, as always, began to get distorted forms. The ideology which was actively and daily inserted into the minds was based on the model of unlikely equality. Well, yes, in the USSR a woman could do everything – she could be an activist, a komsomolka, a worker, a mother, a housewife, a wife. Often all these functions, a woman handled simultaneously. Joseph Stalin claimed that in the USSR a woman works for herself, not for her husband. And collective farms ‘liberated’ women.

Maybe someone remembers, and someone doesn’t know, I will say that even women’s magazines in the USSR were called “Rabotnitsa” and “Krestianka” (A woman-worker and a woman-peasant – E.D). Two-dimensional woman’s world – either at the worktable or in the field.

It is worth recalling that after the Second World War, the world was busy without International Women’s Day. Only in 1966 in the USSR, March 8 was declared a day-off and turned into a “women’s holiday”.

And the UN General Assembly only in 1977 proposed to declare March 8 as the UN Day for the Rights of Women and Peace around the world. The resolution called for “creation of favorable conditions for the eradication of discrimination against women and for their full and equal involvement in social development.”

In 2010, the International Red Cross drew the attention of the world to the fact that it is worth focusing on the fate of displaced persons. It is the displacement of the population which is one of the most serious consequences of armed conflicts and wars.

A few years before we entered the Russian-Ukrainian war. And now we know that it is women who were forced to leave their homes because of this war, and who stay alone with their problems. It is women who raise children. It is women who often become victims of sexual harassment. It is women who are discriminated and feared. It is women who suffer from low living standards and changes in social status. And all this is only the part of the war consequences.

In 2017, for example, the UN chose the topic of the International Women’s Day as “Women in a Changing World of Work: Planet 50-50 to 2030.”

That is what needs to be discussed on this day. And not the talks about the “beautiful women who are the best what we have” – and to bug out with a bouquet and morning eggs as a symbol of endless attention and care.

Statistics in Ukraine indicate that the vast majority of people are not ready to refuse to celebrate March 8. Only about 10 percent understands what this holiday is about, and doesn’t celebrate it or hasn’t decided on their attitude (data of the Sociological Group’s Rating). And this means that the bacchanalia on the total “celebration” where it is necessary to sit down and cry, will continue.

And that is why. Because most women, suffocating from routine and injustice, gladly accept this one day as a chance for the attention and respect from society, co-workers, spouse/partner, children with postcards from school/kindergarten. Because most women just want a ‘day-off, because we’re used to it’, leaving behind any senses of this holiday, not talking about sacred ones. Because most women have a simple formula for relationships with men: from the ‘it’s a holiday, therefore, on that day he won’t beat me’ to ‘it’s a holiday, therefore he should give a diamond or, at the very least, a fur coat.’ Because most women have the words thoroughly stuffed in their heads that ‘women and men are different and have always been.’ Because most women don’t understand how one can think in categories of some mythical rights, far and wide, at a time when bouquet and sweets with champagne are real and close.

And here are some more reasons. Because marketers and sellers of whatever stuff are deeply interested in the ‘women’s day’. Go to any store two weeks before March 8, no matter where – either in a small village or in the capital of the country – all decorated with flowers, balls, leaflets, gifts. Everything screams: buy, congratulate, remember!

And a flower business. March 8 hits the records on the number of daily proceeds. Leaving behind St. Valentine’s Day and September 1. Because those in love and the students are objectively less than just ‘wonderful women’ who must be reminded on this date about their sex. Just to be reminded.

But this isn’t so hopeless. I remember the times when the country marked November 7 – ‘the day of October Revolution’. We celebrated this day around the table, we had a day-off. Needless to mention the marches and other jibberish on that day. It is gone and forgotten. And nobody makes jokes about it on social networks.

We are the witnesses of February 23 passing to eternity. The enormous number of those who were in the ranks of the Soviet Army abandoned this ‘holiday’ and don’t consider this day something as worth mentioning. Needless to mention the congratulations.

So, there is a chance. The chance to stop brainwashing and demonstrating the full order where it needs to be cried and screamed and pointed fingers at the troubles and problems.

And the flowers… Buy them whenever you want and whoever you want. This is the business which gives small pleasures to everyone – to those who buy, to those whom they are given, and even to those at whom you buy these flowers.

Zoya Kazanzhy

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