‘Women Should Be Treasured Every Day’

PHOTO by Vadymvdrobot / Depositphotos
We spoke to three expatriate women living in Moscow about International Women’s Day

Camille, Communications Manager, France

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March 8 is celebrated in France as International Women’s Day but we don’t get a day off. On this day, they usually tell children at schools about the emancipation and the gender inequality problems in different countries around the world. The media also devote special reports to the struggle for women’s rights and make it the main topic of debate on different programs.

I was surprised to find that it is a national holiday in Russia. I’ve lived in Spain and Luxembourg as well as France and March 8 is not a day off there either. I thought it was like that everywhere. I’ve also been surprised by the amount of marketing involved in the holiday. There are lots of advertisements in the streets in every Russian city. For example, yesterday I was in Sochi and a rep in the street gave me a flier for discount on a massage valid only on March 8, especially for the holiday.

I like the idea of paying tribute to women

I see that women are respected in Russia in general and especially women as mothers. Although, I can’t get away from the fact that the original sense of the celebration is being lost in Russia. I don’t see emancipation of women being celebrated in Russia on this day. Perhaps I’m a little blinded by the excessive commerciality of it all but, if you give flowers to women, it does not mean you take them as equal.

I know you have a men’s day in Russia too and it seems strange to me, because it separates women and men

I remember we were celebrating February 23 (Defender of the Fatherland or Men’s Day in Russia) at the office not so long ago and the HR employee decided to decorate each chair with a balloon. I wanted to help and didn’t pay any attention to the color of the balloons I was attaching to the chairs. My colleagues said I was doing it wrong and asked to change balloons because pink was not ‘masculine’ enough and men’s chairs should not have pink balloons.

If women are the centre of attention only once a year and men don’t like things in pink so much, there is still a long road ahead to equality

In France, we have a truly national holiday – Bastille Day – when we celebrate the liberation of the whole French population from autocracy. I would say we don’t have any separate state holidays for men and women and March 8 is no different from any other day of the year for me. The only difference is that this day once again reminds me that gender equality still has not been reached.

Zhe, Student/Chinese Tutor, China

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March 8 is an official holiday in China and everyone gets a half day at work. We don’t have any special celebratory traditions, but men usually prepare dinner for their other halves or take them to a restaurant and give them presents.

They rarely remember the history of the holiday. It is more a reason to buy gifts and so there are a lot of female-oriented adverts leading up to the day itself, most often for makeup or clothes. The first time I spent March 8 in Russia I was delighted by the amount of Russian men giving flowers to women – so romantic.

If March 8 falls on a weekend you always compensate it on working days and this year we get two days off – what a treat! We only have three holidays a year where we get a few days off in a row – New Year, Independence Day and the May 1.

I had a funny thing happen not long ago. My student wanted to arrange a class for Wednesday. I later saw that it was the March 8 and replied that I didn’t have any classes on this day, so I could. He said, ‘Don’t you work on holidays? Ok, let’s re-arrange’, but I meant that I have no classes at the institute and therefore I can give him a class. This is the difference between you and us. I have read the history of the holiday and I know that it is devoted to women’s rights and independence. But in the modern world the initial meaning is vanishing. I take it more as a shopping day, because many shops have special offers especially for the holiday.

On the other hand, it proves that female status and standing has improved and society is now more considerate of our needs.

Ishtar, Student, Mexico

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The first time I was in Russia for March 8 was 2012. To tell you the truth, I knew next to nothing about the holiday and it turned out that on this day I was with my foreign friends who didn’t know much about it either.

A year later I was studying at university with my Russian classmates and I remember them giving each other white roses and chocolates. I was presently surprised to say the least.

They celebrate March 8 in Mexico but not so much. We don’t have a day off on this day and Mother’s Day on May 10 is much more popular. It is really a great holiday in our country; everybody gives flowers and gifts and at night mariachi bands sing serenades in the streets.

They sing traditional songs for moms to celebrate and show their appreciation. It is always a day off and people spend almost all their wages on good presents for their moms.

As for International Women’s Day, I’ve noticed recently that it’s becoming increasingly popular in Mexico too. At schools, they make festivals, on TV they show advertisements on struggle against breast cancer and sports companies organize special marathons. However the scale of the 8th of March is anyway smaller than of the Mother’s day.

Naturally I am surprised by the way March 8 is celebrated in Russia. There are adverts everywhere and all men seem obliged to give the women in their lives presents. Flowers, chocolate and toys can be found in any shop on this day. I prefer to think they really want to do it deep down, and not just because they have to.

Of course, it is great that it’s a holiday and you can spend it with the people closest to you and have a rest. However, I don’t like how easily marketing controls people and makes them spend money on useless things just to comply with the holiday tradition.

If you want to do something nice for somebody or give them a present, you don’t have to wait for a special day on the calendar

For me, March 8 is not a one-day holiday. I believe women and their role in the world should be appreciated every day. It is not just a holiday, but a movement for women’s rights which began more than a century ago. It is an important day because everyone should have equal rights, no matter whether you’re a man or a woman.

Author: Filippo Valoti Alebardi