The celebration of International Women’s Day in modern Russia is primarily associated with an extra day off and obligatory flowers and gifts for women, while the initial political and social meanings of the date remain almost unaddressed. However, this has not always been so.
The two main gender-specific holidays came to modern Russia from Soviet times. February 23 and March 8th were not as unequivocal at the time of their occurrence. Instead of honoring military personnel, February 23rd gradually turned into a day of chanting all men and the idea of masculinity. A similar fate awaited March 8th. Invented as a symbol of the struggle for gender equality and respect for female labor, the holiday became just an excuse to give a woman a present one more time a year, except for her birthday.
History of International Women’s Day
International Women’s Day was invented by the socialist movement. In February 1909, women in New York took to the streets demanding equal pay and the right to vote for women. It is striking that even now, a century later, the issue of salaries remains open. The German socialists and the notorious communist Klara Zetkin, together with Rosa Luxemburg next year at the Women’s Conference agreed that a holiday was needed that would promote equal rights for women, including suffragist ideas.
The celebration came to Russia in 1913. Women’s day was not at all as peaceful as it is now but was accompanied by rallies and demonstrations. So, on February 23rd, 1917, according to the old style (that is, March 8th according to the new one), the strike of textile workers and the subsequently organized march demanding equal rights for women became one of the triggers for a further wave of protests that led to the February Revolution. Coinciding in date with one of the most important turning points in the history of Russia, the holiday as a tradition was strengthened in the USSR. Until about the 70s, March 8th was primarily associated with the participants in the revolution and their successful struggle for the independence of women. One way or another, the history of the holiday in the West and in Russia indicates that it was primarily invented as an instrument of emancipation and popularization of respect for women.
Match 8th celebration in modern times
Nobody knows when and why processions and demonstrations were replaced by the current candy-bouquet tradition of celebrating International Women’s Day in Russia. Some authors believe that the conscious and consistent policy of the Soviet leadership was to blame. Already in the 30s, the much-needed female departments involved in campaigning, education, help and the struggle for women’s rights were abolished. Thus, women lost their social elevator and did not reach new heights in equality. Subsequent women’s organizations were largely nominal. Gradually, the revolutionary theme disappeared even from postcards, and the emphasis shifted to the chanting of female beauty and motherhood, making the holiday look more like Mother’s Day in other countries.
In 1966, under Brezhnev, March 8th was a day off, so the active idea of the date finally died out. Today, the holiday has finally turned into a day of following stereotypes about women. This is noticeable both in traditional gifts and in the description of International Women’s Day on the Russian-speaking Internet. According to the Levada Center, in Russia, the most popular gifts for March 8 are flowers and sweets, as well as perfumes and cosmetics. According to VTsIOM, only 5% associate the holiday with emancipation. On the one hand, this survey shows a positive trend regarding equality – the number of people who believe that women deserve the same privileges as men have increased 1.5 times. On the other hand, every fifth respondent still considers men much more capable than women. The gender of the survey participants is not indicated.
Any gesture of goodwill is wonderful, the main idea is that it does not mean that women are disrespected on other days. Many people like gifts dedicated to specific holidays, and if they are not designed to emphasize your dependence and imposed weakness on the other days of the year, then nothing prevents them from being accepted. However, the prevailing tradition of modern Russia indicates that, unfortunately, there is no sign of equality yet, and March 8th is perceived as the only way for a man to take on part of “purely female” duties.