Holidays are strange, you would have thought everybody likes them . But do we?
I used to detest Christmas till I learnt to try that not everything needs to be perfect. I blogged about that, too.
My children, who are very loving and nice to me all year round boycott the Mother’s Day, which is next week. I am quiet about it. We all pretend we did not notice all those adverts and articles about Mothers’ Day. It is a Sunday like any other.
My partner dislikes birthdays and New Year’s Eve, he proudly goes to bed around 10 pm on the last day of the year. Fortunately, he is still awake in the time of GMT zone midnight. He wishes me Happy New Year and goes to bed- on another continent.
I love birthdays and I always celebrate New Year’s Eve in style.
But the 8th March, International Women’s Day, like 7th November- the anniversary of the Russian October Revolution- 1917, were dates I used to hate with a passion.
Why? The second is pretty obvious.
But why the International Woman’s Day?
I am a woman, believe in equal rights, why did I used to hate it?
The 8th March used to be a big thing in the communist Czechoslovakia. All women used to get a gift from their employers, usually something practical- towels, ugly tablecloth, a mug, sometimes chocolates. There were office parties, similar to the Christmas parties in the West. People got drunk and occasionally go into trouble.
Husbands got drunk at the office parties, and came home late, bringing an appeasing gift to their disgruntled wives.
Despite 90% of women being in employment, the whole society was fairly sexist. Higher management posts, even in hospitals and schools, were all held by men. A school with 90% female teacher and a male headmaster was the norm. It was the same in hospitals.
Yet, in the week before the International Women’s Day, the media were full of lip service to “ our women” How we ( men) respect them, and of course how much better is the women’s position here than in the West. It was a token gesture, I do not like that.
Until I emigrated, I thought only communists and the far left celebrated the “MDZ “as we called it- abbreviation of the Czech translation. Somehow, that also took the women out of the day. MDZ…
Of course, I was not completely wrong in my assumption. It is also sometimes called International Working Women’s Day.
What is wrong with that? You might ask.
Nothing, I am a working woman myself. But some words used to be loaded with meaning I did not like. That is the problem with a totalitarian regime. It spoils the language.
Proletariat, workers, socialism, community….
It took me years to get desensitised.
But I got there in the end.
I learnt that “your enemies’ enemies are your friends “can be wrong- short after emigration, I sympathised with groups and people I no longer support. I thought Margaret Thatcher could not put her foot wrong. She did, often. But for a long time, she was my hero. Partly because the Czech communist government hated her so much.
Propaganda affects you, even in a negative way.
“Your enemies’ friends are your enemies “does not work either.
Now I often talk to my Czech friends here in exile or in Prague, and realise that I used to share those prejudices. They cringe when they hear Russian on the street. I just started a course to refresh my rusty Russian, and plan to learn more. I can now support Russian athletes, something I would never do in the past.
So maybe I can learn to like The International Women’s Day.
I have changed, but changing takes time, and it can be hard work sometimes.
Now I wonder if I ever manage to persuade my partner the man I love to stay up on NY Eve till midnight, or celebrate his birthday or Valentine’s Day.
Or if I will ever get a “Happy Mothers’ Day “card. Nope, ain’t gonna happen.
But today, I looked at the http://www.internationalwomensday.com/ website, and I feel close to all those other women out there. Some of them struggling for rights and respect we take for granted.
Happy Women’s Day, sisters!