“Women who are trying to bring mobilized relatives back home will not have a celebration.” International Women's Day in Russia

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The Barents Observer: Are you going to celebrate March 8th? What does this day mean to you?

Anna, 37 years old, Severodvinsk, manager of household chemicals stores: 

“For me, March 8 is a holiday to congratulate mothers and grandmothers. It’s just a family holiday, to meet, sit at home at the table. For me, this is no longer about equal rights for women, but a spring holiday, it’s about the appearance of the sun”.

 

Ksenia, 30 years old, Murmansk, tourism manager:

“March 8 is more of just a day off for me. This day is important for me as a way to show your mother and grandmother how much you love them. That’s why we will have small family gatherings around the table on this day. Of course, we will give flowers to each other”.

 

Svetlana, 40 years old, Karelia, teacher:

“I have never celebrated March 8th. These kinds of national holidays in Russia are fake, not real. Just for show. The holiday itself has historically been significant all around the world as a symbol of women’s independence. But it was never perceived like this in mordern Russia. Here they simply always tried to create the appearance of a holiday. Now, after already a third year of this nightmare has begun –  I mean the outbreak of military operations on the territory of Ukraine – people are dying every day.

It seems to me that in this context, any holiday in Russia is some kind of satanic fiest. Celebrating such a holiday now is inappropriate, in my opinion.

 

And recently, the events of the last weeks have demonstrated the real attitude towards women in our country. For example, how Navalny’s mother was treated. Also, there will be no celebration for those women who, as mothers and wives, are now trying to bring mobilized relatives back home. In today’s context, this holiday seems out of place”.

 

Olesya, 47, Severodvinsk, educational course manager: 

“I don’t like this day, because in Russia women are often given exclusive attention only on this day. I wish it wasn’t just one day a year. I am not deprived of attention; there is enough male attention for me. But unfortunately, many women see this attention only on March 8th. For example, help with housework from the men they live with”.

 

Olga, 70 years old, Petrozavodsk, journalist:

For me, this day is just an extra day off. My husband will give me a gift, we will raise a glass of champagne with him.

In my 70 years of life, I don’t remember that anyone from my surroundings celebrated it as a day of struggle for emancipation, for the equality of women.

 

Yulia, 31 years old, Murmansk region, entrepreneur:

“For me, March 8 is primarily about work. I own a cosmetics store. From the first of March to the ninth is my busiest week of the year – men buy gifts for women. On this day, I will definitely congratulate my mother and give her a set of tea. My boyfriend always gives me flowers and a bottle of delicious alcohol. On March 9, my friends and I will have a girls’ party.

 

The Barents Observer: But initially March 8 was established as a symbol of the fight for women’s rights. And now, it turns out, its meaning has been simplified. What do you think about this?

Ksenia, 30 years old, Murmansk, tourism manager:

“We women, in principle, work exactly as much as men. That’s why I don’t see the point in the idea of a struggle. Now it’s more like a show of respect to women because we have quite a lot of work on our shoulders: not only family, but also a job. Previously, a woman was mainly involved in housework and family only.

Back when the holiday of March 8 was established, women wanted to create a career, work and earn money, and fight for rights. But now I think in Russia everyone makes their own choice. You want to take care of your family? Please do! If you want to plunge more into your career, you’re welcome. Everything has been given to you to accomplish this. 

 

Olesya, 47, Severodvinsk, course manager: 

“Yes, I know about Clara Zetkin and Rosa Luxemburg. At those times it, of course, had its reason. But in our country now women often earn more, achieve more, and are stronger and smarter than men. This is the situation we find ourselves in as a result of natural selection. Therefore, I don’t think about any kind of struggle for rights.

There are many successful women in Russia. Although in Russia at the same time, there is still a problem that appeared after the Great Patriotic War (World War II in Russia) when a lot of men died in the war and the ratio of men and women was unequal. Then women had to fight for every male individual, for his attention. But these men for whom they fought were often not the most worthy people.

Unfortunately, in Russia, women who are often smarter, more educated, and more wealthy still fight for the attention of a man, even the most insignificant one. Not everyone, but I see it almost every day. In our country, it is indecent to be single, or unmarried.

But let there be only positive emotions on March 8th. We have had enough of fighting every day for our rights. At least one day of the year is to set aside problems and to simply enjoy life, and receive gifts from men just because you are a woman”.

 

Yulia, 31 years old, Murmansk region, entrepreneur:

“For me, March 8 is not associated with any struggle for rights. Even the fact that I have to work a lot selling cosmetics on March 8 is symbolic and joyful for me.

When this holiday first was established, it was impossible to imagine that someday a girl would own a business and decide something. But now everything has changed. I’m glad about it.

I see no point in protesting. For example, a woman is in charge of our city. At the level of municipal authorities, I do not see any discrimination based on the fact of being a woman. In our city administration, many departments are headed by women and their salaries are exactly the same as men’s. In the Murmansk region, our deputy governors are women and ministries are headed by women.

I remember when I was a child, my mother was a single mother and she raised me alone in the difficult 1990s. She has always worked at leadership position. She brought me up alone, working all the time. Men had no impact on us”.

The Barents Observer: In your experience, do women in Russia really have equal rights with men? Officials in the Russian Federation, for example, have recently been calling for giving birth instead of a career, and there is talk about banning abortion… 

 

Anna, 37 years old, Severodvinsk, manager of a chain of household chemicals stores: 

“I have a daughter – and I will let her choose her own path, I will never push her: “You have to study” or “You have to give birth.”

But to study is the right thing to do anyway. Without studying, unfortunately, you can’t go anywhere, without education, you can’t go anywhere, and education gives you more than just diplomas. This, for example, is cool thing to do, this is what youth is about. The main thing is that a person chooses what he or she likes, you know?”

Yulia, 31 years old, Murmansk region, entrepreneur:

“In Russia, I know a lot of girls who work in large corporate organizations or in municipal government organizations where they move up the career ladder. In my experience, only in corporate organizations it still sometimes happens that a girl and a man have the same position, but for some reason, the man’s salary is 10% higher. This is a problem. Many of my girlfriends once used to work “for a boss.” But most of them have now come to the point where they work for themselves, and have their own businesses. Then there is no infringement of rights.

Like in the Soviet Union, trade unions should fight for equal wages, but they don’t.

But also, in my opinion, the main problem here is with women themselves. Women simply silently agree to lower salaries. We need to talk to them about this”.

 

Olga, 70 years old, Petrozavodsk, journalist:

“Now in Russia women are often not allowed to hold high positions. We don’t really have women in governments… We only have, for example Elvira Nabiullina (Chairman of the Central Bank of the Russian Federation) – she is a very good professional. Also Tatyana Golikova. For many people in Russia, the very idea of electing a woman president sounds like something impossible! This is bad. Smart, tactical and strategic thinking people should come into power. It doesn’t matter what gender they are.

The State Duma recently talked a lot about the fact that abortions should be banned, that, supposedly, women do not need education… This is such a regression! In this situation, of course, the struggle is necessary. But so far things have not come to this in Russia.

In Russia we now need to fight not just for women’s rights, but for the rights of all the people in general. For the right to have and express your opinion. It’s like we live in a prison camp. There are no rights and responsibilities. Try a step to the left, a step to the right, arrest.

 

Look at Alexei Navalny’s funeral – look at this column of police wagons near the church. It’s such a shame! Horror. There is a regression into the Middle Ages now”.

 

Ksenia, Murmansk, 30 years old, tourism manager: 

“Despite everything, young people in Russia today are very modern, they keep up with the times, and for many, their career comes first. Each one determines her own life.

From my experience, I can say that for many women in Russia today, career comes first, and then only family. I personally try to maintain a balance.

 

Olesya, 47, Severodvinsk, course manager:

“In Russia they have now expanded a number of professions for women – where women were previously not allowed to work, now they can. You can do whatever you want. There are, of course, professions where women physically cannot work. For example, lifting heavy weights is prohibited for their own safety. In my understanding, a woman should develop herself in different directions. Both family and profession. To fully reveal yourself as a personality.

The Barents Observer: Activists, for whom March 8 is primarily a symbol of the fight for women’s rights, on this day specifically highlight the problem of domestic violence in Russia. Does this problem bother you? Do you feel that women are not protected?

 

Anna, 37 years old, Severodvinsk, manager of a chain of household chemicals stores: 

“Well, yes, it turns out that we are not protected in any way in this regard. I faced this, or rather, my back faced the hit of my ex-husband. Although it is possible to prove the wounds, it is still very difficult.

But, you know, there is anyway a court system in Russia, there is justice, so this case will soon be brought to court. I don’t really want to talk about this more”. 

 

Yulia, 31 years old, Murmansk region, entrepreneur:

“Domestic violence has always been in Russia. In Russia, they even sometimes say: “If he hits you, it means he loves you.” But now there are many films and many activists talking about this problem. And men, in my opinion, have changed. This violence has become something out of the ordinary. They started talking about this more. There is progress in this regard. At least here in the north. I look around.

When my mother was my age, there were more women around her who were experiencing domestic violence. The same goes for children. It used to be normal to hit a child with a belt, but now it’s savage. Domestic violence is a problem all over the world. All countries must unite and solve this.

 

Ksenia, 30 years old, Murmansk, tourism manager:

“If someone talks about these problems, then they do exist. But another question is what percentage of people are concerned about this problem. There are certain authorities in Russia that you can contact on these issues. To ban or abolish something (like abortion) must be decided by a majority, I think.

But I honestly don’t pay much attention to these topics since I haven’t encountered these problems in my life”.