The Women's Unfeminine Holiday
March 8 in Belarus: a celebration of emancipation has turned into its opposite. An article by one of this website's authors on the occasion of the Women's Day.
Some countries of the former Soviet Union and Africa celebrate March 8 as the International Women's Day. This is perhaps the most "innocent" Soviet holiday which has not yet disappeared from our calendar. February 23 (originally Day of the Soviet Army), which in recent years actively establishes itself as a male counterpart of March 8, or, even more, November 7 (Day of the October Revolution) are highly politicized holidays. Therefore the tradition of celebrating them will disappear as soon the government takes a rational view on what should be celebrated as the Day of the Belarusian army. An even bigger question is whether it is worth for Belarus to celebrate anniversaries of the October revolution at all. March 8 is the only holiday which has no blood on it. It does not carry all these second-thoughts like holidays associated with the liberation of Belarus from Nazi occupation and the restoration of the Soviet dictatorship after that.
Nevertheless, the modern tradition of celebrating March 8 is an excellent example of how the Soviet government has been able to indoctrinate socialist ideology and system of symbols in the people's everyday life. The struggle against religion plus a massive urbanization caused the rapid loss of many folk traditions in Belarus. To replace rural traditions there came official Soviet holidays: New Year, the eighth of March, twenty-third day of February, the Seventh of November. March 8 originally arose as a day of women's emancipation. It was a celebration of women's struggle for their rights and against their traditional role in family and society. Instead of Kinder, Küche, Kirche women demanded things that are obvious today: the right to participate in elections, better working conditions, better wages. On the other hand, after eight decades of celebrating March 8, the people's culture has indeed transformed the feminist holiday into a patriarchal one.
The modern image of a woman you congratulate on March 8 is no way the image of an emancipated courageous female proletarian. 8 March is an occasion to congratulate your mother or your loved, but not a battle comrade. According to the tradition of the last decades, on March 8 men promise to protect women and care for them. Women, in turn, should kindly allow them to do so. Men demonstrate features of knights and gentlemen, and women demonstrate those of noble ladies. A completed patriarchal idyll. As a celebration of emancipation March 8 has turned into its opposite - a celebration of femininity and motherhood. Such is the irony of fate. Post-Soviet feast of March 8 counters the views of both conservatives (as a secularized and communist holiday) and feminists (as day of knighthood and care for the ladies).
Day on March 8 became something like a Soviet version of Valentine's Day. After the collapse of the communist dictatorship it has become one more traditional shopping race for members of the consumerist society and just an other cause for good of human emotions. Maybe it is better this way.
by Alexander Čajčyc for Naša Niva