International Women`s Day
Last week Thursday, i had to be the whole day in Tabor. I returned to Cvrcovice in the late evening. At breakfast, the next morning, Adéla, my partner, complained that neither i, nor her other friend had brought her flowers for International Women`s Day.
I responded: "Are you still so attached to communism, that you want to have flowers on Women`s Day?" Not a very nice response, i must admit. The root for it lies in the cultural differences around International Women`s Day in the former communist countries and the "west". Before 1989, when i still lived in the Netherlands, women with whom i traveled to the German Democratic Republic would always be very critical about the East German flower gesture on Women`s Day. They would say: "It looks like it, that Women`s Day is not so much a day of international solidarity between women, but another commercialised Mother Day in which men can buy off their guilt with a bunch of flowers. Their guilt for not participating in the household and caring." That remark rooted deeply into my consciousness. I would never give a woman flowers for International Woman`s Day.
But i guess the feelings here may be different. Maybe it is because in general i have failed to bring flowers regularly. Should a man bring regularly flowers home for his partner? I think that that is a good thing. At least in my situation, where my partner is a plant-freak. It does make her happy, and i think i am not doing enough there.
Nevertheless, the tradition of bringing flowers for the women seems to me a leninist hijack of International Women`s Day. It certainly helps consolidate the status quo of women having a double job (work and household), while men are massively ducking their (in the GDR legal!) duty of sharing the household work... as well as - on the job - the fact that men operate the myth of women not being able to take the highest management positions or having to prevail in caring occupations. "But we do value them, and therefore they get flowers on International Women`s Day - Hurray for the women!". It seems to me that where the ideology of equality has died after the revolution, this tradition of consolidation has remained. It would be a lot more revolutionary, when instead of buying flowers on International Women`s Day, some male politicians would take the occasion to make permanently way for female ones; or when men would organise male-only discussions on topics of male roles in sexual relations, violence in relations or things like that. Maybe an idea for next year...
Adéla revenged herself like only a real witch can. I made some sputtering remarks later that day when she asked me to clean the house during the weekend - including wet-cleaning the floors. I indicated that i needed to do my tax-administration and maybe only would have time to brush the floors dry. A quarrel developed that was smashed to an end with her remark: "... and you want to write columns for a feminist Website?!?" I postponed my financial administration this weekend... life of a pro-feminist man is certainly not easier than that of one in a conventional setting. But that is besides the point here, and maybe a topic for another column.
|Jan Haverkamp is of Dutch origin and immigrated into the Czech Republic in 1997. He worked as organizational development specialist for Central and Eastern European environmental organizations and is currently Greenpeace anti-nuclear campaigner for Central Europe. He lives with his partner and daughter in Cvrcovice near Kladno and has a son in the Netherlands.|
Názory z druhé strany - Thought from the other side
In this weekly column, pro-feminist men - men that are strongly influenced by the feminist movement - write their observations in daily life on the role of men and women in the Czech Republic.