When "normal" is shocking

Today is International Women's Day- well, for another two-and-a-bit hours, anyway- and as a result I was actually at a bit of a loss as to what I should write for the day's post.

I could have written in amusement about how a "day without women" is not at all a bad thing. I could have written a message to Western women , full of love and hope and respect, pointing out that they really need to shut their yaps and quit complaining, because they have it better than any generation of women at any point in human history. I could have spent it roundly mocking the twits* who decided to spend this day marching and shrieking and virtue-signalling like a bunch of deranged harpies against President Trump.

But there are plenty of other writers, all of them with far more time and skill than me, to do all of these things. Instead, I want to tell you a story.

This particular story starts in Russia- a country that offers the West a glimpse of what life could be like if only we stopped pretending that men and women are the same.

There is a lovely and delightful woman of my acquaintance, of whom I may have written once or twice here. She works for a large international firm in Russia, where International Women's Day is an actual holiday- and where, the day before the holiday takes place, office workers get together and have a bit of a party to celebrate women.

In fact, around about this time of year, there are several Russian public holidays all clustered together. This year, February 25th and 26th were declared public holidays in Russia, because Feb. 25th is what is known as "Defender of the Fatherland Day", and as far as I can see, the Russians seem to think that if you're going to make Thursday a public holiday, then you might as well make Friday a holiday too. They're a very sensible bunch in many ways.

(I don't understand why they call it "Defender of the Fatherland Day", given that Russians refer to their homeland as Rodina- the Motherland. But then, Russians do have a very quirky sense of humour...)

The closest equivalent in American understanding to such a holiday is probably "Veterans' Day". "Defender of the Fatherland Day" is the day on which Russians acknowledge the terrible sacrifices and hardships endured by their people during the Great Patriotic War (their name for WWII), and honour and exalt their military veterans.

But they also use that day to exalt men. And they actually do a very good job of it.

I know- what a novel idea!!!

Oh, wait, it gets better, it really does. As my lady told me, on that day, every year the women buy small gifts- little bottles of alcohol, small boxes of chocolate, things of that nature- for the men in their office. And, again, they have a bit of a party to celebrate.

That is as nothing compared to how they follow it up, though.

On International Women's Day, taking place just a couple of weeks after what one might consider Russia's "Men's Day", the men reciprocate by getting flowers for all of the women in the office- and not the cheap crappy kind that wilt and die in two days. They get orchids. At the tail end of Russian winters.

The women play their part too: they spend the day doing very little work of any kind and instead focus on looking good as a way of thanking the men.

On Tuesday, the day before IWD in Russia, my lady sent me a picture of what the women in her office were doing in a conference room in preparation for the party.

They were sitting around, putting on makeup and doing their level best to look good. And of course, this is Russia, which means that the women were quite good-looking.

Honestly, out of about a dozen ladies in that photo, there was maybe one that was only slightly "tubby"- by American standards, anyway, by Russian standards she is likely regarded as a land whale- and they were all sitting around gossiping and applying each other's makeup.

I, personally, have never really understood the point of (heavy) makeup on a woman. I regard it as little better than warpaint, designed to disguise the lack of real beauty underneath. But I'll be the first to admit that judiciously applied makeup can render an already pretty woman capable of stopping traffic.

That aside, though, the photo that my lady sent me was, quite simply, shocking.

Not because anything untoward was going on- quite the opposite, in fact.

It was shocking because it was a glimpse, once again, into how normal, fulfilling, and downright wonderful life could be if only we stopped insisting that women need to act like men.

The women there were sitting around acting like real women.

The men outside that room were doing what men are SUPPOSED to do- provide for and look after their women.

Now, ask yourself this: could you imagine a similar scene playing out in any decent-sized office in any major American city?

I've worked for three different companies in my nearly decade-long career. I have NEVER seen anything like this.

If a man attempted to show his appreciation for one of his female co-workers by buying her a small gift, he would be hauled straight in front of some HR cunt to answer for his terrible sins and would be charged with anything from being a creeper to an outright sexual molester- unless, of course, he is very good-looking and very muscular, in which case he could be a convicted felon and still get away with it.

And just about no American woman in her right mind would ever buy her male co-workers a gift of some kind for International Men's Day. (Yes, there is such a day. It's on November 19th. And precisely nobody ever celebrates it.) That would be upholding the Patriarchy, you see, which keeps women down and insists on paying them 77 cents for every dollar that a man gets paid... or whatever bullshit it is that feminists believe.

These small gestures are radical and strange in Western society. Yet, in more patriarchal, masculine societies, where simpler and more traditional values still hold sway, such as most of Eastern Europe and East Asia, this is perfectly normal.

In Japan and much of the Far East, for instance, there is White Day, which takes place one month after Valentine's Day on March 14th. But the nature of both days is actually reversed from the Western understanding.

On Valentine's Day in Japan, women give men small gifts, such as chocolate. (There is a rather amusing episode of the much-loved old anime series, Ah! My Goddess, that focuses around the comical results of Belldandy's unfamiliarity with Japanese customs like this one, much to Keiichi Morisato's embarrassment.)

And on White Day, on March 14th, men reciprocate by giving women small gifts.

These things happen in offices all over Japan and Korea. It is perfectly normal and traditional- indeed, if a man doesn't give at least some of the women in his office a gift, it is considered extremely rude and a significant violation of protocol.

But in the West, such simple gestures of appreciation and affection between men and women are the exception, not the norm, in professional environments.

When the normal becomes shocking to a culture long since bereft of masculine wisdom and strength, and of feminine grace and beauty, the only possible result is self-destruction. Such a culture doesn't deserve to live if its people forget the very things that made its existence possible.

*I actually intended to use a different vowel in that specific word, but it is International Women's Day, so I suppose I should be respectful and all...


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