Conversations with my Russian Teacher: #1

>> Monday, 15 March 2010

Outwardly Russian women and Western European women are much the same. Perhaps the former are a little more glitzy in their fashion choices, and less conflicted about the issue of wearing fur, but other than that the format of their lives is not so different. Generally they are faced with juggling work, family, love, ambition, etc in much the same way as you might expect of women elsewhere.

Under the surface, however, expectations and Russian society norms are - for many women - slightly further back along the scale of feminist evolution than you might expect...

It's Monday morning a couple of weeks ago. Ludmilla, my Russian teacher, is explaining to me that in Russian nouns have different genders (dammit). Luckily - at least at the level at which I'm learning - there are various rules to help you work out which words are masculine, feminine and neuter. (Oh, you didn't think it was going to be as easy as just the two genders, did you Potty Mummy? Poor deluded soul...)

So, the gender of most words can be worked out fairy easily; it simply depends on how the word ends. There are some, however, that are irregular; they defy all the rules, and are feminine, masculine or neuter simply because they are...

Ludmilla was trying to give me some handy hints to use when trying to remember which gender these irregular nouns should be when not being massacred by an ignorant Brit (bear with me please; this does get more interesting...)

Ludmilla: "So, bed and door are feminine. Even though their endings look like they could be masculine."

Me: "OK...."

Ludmilla: "The way I illustrate it is like this. The woman makes the bed - so it's feminine..."

Me: "Right." (I let this pass - much as I would like to disagree, in our house it is me who makes the bed 90% of the time).

Ludmilla: "And, the woman opens the door to her husband when he gets home from work, so that's feminine too."

I look at her blankly.

Ludmilla: "You don't open the door to your husband?"

Me: "Well, in England, traditionally men are supposed to hold open doors for women, so..."

Ludmilla: "Yes, yes I know. But at the end of the day when he comes home. You don't open the door up for him?"

Me: "Are you crazy? He can open it himself!"

Ludmilla looks at me. I look at her. And based on that, and on a previous conversation we had about stay at home mothers working, she now think that I am a militant feminist. Whenever we discuss doors and beds in our Russian lessons, she raises her hand and makes a fist in a sort of Wolfie Smith 'power to the people'-type salute...

Note: I do think of myself of a feminist. But surely expecting my husband to open the front door himself at the end of the day can't be classified as militant?


London City Mum 15 March 2010 at 11:35  

Do Russian husbands not have keys to their own front doors?

Maybe therein lies the secret: the women hold the power and decide whether to let them in after a long day's work....


Potty Mummy 15 March 2010 at 11:41  

LCM, I would love to think so - but somehow I doubt it...

Glowstars 15 March 2010 at 11:53  

I wonder what she'd make of me then? Despite the fact I own a set of keys I nearly always knock on the door and get the husband to open it for me.

Muddling Along Mummy 15 March 2010 at 12:18  

Blimey. That reminds me of when I worked at a very old fashioned and stuffy bank and opened a door for myself and a grey haired type who tottered off muttering about feminists...

sharon 15 March 2010 at 12:47  

I have been known to open a door for my husband but only when he has his hands full i.e. bringing in or taking out something heavy/bulky. I don't suppose that's what Ludmilla means though :-)

Expat mum 15 March 2010 at 13:47  

The Ball & Chain comes in the back, which doesn't have a doorbell, so he'd be standing there a long time IF there was ever a chance I'd go and open it for him.
Wolfie Smith - you're dating yourself! I loved that series.

nappy valley girl 15 March 2010 at 14:17  

I don't think I have ever opened up the door to The Doctor in my life.

Maybe they are so paranoid about security that they have lots of inner bolts on the door and have to open them from the inside? But it does suggest that the woman is always home, with supper ready and waiting, when her husband returns from work.......

planb 15 March 2010 at 14:24  

Hilarious! I can just imagine the look of incredulity! In the Plan B household, we more like Glowstars. I bang on the door and make B rush down two flights of stairs to open the door because I can be bothered to rummage through my bag to find my keys
ps wait until you tell her that he washes up occasionally too...

Potty Mummy 15 March 2010 at 17:13  

Glowstars; power to the people!

MAM, I'm interested; how long ago was that?

Sharon, no, neither do I.

EPM - obviously I never watched it myself. Far too young. Obviously...

NVG, well, you make a good point and there is some truth in that. However, like you say; it's not just for practical reasons...

PlanB; 'occasionally' - have you met my husband, then?

Muddling Along Mummy 15 March 2010 at 18:22  

Potski it would be in 2000 when I'd just joined. To be fair it was an old school bastion & I knew what I was letting myself in for but occaisionally they did manage to surprise me - like the time someone asked at committee what a tea bag was because they'd never had tea made that way... Sigh

Muddling Along Mummy 15 March 2010 at 18:23  

Potski it would be in 2000 when I'd just joined. To be fair it was an old school bastion & I knew what I was letting myself in for but occaisionally they did manage to surprise me - like the time someone asked at committee what a tea bag was because they'd never had tea made that way... Sigh

deer baby 15 March 2010 at 20:06  

Goodness me - how outmoded. It's fascinating to me what other countries do with their gender roles. Last time I went to Spain all the men seemed to be sitting round watching some construction work going on and there were virtually no women around anywhere. They must have all been at home cooking.
Russian sounds very complicated - well done for taking it on.

Sam I am 15 March 2010 at 21:46  

does he not have his own key then!! Haha.

The Green Stone Woman 15 March 2010 at 21:52  

If I were young and head over heels in love with my husband, I´d run to the door and open it for him before he could get his keys out of his pocket. But I´m single and middle aged, so I´ll not be able to test that theory. I bet Russian women are much bossier than they let on.

mothership 15 March 2010 at 23:10  

Are pipe and slippers going to be feminine, too? And what about tail wagging? Oh wait, I might be getting confused.
This reminds me a bit of the Father Ted episode where he is telling off the local women and reminding them that Mrs. O'Donnell's husband once tried to make a cup of tea by himself and BROKE HIS LEG! For SHAME!

When are you coming home. This is a bit scary.

Heather 16 March 2010 at 08:46  

oh my god! Seriously? I almost fell on the floor in shock!

Mwa 16 March 2010 at 09:26  

Well, maybe if you're a good obedient little wife you should start doing that as well.
*shakes head in amazement*

Potty Mummy 16 March 2010 at 18:53  

MaM - but surely they were just showing off?

DB, I would love to say that Russian isn't complicated at all and I find it all ridiculously easy, but... IT IS! It is complicated! What the hell was I thinking?

Sam, well funny you should mention that - he does forget it rather often (but then you know my Husband, of course, which is probably why you mentioned it!)

Irene, you're probably right. They just pretend to be meek and mild. I would like to think so, anyway...

Mothership, I loved that episode too... As for coming home, hmmm (it's nowhere near as bad as I make out - you do know that, don't you?)

Heather, you and me both! Go on - move over the border - you know you want to...

Mwa, well I would but of course I'm normally too busy ironing his underpants.

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