Last year, Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych made his position on women clear during his unfortunate presentation at Davos. Yanukovych invited tourists and others to discover Ukraine for themselves. "All you need is to see it when the weather gets warm and Ukrainian women begin taking their clothes off," promised Ukraine's commander in chief. "What a beautiful sight."
To round off the branch of government approach to women's place in Ukrainian society, one can turn to none other than Ukrainian Prime Minister Mykola Azarov, the oldest of the trio, who until very recently had no women in his cabinet. (Now he has one, but seemingly not through any effort on his part.) When asked why there were no women ministers in government, he replied: "Some say our government is large. Others complain there are no women; there's no one to look at during our meetings, only dull people. With all due respect to women, implementing reforms is not women's work."
These three men are using March 8, International Women's Day, to bamboozle Ukraine's overworked and underpaid women with lofty but essentially empty words about women's role in society, their value and worth, their beauty and kindness.
The Ukrainian president received a group of women community leaders on March 7 and said women should have "women's happiness" in their lives, because for him, a woman is first and foremost a mother.
In a 39-second video greeting posted on his website, the prime minister -- framed by a vase of pink tulips and with a pained expression on his face -- droned on about March 8 being that day when women could hear "all those warm words which we often don't tell you during other days."
"May your families have prosperity, may your children grow up healthy, may you have love and happiness," he said.
The beleaguered speaker, who claims his words about Adam's rib were taken out of context, has posted a greeting on his site that is one of the finest examples of Soviet pompous polysyllabic profundity. "On this holiday and every day, there should [be] more light, goodness and warmth, attention, and respect to Woman, mother, sister, beloved wife, the keeper of the hearth and citizen on our Motherland. This is the task of the state and the ruling powers, the permanent and honorable duty of the stronger sex."
All one can do in the face of all this is to paraphrase Barney Frank, the exceedingly witty but often testy U.S. congressman from Massachusetts: "On what planet do these men spend most of their time?"
On Planet Ukraine, a country that in many ways seems to be the place that time forgot. It is old fashioned, male-oriented, tribal, and much in need of modernity. Not only in terms of concrete infrastructure, but first and foremost in the heads of its politicians.
That's the country advice provided on the international moving company Interdean's website.
Ukraine has no women mayors, no women governors, only one newly minted minister, just two parliamentary committees are chaired by women. The country's best known female politician Yulia Tymoshenko is behind bars. But Ukrainian men looooooooooove women, the hearth keepers, the mothers, the long-legged arm-candy blondes.
Yes, hooray for International Women's Day, that much-loved Soviet Ukrainian holiday, during which fat, jowly, perpetually hungover men present their women folk with flowers and ply them with champagne, only to treat them like second-class citizens for the other 364 days of the year.
-- Irena Chalupa