Easter in the
Czech women can in fact be a feminist's nightmare. On the whole they tend to be a fairly formidable species, often professing that they have no need for feminism. Since the early days of the communist regime the great majority of adult Czech women have been in full time employment, and in many cases they rule the household with a matriarchal rod of iron. This is not to say that discrimination against women in the labour market and elsewhere does not exist; it does, and on quite a grand scale. Nevertheless, any mention of the word “feminism” usually provokes eye-rolling here, perhaps followed by a pronouncement along the lines of “stupid Americans”.
Last weekend I had a visit from some friends from
Not hard to latch onto the symbolism – the whip as phallic symbol, the slivovice representing water of life etc., plus the women, once beaten, often give the men a ribbon to tie onto their whip as a mark of their prowess. The British women I know who’ve heard about this ritual have been singularly unimpressed. How do Czech women react? Well, this varies, usually depending on the state of the men who come to beat them. A shot of slivovice in every household makes for gangs of louts who are roaring drunk by and behave accordingly, so the women’s enthusiasm for the ritual tends to wane as the day goes on.
However, this does not necessarily have to be the case, providing that the men learn (usually the hard way) to keep the number of their visits to a civilised minimum. The result is that my visiting friends, people of a reasonable standard of political correctness, were able to experience the ritual for themselves first hand last weekend without receiving, or dishing out, any scars to take home with them – naturally being English gentlemen we gave the women nothing more than a symbolic tap on the thighs. Still, in moments of self-mythologising drunkenness we will be able to boast that we beat a woman with a stick and she turned around and said “thank you”.