For the first day of razgavor ("conversation") class, we reviewed the vocabulary and phrases for describing our family, relationships, occupation, and so on. When we came to the differentiated verbs for "to get married" and "to be married" for men and women, our professor explained the difference, which I already understood and have thought a lot about:
If you are a man, then "to get married" literally means "to take a wife."
If you are a woman, then "to get married" literally means "to stand behind your husband."
Consequentially, she asked us what we thought about the two concepts. Unfortunately, I was the first person that she called on. I answered, in Russian, "In America, I do not like this concept." She then responded with a hint of irritability and superiority, "Well, in America, all women are such feminists." Continuing, she explained that it is supposed to mean that the man is a "steel wall, protecting his woman from harm and others. He is supposed to be strong, big, and manly. The woman should stand behind while he defends her."
She then promptly asked the other students (all four left) what they thought. The two other female students responded that they either "sort of" or "kind of" liked the concept, while the two male students were flustered in their responses. One said, "Well, I think the man should be responsible of course, but…well, I don't know." The other described how the woman can stand as well. Both ways, it seemed that she was reiterating the concept above: "In five or ten years you will understand such a thing." I did not mention that I would be getting married in a year.
Our second professor in grammatika ("grammar") discussed many things, ending with a short question and answer session with her. I asked her a typical question, "Do you like St. Petersburg or Moscow better?" Many Russian are very fond of their home city and have strong views on the other city. Somewhat rivals, Moscow and St. Petersburg are two drastically different cities with different accents, cultures, mentalities, and so on. Nevertheless, she answered as the previous sentence described, but continued explaining that there are "many problems in St. Petersburg, such as the migrant workers who come with their different traditions, language, religion, and way of life." Quickly she became visibly uncomfortable talking about the issue, and shrugged a bit when she admitted, "Oh, I do not know. I do not know. I know that they are here to work, but I just…oh, I do not know. I do not feel so okay with it. I do not like it." She also explained how, of course, every country as expansive and diverse as Russia has similar programs with demographics and migration. "Like in the US, you have Mexicans. Or in Europe, there are Arabs." It was an extremely interesting topic of conversation for our first class!