At Kharkiv State University, I was majoring in English and German. There were two tracks, pedagogy (for girls) and translation (for boys). This was a remnant of the old Soviet tradition where translators had to be part of the military and, hence, couldn’t be female. I was a translator even before I got accepted to the university, and it bugged me beyond what words could tell that some ridiculous ancient tradition had to be applied to me and circumscribe my life.
One of the courses we had to take was Cultural Studies. There were rumors circulating that our professor, Tatiana Fedorovna, was a feminist. Nobody was entirely sure what that meant, but people were discussing this strange eventuality in hushed whispers.
Tatiana Fedorovna was very effective at explaining to us how different the issues facing women in our country were from those that Western women cared about. But what I found most useful from her teaching was the phrase, “We have to remember that men are people, too.”
At that time, the only man I knew who was worthy of respect was my father. He worked, read, and always brimmed with enthusiasm and ideas. The rest of men whined, moaned, got depressed, and got a bunch of women to feed, clothe, service and coax them out of their endless funks. So the idea that they could be considered fully human was revolutionary, indeed.