Farida Rustamova, a journalist from BBC’s Russian Service comes to Leonid Slutsky’s office to get comments about Marine Le Pen’s visit to Russia.
Slutsky is a deputy of the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia and getting a comment from him would be valuable for Rustamova’s work. The conversation was mostly about Le Pen’s visit, but suddenly Slutsky says to Rustamova: “I want you to become my lover.” After that, Rustamova adds, that he “touched her pubis with the inner part of an arm.” Rustamova leaves the office in tears.
Rustamova was afraid of making a statement alone but she was not the only woman who suffered from indecent Slutsky’s behavior. Daria Zhuk, the producer of the television channel TV Rain and Ekaterina Kotrikadze, deputy editor of RTVI television channel, also accused Slutsky of harassment. After accusations, Slutsky posted on Facebook that he is pleased with Harvey Weinstein’s comparisons. One of his party colleagues answers
“I’m ready to take two women journalists for myself.”
Committee of Ethics of State Duma on March 21st decides that there was nothing wrong with Slutsky’s actions. Committee declared that accusations of three women journalists were planned to sabotage the 2018 President’s elections. Zhuk and Rustamova, who were at the Committee’s session, were not surprised with the results because there are no laws in Russian legislation to prevent harassment at a working place.
Tamara Alieva, Astrakhan journalist and feministic activist, is not surprised with the Committee’s decision too.
“Well, it is a simple victim blaming — nothing new here.”
Alieva also explains: “Such a policy towards women is still alive and vivid in Russia. If a man does steps towards you, you should be proud and never reject him; if he molests you, it means he is highly interested. If he rapes you, you are the only one here to blame, because you must have teased and provoked him. As for Slutsky, he is their friend; no surprise that ethics committee stayed loyal.”
The same reaction is from the Belorussian journalist Stanislav Press, who sees in Committee’s actions a typical fight between Russian and Western world: “There is a struggle with the patriarchy in the trend in the western world, so Russia is opposing this right now. In addition, they simply tried to defend their own friend.”
It seems like the Weinstein’s case and the Slutsky’s cases are similar, but the outcomes are different, as Alieva says. “Weinstein is penalized upside down. He lost his position, his job, money and even family. Slutsky still possesses a mandate and makes jokes about his manhood behavior.” Alieva adds that she is not a big supporter of #MeToo movement, but she hopes that something like that will exist in Russia. “For me #MeToo is more like a promotion for celebrities than an actual help for the real cause, but I am looking forward to seeing something like this in Russia because it would mean that finally there is a leverage on men’s inappropriate behavior and that women can have the same rights and powers in this society.”
According to Levada Center and RBC 51% of men and 75% of women consider “important” and “very important” that women need to have “fully equal rights with men.” It might not seem to Russian society that every person should have equal rights while Alieva does not think that Russians have radical sexists’ views and that Russians believe that women should not have equal or equal pay.
The problem is how sexists’ propaganda exists in Russian environment.
“The government with the help of church is digging more in that way suggesting the life goal of women will be completed if they are married and give birth to a child. And, as a matter of fact, some people tend to agree with that. I really do hope that Russians will wake up and finally oppose that because otherwise, it would go from a concept to harsh actions — and that’s far from civilized society.”
Press adds to that point of view that one of the problems is the religious background of the country: “It seems to me that these are the consequences of ideological isolation, xenophobia in relation to the ideals of other countries and a low level of education. But the main problem in this matter is religiosity. The Bible is one of the most dangerous books for gender equality.”
Vasenkina agrees that Russia has a patriarchal government and men predominate in this sphere. “The President of the country in his speech on Women’s Day says: ‘Only women are able to create a pleasant atmosphere at work and in the family, take on the daily worries about the house and children …. a woman is a warm light image in the fate of every man.’ It seems that you cannot argue with that, but also it is painful.”
Some people tend to think that situation with feminism was better in the Soviet Union.
People still remember different movies and posters where women are posing as strong characters and stand in the leading positions, for example, “Moscow does not believe in tears”, where the main character Katerina becomes the boss of the chemical factory and everybody respects her. Another example is “The Diamond Arm” where a woman is a leader of the association of homeowners and even the main character is afraid of her power.
Press pays attention at the high level of propaganda of equality in the Soviet Union. “Alas, I did not exist at the Soviet time and cannot judge the level of feminism in the Soviet Union. However, in matters of equality of people, at least in the layer of propaganda, the Soviet Union was very, very good.”
However, Alieva does not agree with this, explaining that the real situation was more difficult than in Soviet movies. “I think it is just an imaginary product of Soviet cinematography. Actually, the situation was different speaking of leading job positions,” says Alieva. “But it’s true that back in those days women were more self-sufficient and not so dependent on men’s presence in their life-system. But, again, it depends.”
It is difficult not to agree that the political and economic situations in Russia are becoming worse and equal rights might not be the first problem on this list.
Russian people are used to quite negative predictions when it even comes to feminism.
“Our government is not interested in balanced and fully democratic society, but I also don’t know the one who would be able to start a feminist campaign on his or her own without fear of being misunderstood and who would get that support to actually change something,’ says Alieva. She also points out that maybe gender studies should be included in the school education.
Press thinks that Russia needs the “Old School” feminism so “that the part of the population that lives in the past could at least move a little to the current times.” He also has a radical position:
“Only the bloody revolution will save Russia. This applies not only to gender equality but also to the whole spectrum of Russian obscurantism.”
Sonya Vasenkina, a feminist YouTube blogger, is not sure with the current position of sexism in Russia because the views in this country differ a lot. “In Russia, there are feminists who use quite populist arguments in their statements which are not very healthy. But also I know that there are certain people in the Russian-speaking environment, both women and men who are really interested in changing something, doing something and this is extremely positive.”