Staunton, February 26 – In contrast to the United States where ever more people are speaking out against the harassment of women by men in positions of power, in Russia, some women close to the powers that be are defending their male colleagues’ supposed right to make unwelcome advances.
In a commentary entitled “Harassment is Not a Russian Word,” Igor Yakovenko says that the Women’s Club of the Russian State Duma has responded to Times Up, the American movement against harassment by staking out what can only be called the most retrograde of positions (kasparov.ru/material.php?id=5A93C5116847B).
Russians were slow to respond to the American movement because they really had not idea what “harassment” is, the Russian commentator says. They went to their dictionaries and learned that it came from the French; but they remained unclear as to why such things were a problem for anyone.
And they were pleased that “Putin explained everything” they thought they needed to know: “’A real man,’” the Kremlin leader said, “’must always try, but a girl must always resist.’ End of citation. What could be unclear? And you [Americans] shout: ‘harassment! Harassment!’ The president has made everything clear.”
While the American and European media were full of stories about harassment, “the Russian leadership mostly remained silent.” But that changed when a Dozhd television correspondent, Elizaveta Antonova, reported that she and her colleagues has “more than once complained” about sexual harassment by LDPR deputy Leonid Slutsky.
Instead of taking their charges seriously, including that they couldn’t do interviews with him without his making unwanted advances, the Women’s Club of the Russian State Duma rushed … to his defense. Attacks on Slutsky, it declared, were “a planned provocation” and “information aggression,” among other dismissive and derogatory terms.
It is sometimes suggested, Yakovenko says, that having women in the Duma causes the Russian legislature to be more humane. But “apparently,” Russia “has become an exception to the rules” that obtain elsewhere, with some of “the most draconian and obscurantist laws” on the books bearing the name of deputies Irina Yarovaya and Yelena Mizulina.
According to the Moscow commentator, “the list of women in various branches of power who by their actions are making the regime harsher and also promoting discrimination against women can be extended almost at will,” as the latest statement of the Duma’s Women’s Club confirms.
Tragically, he concludes, “the Russian power structure today is a poisonous milieu. Each who becomes part of it and who wants to survive is forced to give him his or her essential humanity. Women among the Russian authorities are alas no exception.”