Kathy Lally Didn’t Get Any Flowers Today. How Sad.

Happy International Women’s Day!

kathy-lally-wapoToday I had occasion to read one of the most inadvertently hilarious things about Russia in the Western media from Kathy Lally (pictured right) from the Washington Post in which she complains that Russian women get flowers, not power. Citing the opinion of one Russian woman from the “Center for Social and Political Studies of the Institute for U.S.A. and Canada”, she makes a mountain out of a molehill that in fact the vast majority of Russians themselves (women included) are simply not concerned about.

The reason is that she conflates equity feminism with gender feminism as the same thing. They are, for all intents and purposes, in the West. But they are not at all in Russia.

Equity feminism is about classical liberal concepts such as equality before the law, formal political and civil rights, getting paid the same for the same work, sovereignty over one’s own body, etc. Equity feminism is advanced in Russia. Abortion has been legal since the 1920s (with a limited interruption during the conservative Stalin years), as has been divorce – which as in Western countries typically favors women. Female labor participation is as high as in ”progressive” Anglo-Saxon countries, while women’s average wages as a percentage of male wages are at exactly the same level – at 62% – as in the US, and far higher than in some European countries like Austria (see pp.46 of Global Gender Gap 2012). The percentage of female managers in Russia is higher than in the West. And the share of women in Congress, 18%, is not radically different from the share of women in the Duma, at 14%. The simple fact of the matter is that women are less interested in politics than men and this is the typical kind of figure you get when you don’t have quotas and affirmative action to tilt the natural balance. The observation that “You even find women behind the wheel, a peculiar sight a decade or so ago” is true but it is also equally banal; a decade ago there were far fewer cars in Russia period, and as happens everywhere, it is men who are first to get behind the wheel everywhere where cars are just beginning to enter mass ownership.

What Russia doesn’t have is gender feminism. In a nutshell, gender feminism seeks to masculinize women by (ironically) attacking traditional feminine virtues, while psychologically and legally emasculating men (suffice to say that in the US you have entirely mainstream commentators and professors like Hugo Schwyzer telling men to get pounded up the ass to become more “sensitive” and fight the patriarchy). Its proponents do not occupy Women’s Studies departments or write for broadsheets in Russia, to the contrary they are viewed as mentally ill. Chivalrous gestures are appreciated and expected of men, but the flip side is that the women are expected to treasure, not suppress, their femininity and nurturing instincts. As a result the Western cultural Marxists start writing about Russia as a very misogynistic country, as “a joke and embarrassment to civilization” as one of WaPo’s commentators put it.

“Here is a bitter feminist who envies us our flowers and presents which we get today, and comforts herself with the thought that she at least doesn’t have to stand by the oven. And probably doesn’t know that we have cafes and restaurants, and that men can often make themselves a wholly sumptuous dinner, and of course doesn’t even suspect that making a celebratory dinner for her family and friends might bring a women a great deal of pleasure.” No, that’s not me, it’s a translation of one of the most popular comments (by a woman) to this article at Inosmi, which translates Western writings about Russia into Russian. I assume Kathy Lally would say that she suffers from “false consciousness” foisted on her by the “Russian patriarchy”, but most Russians including women would dismiss or giggle at it as nothing more than a bitter rant. And this would enrage the Western gender feminists all the more.

Comments

  1. Excellent article. What you describe is so simple that it’s shocking how difficult it seems for many Westerners to understand it.

  2. Kathy Lally is just showing her arse to get attention, and trying to fuck things up for Russians on one of the few holidays they have that are huge in Russia and kind of “meh” in the west. She’s not even really a feminist, or if she is any kind of feminist it is sublimated to her loathing of Russia, which she likes to stretch out on with virtually any subject – not just those in which she perceives women are at a disadvantage. I remember her trilling lovingly just before the Presidential elections that it looked like Zyuganov’s Communists might be in with a chance this time, because the “huge street protests” were dragging Putin down like wolves tearing at the flanks of a labouring deer. This presented the world with the delightful paradox of a patriotic-to-the-core American journalist devoutly cheering for the restoration of Communist rule to Russia.

    As an old friend of mine was fond of saying, an insult from a fool is a compliment.

  3. Interestingly, Russia has a high proportion of women in senior managment positions, on this particular indicator much outperforming western countries
    http://www.internationalbusinessreport.com/Press-room/2011/women_in-senior_management.asp

    (on the side note, nonsense about increased “sensitivity” aside, there’s nothing wrong with a little pegging)

    • Thanks for that link! I’m not overly surprised, observing my own interactions with Russia’s media/cultural NGO industry (which is however an admittedly female-weighted sphere inherently).

      But keep the strap on to yourself please.

  4. Speaking for myself, I could have probably gotten the picture without the whole “pounded up the ass” bit. I admit, though, that I clicked on the link and read the article and comments out of some morbid curiosity. I have now added reason number 837 to my list of “why I no longer live in America”.

    • I read it too, and my first reaction was incredulity at the notion that this sort of “giving oneself” is offered as a way to cultivate mutual respect between a man and woman.

      In the words of that world-famous feminist punk band which needs no introduction – holy shit.

    • Well I believe one Vlad Dracul aka the Impaler got banged up where it hurts by Ottoman Turkish soldiers when he was young and so he swore vengeance on the patriarchy that mistreated him so, visiting upon his Ottoman tormenters, other foes and criminals alike the very method he got pounded by, only expanded to show he meant business. His “sensitivity” appears to have been touchiness. Hugo Schwyzer and others like him should be careful what they wish for.

    • I have read so much stuff from Schwyzer (know in some circles as “Mangina I-blow”) that I did not even click the link. I know exactly what to expect there.

  5. Equity feminism is necessary for a society to be civilised. Gender feminism is not. I suspect it causes quite a lot of unhappiness both for men and women.

  6. Dear Anatoly,

    I too think this is a really good article. I agree with it. It corresponds with my own experience.

    • Enjoy the sight of scantily clad women? If so you’re “facilitating the reproduction of gender stereotypes.”

      They should just criminalize straightness and be done with it.

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