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.

Translation: A Hell Of Their Own Making

Believe it or not but some people call me a Russophobe. Even more shockingly, perhaps, I plead guilty (at least in the sense that I do not have a very high opinion of the Russian people). There are only two logical alternatives: (1) Claims that Russia really is as good as Western Europe and the US on issues like corruption, social cohesion, etc., which is quite simply implausible to almost anyone who lived there; (2) That the cronyism, bad roads, etc. are all the fault of “corrupt bureaucrats” or even just “Putin”, as if to pretend that they are not real Russians but an occupying force, which is simply bizarre and only believed in by liberals.

The most plausible but rather banal explanation is that to the extent that things are bad in Russia (although, ironically, as I’ve frequently shown here they are nowhere near as bad as portrayed in the Western media) they are bad because of Russians themselves, or more precisely the crook-enabling and general impudent go-fuck-yourself attitudes inherited from the Soviet era. There is no way to quickly change this, least of all by decree, and Putin himself implicitly recognizes this, although as President, he has to sugarcoat things and explain them to the people in a fatherly way (whereas as a blogger I am perhaps a bit blunt about these things).

Anyhow, the following account basically encapsulates the basic thing that is wrong with Russia and, indirectly, the liberal interpretation of the symptoms (that they are the Kremlin’s fault). And while A Hell of their Own Making is set in Ukraine, any Russian would recognize this in her own country; only Ukrainian nationalists would seriously deny that social attitudes in Russia and Ukraine are rather similar.

***

A Hell of Their Own Making

I live abroad. Once upon a time, I came to visit my mother in Ukraine with my husband. I got the kin together for a barbecue picnic. We decided to go to a place not far from mother’s house – a beautiful valley with a lake and a small forest. During my childhood I loved to wander there among the sweet-smelling grass and wild flowers, and to bathe in the lake.

We came there. The wild grass was now covered with tall weeds, many places were burnt out or filled up with plastic rubbish. I was so disappointed! We could barely find a more or less clean clearing by the lake. We tidied up the trash and cigarette butts so that we could sit, then we started a fire in the mangal grill. The barbecue was delicious, but the sight of my beloved valley depressed me – everything was so dirty, so pathetic… The lake was murky and desiccated. I did not risk swimming in it.

From the start I told my relatives not to throw the trash into the grass and bushes, but to gather it up and put it into a special bag. When we were leaving I checked that we had left nothing behind. For I was very sad about this forest clearing. And I was loudly distraught that people could so comprehensively foul up a place where they themselves went to relax. Is it really so difficult to carry the trash over to the bins that are one hundred meters away at the valley’s end?

When we were preparing to leave, I found out that no-one had the trash bag in their hands. I started asking who had it. And my mom waved it way – we’ve already thrown it away. “How did you do it, where?” I whispered. “There, into the reeds. What, are we garbage men or something? Everyone dumps it there!” It was hard to refrain from swearing out loud. It was impossible to retrieve the trash from there – it had already lodged in the reeds by the cliff.

At that moment I recognized a great truth: They deserve the lives they lead. They deserve their cracked asphalt, broken lampposts, dirty streets, and reeking rivers, and their criminal government, and their miserly wages and pensions. They spit on themselves, so why shouldn’t the government spit on them? They do not respect themselves – so who will respect them?

It is not the government which litters on the streets and trashes children’s playgrounds. It is not the President who steals lampposts and cables. I no longer trust your complaints. My countrymen, it is you who created your own hell, and it’s you who will have to live in it.

***

Harsh but it rings true. I wonder if any “Russophiles” will now call the author a Russophobe (or perhaps Ukrainophobe) herself? The only thing I have to add is that many Russians – especially liberals, and those who love to complain – really do not realize how their own actions and attitudes (or the lack of them; in a recent poll, only 50% of Russians said they’d report a drunk driver, compared to about 90% in the US and the UK) contribute to problems. It is always someone else who is to blame, like Putin, or the US, or oligarchs, or ethnic minorities. Oftentimes this hatred is expressed in shockingly violent and callous terms to popular approval. They cannot see fault in themselves, so ironically enough, it is the much loathed Russian state itself which is left with the unenviable task of trying to re-inculcate basic moral values and respect for the law into a self-hating and crook-enabling society.

That is why I support it. The words of the liberal-conservative Vekhi are as relevant now as they were back in 1909: “We ought to fear the people and bless this government which, with its prisons and bayonets, still protects us from the people’s fury.”

ARCS Of Progress – The Arctic World In 2050

Editorial note: This article was first published at Arctic Progress in February 2011. In the next few weeks I will be reposting the best material from there.

The Arctic to become a pole of global economic growth? Image credit – Scenic Reflections.

Behold! Far north along the shores of the Arctic a quiver of upspringing settlements fringes the coast. Boats swarm around canning factories, smoke flutters above smelters, herds of reindeer dot the prairies… And here or there, on every street-corner, glimmer out the lights of theaters where moving-pictures entertain white people through the sunless weeks of the midwinter dancing-time, the singing-time, the laughing-time of Eskimo Land.

- Northward ho!: An account of the far North and its people.

In 2003, Goldman Sachs economist Jim O’Neill wrote the now famous paper Dreaming with BRIC’s, predicting that Brazil, Russia, India and China would overtake the developed G8 nations within a few decades and make astounding returns for faithful investors. The BRIC’s concept entered the conventional wisdom, spawning a host of related acronyms (BASICBRICSA, etc) – and if anything, realizing its promise well ahead of schedule. Last year, China’s real GDP possibly overtook America’s, and Russia’s approached Germany’s.

Yet for all their successes, the BRIC’s may not fulfill their expected roles as the stars of the global economy in the 21st century. The level of education is horrid in Brazil and atrocious in India; without the requisite human capital, these two countries will find it difficult to rapidly “converge” to developed world standards. China is much better off in this respect, but its high growth trajectory may in turn be disturbed by energy shortages and environmental degradation. China produces half the world’s coal, which is patently unsustainable given its limited reserves. But since coal accounts for 75% of China’s primary energy consumption and fuels the factories that keep its workforce employed, there is little it can do to mitigate this dependence. Meanwhile, China’s overpopulation, pollution and climate change predicament is so well known as to not require elaboration. Many other countries flirting around the edges of BRIC status – Indonesia, South Africa, Vietnam, etc. – face serious challenges in the form of low human capital, uncertain energy and food supplies and a rising incidence of AGW-induced droughts, floods and heatwaves.

There is one global region that may hold the key to resolving these intertwined problems – and even to become a major pole of global growth in its own right. For the most part, it is now an empty wilderness, but climate change is opening it up as potential living space. Its exploitation has the potential to halve the length of global freight transport routes while increasing their security, uncover sizable to gigantic new sources of hydrocarbons and minerals, and stabilize global food prices through the expansion of arable land. Its experience of management and conflict resolution may inspire a global model of cooperation – or it may degenerate into an economic, legal, or even military battlefield over shipping routes and sub-sea resources.

This global region is the Arctic Rim, and its adjoining ARCS: Alaska, Russia, Canada, and Scandinavia. The ARCS of Progress in the 21st century.

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Analysis Of Russia’s PISA 2009 Results

A few months ago I posted a table and map of Russian IQ’s as derived from regional PISA performance. Those figures are based on Jarkko Hautamäki’s slideshow comparing regional PISA performance in Finland and Russia.

That material is a bit inadequate because, as had been my custom up that point, I was only making IQ estimates based on the Math and Science components of the PISA tests, and avoiding Reading to maintain reverse compatibility with my (now disused, in favor of just IQ) Human Capital Index. In light of some realizations that verbal IQ is no less important than numerical, I have updated the figures to include the verbal component as well. This doesn’t create any radical changes – the overall IQ only drops by 0.3 points – so I reuse the same map.

(Note that the legend on the map isn’t converted to IQ. “PISA scores, mean 500, SD 100, have to be transformed into IQ values, mean 100, SD 15, by adding or subtracting the deviation from the mean in the relationship 100 : 15 = 6,67.”)

Commentary

There are any numbers of comments one can make, but I will confine myself to the most important ones:

(1) In some regions, margins of error are high, as samples were low. Nonetheless, it is still possible to identify some concrete patterns. The overall estimate is very accurate because the sample was N=5,308 and representatively distributed across the country.

(2) Moscow pupils performed very well, at the level of the highest scoring OECD countries like Finland, Taiwan, and Korea. This is especially impressive considering the significant numbers of immigrants in that city from the North Caucasus and Central Asia, who come from poorly-scoring countries and rarely have good Russian. This is surely the result of a century of attracting Russia’s (the USSR’s) cognitive elite.

(3) St.-Petersburg and Tyumen oblast performed above the OECD average, while a few other regions performed at or only slightly below the OECD average.

(4) Among ethnic Russian republics, Siberian regions performed well, while the Urals and southern regions performed badly.

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Russian Women Enjoy Being Women

Commentator AP writes:

Very true. Russian and Ukrainian women enjoy being women. This was once the case in the United States too, a couple of generations ago. But in the American case there was the baggage of the second-rate status of women. It seems that in legitimately struggling against inequality, Western feminists have confused eqality with sameness and damaged femininity by making women more like men (my wife and our female Russian friends always see deep underlying [misogyny] in the feminists they have encountered). It’s like if blacks had battled racism by not only fighting against discrimination but also by creating the image of a “liberated” black having pale skin, straight hair, and no hint of ebonics.

He is correct in every respect.

Russian women achieved the vote in 1917. Criticize them as you will – and I do – the Bolsheviks early on inserted equity feminism into the foundations of Russian society. This was a generation or two ahead of similar developments in the West. And it was a good thing. Today Russian women get paid more relative to men than in America or Britain, probably because spending a fortune on a Womyn’s Studies degree and then ranting about the “global patriarchy” at Jezebel or The Guardian when they find out no-one wants to hire (or marry) them isn’t a commonly accepted lifestyle choice.

When American women started demanding more rights many of them embraced gender feminism as the solution. Unlike equity feminism, which corresponds to classical liberal notions of legal equality, gender feminists want to feminize men and institute matriarchy. Matriarchy is of course an oxymoron and in practice means rule by alpha males, coupled with wanton repression of beta males (achieved in the West via alimony law, “rape culture”, harassment lawsuits, etc). Alpha males don’t take shit from feminists and as women they admire them; respectable betas follow the rules, as is their wont, and get shafted for their troubles, because no woman can truly respect a man who submits to her whims.

What you have then is complete social dysfunction, as a result of what is a deeply reactionary and anti-human ideology. It is ironic that (real) Marxism shielded Russia and the rest of Eastern Europe from the much more ruinous scourge that is cultural Marxism.

Why Are Russian Chicks So Hot?

This is one of those stereotypes that is totally correct. Take a casual stroll about any Russian town and the typical woman you see would be considered “very cute” or “pretty” in places like the Germany, the UK or the US. And one or two of them will have supermodel looks. That kind of talent you will only get in a few select places in the US like Santa Barbara, parts of LA, etc. You also see unremarkable lanky, unkempt dudes with solid 8′s whereas in the US they will either be with a fat white chick or a 5/6 Asian.

I recall some studies been done about this which basically came to the same conclusion. Women from Eastern Europe (Russia, Ukraine, Poles, etc) being rated as the most attractive among whites. In my experience I’d also add Norwegians (Swedes are too Germanic-plain) and Bulgarians to the list.

Why is this the case? The eXile theory of “dyevolution” posits that this stemmed from the USSR’s huge manpower losses in WW2. The theory goes that in the postwar period, with sex ratios absurdly skewed, only the hotter part of the beauty bell curve was able to find husbands. While under other circumstances we could have expected some degree of “soft polygamy” in which alpha males develop harems (or formal polygamy, as practiced by traditional Islamic societies with lots of inter-tribal warfare) this was not the case in the USSR what with strict Stalinist social mores and controls.

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