Today I have three articles to recommend, though only two of them deal with Russia and Ukraine.
The first is on Open Democracy and is called “Bikinis and babas: the gender subtext of clichés about Ukraine” by Heather McRobie. I am really glad to see this issue getting more and more attention. Off the top of my head I can think of two examples of these demeaning stereotypes which made big news in the last few years.
The older story dates back to the beginning of the Libyan uprising, which suddenly put Gaddafi in the spotlight after more than a decade of near-irrelevance. Apparently one of Gaddafi’s private nurses was Ukrainian. So naturally it was assumed by some media sources that the woman must be a mistress. It’s simply not possible for a Ukrainian woman to work for someone important and not be his personal courtesan.
The other story is more recent, and if I remember correctly it was first reported by the BBC. The story was about how prostitutes in Murmansk were raising their prices due to the falling value of the ruble. Of course thanks to the fall of the ruble, lots of retailers and services were raising their prices. Many importers of high-end brands like Apple, BMW, and Land Rover temporarily suspended their sales and deliveries so as to revise their prices. The latest iPhone, for example, went from something like 35,000RUB to almost 60,000. I remember how one restaurant, lacking the time to print new menus, simply taped over the prices and scribbled new ones. In short, there were many examples of rising prices and people expressing concern about this, but because this is Russia, there had to be a story about prostitutes, even if it meant going to an out-of-the-way place like Murmansk.
Think it stops in Ukraine, Russia, and the former Soviet Union? Think again. Just look at Poland’s entry to Eurovision last year:
Fucking POLAND! One Slavic country that actually achieved some success on its own. One country that managed to avoid an association with sex tourism. And they go and put this shit on display in Europe. Luckily this video shouldn’t have too much impact on Poland’s reputation when it comes to sex tourism, because as we all already know, Eurovision is only watched by women, gay men, and Russians.
This is why I downplay my Slavic, Polako-Ukrainian heritage when I travel abroad to some countries. You mention Ukraine or Russia and the first thing out of some men’s mouths is “beautiful girls,” the “compliment” that is really an insult. That’s all one can associate with Russia and Ukraine. It’s not like anything important happened in these parts in the past two hundred years or so. I might also add that for decades the girls were no less beautiful, but this suddenly became noticeable to many foreign men only after a massive economic catastrophe which forced many women into prostitution or quasi-prostitution to survive. The women trafficking and mail-order bride industry drove the stereotype home. In short, Slavic beauty in the eyes of many men has nothing to do with aesthetics. It’s about accessibility and dominance. Women who easily reject them and feel no compulsion to settle for someone out of economic need or political repression become “stuck-up, Westernized bitches” in the minds of many men.
So kudos to McRobie for bringing this issue of gendered stereotypes in Eastern Europe out into the open and explaining it in such terms. On with the next article.
As we all know, there are no Russian troops in Ukraine. As it turns out, the Donbass region just happens to have a historical community of hard-fighting, military-aged Chechens, Ingushetians, Yakuts, and Buryats- it was practically a mini-Soviet Union all this time! But for those of you Russophobes who believe whatever the Western media tells you, there’s this article about Russian conscripts complaining about being compelled to sign contracts and being sent to
Ukraine the Rostov region, where some have been injured or even killed in mysterious training accidents for which nobody has been held responsible.
Of course this article is nothing but propaganda- The U.S. State Department must be going around and paying these women to lie about their sons, if they ever had sons. This is a tried and true technique of the CIA to overthrow governments!
Lastly we have an article that has nothing to do with Russia or Ukraine, but rather ISIS. The article provides some interesting insight on ISIS, but as is typical it glosses over a couple points which go much further toward explaining the terrorist phenomenon than any analysis of Islamic theology does. Take a look:
Where it holds power, the state collects taxes, regulates prices, operates courts, and administers services ranging from health care and education to telecommunications.
Choudary said Sharia has been misunderstood because of its incomplete application by regimes such as Saudi Arabia, which does behead murderers and cut off thieves’ hands. “The problem,” he explained, “is that when places like Saudi Arabia just implement the penal code, and don’t provide the social and economic justice of the Sharia—the whole package—they simply engender hatred toward the Sharia.” That whole package, he said, would include free housing, food, and clothing for all, though of course anyone who wished to enrich himself with work could do so.
The last one really makes you think. What is it that really attracts people to movements like ISIS? Are they really into the religious self-denial, restrictions, and self-denial? Or is part of it coming from a desire to free themselves from our market-dominated society, wherein they work most of their life, for little reward, often simply to stave off starvation? Perhaps if Western governments better addressed these needs, and supported regimes which did the same, it would severely hamper the recruitment efforts of groups like ISIS.
Naaaaah…Let’s just label them crazy fanatics and keeping bombing them. That can’t possibly fail!