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Russia’s Archaic Grasp of Women’s Roles

Vladimir Putin managed to offend advocates of both women’s and gay rights with comments made in response to the Femen protest in Hanover earlier this week, at which he was accosted by four topless women, their bodies scrawled with curses of “F*** Putin” and ‘Dictator’.  He responded by being patronising and sleazy in equal measures, and whilst he was at it, used the opportunity to take an additional swipe at the gay community:

Putin milked the incident for all it was worth. “I liked it,” he said in Hanover, according to the RIA Novosti news agency. “Thank the Ukrainian girls for helping promote the fair… I didn’t really hear what they were yelling because the security guards were so tough. Those big guys manhandling the girls. I think this is wrong, they could have been more gentle.”

Later in Amsterdam, Putin changed his position. “I had not had breakfast that morning,” he told reporters. “If they had showed me a sausage, that would have made me happy, but those delights they demonstrated did not.” He added: “Thank God gays did not undress.” (report from Bloomberg)

He also said that he had not noticed whether the women were “blondes or brunettes“.  Putin’s comments were immediately and indirectly corroborated by a bafflingly archaic statement from Orthodox Church head Patriarch Kirill, who took the high road to deliver essentially the same message – that the women’s bodies should not be used for anything other than reproduction and domestic work. He accused “feminist organisations” of “proclaim[ing] the pseudo-freedom of women“, and differentiated the work of male and female bodies thus: “Man has his gaze turned outward – he must work, make money – and woman must be focused inwards, where her children are, where her home is.

Alexandra Shevchenko, one of the protesters, roundly dismissed Putin’s response as “really stupid. It was really in this Russian, post-USSR style. The president of a European country would never say something like – I like her, in such a sexual way.”  She also defended Femen’s methodology as a means for women to reclaim their bodies from state and religious forces that try to dictate their functions:

“When a woman’s nudity is not controlled by men, when she’s not using it to entertain men, or to give them sexual satisfaction or advertise men’s products – when she’s using her sexuality for her own aims, political aims – that really makes patriarchy irritated. And you can see the result.”

Photo: Femen Activists Bare Breasts at ‘Dictator’ Putin © AFP 2013/ RONNY HARTMANN