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Gender stereotypes

Gender Stereotypes In Russia

Many Russians are intolerant to any kind of diversity. A person’s behavior should fit in “age and gender appropriate” image. Let’s explore what that means and why that happens, starting with gender stereotypes.

Gender Stereotypes in Russia

Stepford wives - gender stereotypes

Nicole Kidman plays Joanna Eberhart in The Stepford Wives movie.

Woman: should be young and pretty, should spend a lot of time on grooming and never leave the house without a make-up. Preferably – she should always wear feminine dresses and high heels. She should always be nice; assertiveness in women is usually viewed as aggressiveness. Best-case scenario – woman takes great care of herself and looks gorgeous, is a fantastic wife and mother by the age of 25. If she has spare time – she may work but she should not think that her career is more important than family. Family or trying to find a man to build the family should always be her priority. She should treat her man as superior, do all household chores and always be pretty for him. She should love and want kids and take full care of kids, when they arrive. Stepford wives movie – that is the ideal image. Women are not expected to know how a screwdriver works or how to change a car tire. If a woman does any of that, it is probably because she is an unlucky spinster, who could not score a man. Woman is allowed to cry and be upset about silly stuff (such as lack of new dresses).

Gosha (played by A. Batalov) - main male character from Moscow does not believe in tears movie. An "ideal" Russian man

Gosha (played by A. Batalov) – main male character from Moscow does not believe in tears movie. An “ideal” Russian man

Man: Should be a breadwinner. His role is to make money, to bring that mammoth home. He should be strong and he should know how to use a screwdriver, a drill, how to change tires and how to do any other “manly” work at home. Ideally he also has “manly hobbies”, such as carpenting, hunting or fishing or working in his garage. Typically all “manly hobbies” are done with other males and include beer drinking. How man looks does not matter at all – he is allowed to be out of shape, unshaved and with a poor haircut (“a man should be just marginally better looking than an ape” is a popular saying). He is also allowed to shower when he feels like it and using deodorant is optional. In fact – if a Russian man takes too much care of himself, it raises questions. Russian man should not be emotional, he is never allowed to cry or complain. In the same time – “he should treat women right” – open doors, help women carry heavy things etc. And, always pay for women in restaurants and elsewhere.

Does That Make Sense? Are Both Men and Women Happy as a Result?

No, not really. I would say that being a woman in Russia is probably more difficult than being a man, but such stereotypes make life more difficult for both genders. Men are stressed out and cannot complain, which leads to drinking and early heart conditions. Women are chasing the youth and the stereotypes they should fit in.

There is no real reason for both.

70 years of Soviet Union may have had a lot of negative impact on many aspects of life. But there were also positives, such as liberating women. Women had equal rights to study and work.

USSR_equal gender rights

Women in the USSR have equal rights with men

Valentina Tereshkova

Valentina Tereshkova – first Russian female cosmonaut

Russian cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova was a first woman in space. Women worked in all industries and many of them managed to reach to the high profile roles. My personal belief is that there is less gender discrimination at work in Russia, than in many developed countries. Still, the most typical question people ask female cosmonauts of today is “how do you take care of your hair in space?” Not – “what are the most interesting scientific experiments you have done during your space mission”.

Chelnoki

During Perestroika a lot of women started small retail businesses, bringing clothes from abroad and selling them at a market (photo source tvc.ru)

Men had a relatively easy time in USSR. But after Perestroika a lot of them lost their jobs and could no longer provide for the family. That created a lot of stress, since a man should bring bacon home. Men did not have a support network to complain about hardships and to discuss them. Maybe that was the reason a lot of men could not adapt to the new circumstances, or maybe women in Russia are just more adaptive and strong. A lot of women started businesses in the time of Perestroika hardship, while their men spent days lying on couches, depressed. And even then, women had to take care of household chores and kids.

Now the workplace opportunities in Russia are more or less equal for men and women. A lot of people of both genders receive a good education and then use it to advance in their profession. But the old gender stereotypes are still in place. Here is the cycle.

Gender Stereotypes Cycle in Russia

Dating in Russia read the article.

Before the baby is born: Pregnant woman in Russia is treated as a person with severe disabilities. She is expected to downshift all social activities. I have seen a lot of happy pregnant women at an open swimming pool in Switzerland. You would not see Russian pregnant women at a swimming pool often. Typically, pregnant women spend most of the time at home or engage in low-key activities. They are allowed though to ask husbands to go to the grocery store at night if they want pineapples or pickles or anything else. Any Russian husband will do that if his wife has cravings.

When the baby is born: Russian men very rarely go with their wives in hospital. And most of the time, it is women, who do not want to have a husband in a delivery room. Women are seriously concerned that they may not look great during the delivery of a baby and “men should not see them without make-up, since that could negatively impact their sexual life after”. So, the husband would bring wife to a hospital and then start a 2-3 day drinking with his pals. When the baby is born he is expected to visit wife in a hospital. If hospital allows visits – he might see the baby. Most hospitals though do not allow visits, so he will call her and ask her to come to the window to have a brief talk. Good husbands may “help” the mother-in-law to buy necessary things for the baby after he or she is born (most people do not buy any baby items before, since it is considered to be a bad luck). Why “help” in brackets – his involvement is considered to be help, not something that he has to do, but something he is graciously doing. Husband should meet the wife and a newborn in the hospital, when they are ready to go home.

Caring for a newborn: it depends. Sometimes both young mother and father take care of a newborn. But more often than that – it is the responsibility of mother and her mother. If a father is involved, he is “helping”. And you are “lucky to have such husband”.

Raising a child: is almost solely woman’s responsibility. Husband may “help”, but the chores are almost never split equally. “He works, she sits at home”, so he is a breadwinner and does not have to take a child for a walk on Sunday. He needs to rest after the long workweek. She basically does nothing, just “rests at home with a baby”.

What Is Wrong With Gender Stereotypes?

toys for girls

Toys for girls

Ok, but isn’t that a time, when a young mother could stop the vicious circle? And raise a child as she sees best? No, stereotypes are strong. Girls will have dolls, boys will have cars. Pink and Blue. Mother might hate that grown up men do not give place to women in public transport, but with her son – she will not teach him that. She will secure a seat for her son and will stand near him with heavy grocery bags. She will also tell her son that “he is a man, thus should never cry” and will tell her daughter that “she is a girl, so she should not be assertive”. Girls will play with dolls and will help mothers to cook; boys will play their “manly games”

Toys for boys

Toys for boys

You see where I am leading with that. As a result of such upbringing, the cycle continues. Girls, who are told that they should be nice and pretty and their mission in life is to find a good husband and have children may miss out on building the career. Boys, who are told they are kings of universe, may treat women as second-class citizens and expect them to be pretty rather than to be a soul mate or a partner.

When are Russian women praised?

  • Any time they look good. They may be successful cardio surgeons, businesswomen or cosmonauts. If they do not look good, those achievements do not matter. If they do look good – no need to be a cosmonaut to get praise.
  • In daily life, because they are a woman. Any Russian woman can expect a man to pay for her meal in the restaurant, to get the door opened, to get helped with her coat or with any heavy or not so heavy items that need to be carried. Also – with any kind of technical things, since “women are naturally not good in that”. So, if you are a woman and have a flat tire in Russia – just stop your car and 5 min after a stranger will do his best to change the tire for you.
  • On 8th of March. International Women’s day is the day, when men will take a shower, shave, dress well, cook you breakfast, bring flowers, do household chores and will praise you.
8th of march - husband and son

8th of March – International women’s day

  • Men at your workplace will also praise you… for bringing beauty to the workplace. And 99% of Russian women do love that day! Imagine that! If a woman has any issues with all the above – she is most likely “a feminist” and that word has an extremely negative connotation. People do not really know, who feminists are, but suspect they have short haircuts, hairy legs and hate men.

Gender related jokes and stories

Elle Woods Legally Blonde

Elle Woods Legally Blonde

The most typical are stories about blondes. Even though Russian men adore blondes – there is a stereotype that blonds are dumb. And Russian men consider normal to tell jokes about dumb blondes, who for example, cannot park a car properly. And they will do that in front of their blond spouses without any hesitation. To say more – female blondes will also often tell jokes about blondes or even say proudly: “I am such a blonde, I have no clue how to park a car”. They think that is cute, they are girls, blonde girls; they are not expected to know how to park a car or use a screwdriver. Men should do that for them.

Finally, my favorite story. I was late to an important meeting and took an “unofficial” street cab. It was an old shabby Lada car; driver most certainly did not have a shower that week and wore sport pants and sandals with socks. I was dressed in a suit and was about to make a $$$ deal. On our way, driver was constantly complaining about female drivers, who make driving in Moscow unbearable. I was sick and tired to hear that and asked if he seriously thinks that women should not drive? He said yes. And educated me on the fact that women have smaller brain than men, thus they should not be allowed to drive. He said that this fact has been scientifically proven. I have to agree with that. Women indeed have 100-150 grams less of brain than men (on average). But there is no correlation between the size of the brain and how well it works. Einstein’s brain was smaller than the average. But he certainly knew how to use it.

Of course not all Russian people fit in those stereotypes. There are men, who care for their kids and are not afraid to show the sensitive side or express their feelings. There are women, who do raise their kids differently and are not afraid to change a flat tire. And it looks like the younger generations are more free from gender stereotypes and that will make their life better in general. In the next post we will explore age stereotypes.

 

Leave a Reply

  • Anonymous - 3 years ago

    Tanya,
    Next time you see this cab driver (or someone with similar point of view) you can refer to this article that argues he is wrong:
    https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/speaking-of-science/wp/2015/12/01/brains-arent-actually-male-or-female-new-study-suggests/

  • John - 2 years ago

    Hi Tanya, saw your blog. I’m an America living in Colorado Springs USA, and I’m interested in Russia. I think USA and Russia have much more in common than we have separating us, but unfortunately relations between the USA and Russia aren’t so great right now. But one day I hope to visit Russia and explore the culture and land. Cheers from USA.

  • Богдан - 2 years ago

    Слишком как-то радикально описала всё, сатирично я бы даже сказал. Люди разные и семьи разные, и воспитание детей у всех разное, и мужчин много следящих за собой, и женщин, которым наплевать на свой внешний вид. К тому же, в большинстве обычных русских семей в России работают и муж, и жена.

  • Сергей Петров - 2 years ago

    Well, many things said are true unfortunately. But not all men and women in Russia are of this kind.
    Me personally, I do not think that the more women are similar to men the better. It is the difference between us that makes us love each other. And I’m not talking only about physical difference.

  • галина лабынько родригез - 2 years ago

    Со многим согласна. Но некоторые утверждения меня удивили. Например о том, что самое главное для женщины это выйти замуж и сидеть дома. Неужели после распада СССР так изменилось отношение женщин к трудовой деятельности? Я уехала в конце 80х, поэтому не очень знакома с нынешним положением дел. Но раньше для женщин было очень важно получить хорошее образование и найти хорошую работу, а не сидеть дома. Забота о семье всегда была на первом месте, но при этом иметь хорошую работу всегда было важно. Про игрушки согласна. Мальчики пусть играют с машинками, а девочки с куклами. Такой подход существует не только в России. На Кубе тоже. На западе все переборщили в этом отношении. Женщины занимаются ремонтом квартиры, меняют шины у своих авто и т.д. у них тут все перепутано. Поэтому много самоубийств среди мужчин. Потому что они чувствуют себя ненужными. Я теоретически знаю, как поменять колесо. Но я не буду это делать, для этого есть мужчины. Если на работе барахлит факс или принтер, я всегда зову нашего босса. Я так ему и говорю : ” Как хорошо иметь мужчину начальника. Самой не надо ремонтировал ничего.” Ему кстати это нравится. Чувствует себя полезным и важным. Не потому что начальник, а потому что мужчина.

  • Anonymous - 1 year ago

    Albert E wasn’t smart and stole his work from his wife. I’m surprised that you as a Russian doesn’t know this since Russian Physicists back her.

  • Marco - 10 months ago

    Hmm… as an Italian who has visited Russia many times and loves it, I’m not convinced. You profess to challenge stereotypes, but your article actually is one big set of stereotypes. The tone of your article is entirely negative and paints all Russians in the same brush – which to me seems exactly one big stereotype. ‘In Russia, women are like that, men are like that’ and all so negative… It seems like you don’t like your own country!
    I for one like it that Russian women dare to remain feminine, despite social pressure to the contrary, and men do not have to make apologies for being men, as is increasingly the case in the West. And incidentally, saying that these traditional roles are making people unhappy, well, try comparing this with the crazy gender wars you have in the US or in Western Europe! Here, gender relations are decidedly toxic. Believe me, gender relations are definitely better in Russia!