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Home » Cultural Geography, Gender News, Russia, Ukraine, and Caucasus

Sexist Remarks by Ukrainian Politicians

Submitted by on May 22, 2012 – 12:41 am 33 Comments |  

To the extent that Ukrainian politics are covered in the major Western press, the focus is on the former Prime Minister Yulia Timoshenko’s imprisonment. Another women’s issue, that of gender stereotypes in Ukrainian society, remains ignored. Last week this issue was brought to the fore in the Ukrainian press by sexist remarks made on May 17 by the country’s Minister of Education, Science, Youth & Sport, Dmitry Tabachnik. At a briefing, Tabachnik claimed that “the better female students in universities, graduate and Ph.D. programs are those who have a less attractive, less model-like appearance” (translation mine). Mr. Tabachnik then went on to say that “this is because Ukraine is the homeland of the most beautiful young women. Women who emphasize their physical appearance have a higher self-esteem, high self-confidence” and thus do not need higher education. He also made reference to a sociological survey that revealed that 55% of Ukrainian women think that their looks are a more important asset for their future than education. There may be some basis for such attitudes: according to another recent study, which examined people’s attitudes towards education without regard to gender differences, only 42% of respondents thought that education is relevant for finding a good job. Experts agree: according to sociologist Vladimir Zastava, “education in post-Soviet countries ceased to fulfill its main function, that of a social lift”.

Education is not the only area where traditional stereotypes of women as sex objects, housewives, and mothers are entrenched in Ukraine. Sociological surveys conducted as recently as 2010, according to Tamara Martsenyuk of the National University of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy, indicate that 36% of Ukrainians of both genders and 30% of Ukrainian women think that “it is more important for a wife to support her husband’s career than to have her own”. Moreover, 45% of Ukrainians (including 41% of Ukrainian women) agree that “most men are better suited for politics than most women”. A similar attitude was expressed by Prime Minister Mykola Azarov in the spring of 2010: “Some say our government is too large; others that there are no women. There’s no one to look at during cabinet sessions: they’re all boring faces. With all respect to women, conducting reforms is not women’s business.” Notably, even Yulia Timoshenko’s familiar image, with her traditional braids and national costume, has been created to play into Ukrainian stereotypes of a woman as a mother, in this case, “mother of the nation”.

Nor are these remarks by Tabachnik and Azarov isolated incidents. Last year at the Davos Forum, President Viktor Yanukovych—known for his geographical and cultural blunderssaid: “In order to “Switch on Ukraine”, it is enough to look at it with your own eyes when chestnuts start blooming in Kiev, and Ukrainian women start undressing. To see this beauty is amazing”. Many younger, progressive Ukrainians saw a call for sex tourism in these remarks. As slave trafficking, sex tourism, and fraudulent international marriages are a serious problem in Ukraine, Yanukovych’s remarks provoked a wave of protests, especially from FEMEN, the Ukrainian movement that stages topless demonstrations, ironically exploiting women’s sexuality while protesting the depiction of women as a commodity. No less ironic is that some campaigns against sex tourism are conducted under the slogan: “Ukrainian women for Ukrainian men”, again emphasizing rather than breaking gender stereotypes. The extent to which such stereotypes of women as sex objects are pervasive in the minds of Ukrainian women themselves is apparent from a recent incident in the town of Pavlograd (Dnepropertrovsk region): a high school graduate became an instant internet star by coming to the prom in little more than underwear.

The day after Mr. Tabachnik’s remarks, Prime Minister Azarov made a public apology on his Facebook page for Mr. Tabachnik, explaining the Minister’s blunder by “overwork during the exam period”. The gist of his apology—that educated women can be beautiful too—was echoed in the slogans of a group of Ukrainian female students who protested on May 21 in front of Ministry of Education: “And my boyfriend doesn’t think so”, “Tabachnik, you are not Vogue!”, and “Look in the mirror”. Only one poster called for the “overworked” Minister Tabachnik’s retirement.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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  • http://www.facebook.com/people/James-T-Wilson/682045086 James T. Wilson

    What a perfect way to commemorate the International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia.

    • http://www.pereltsvaig.com Asya Pereltsvaig

      Indeed.

  • Pingback: Brawl Breaks Out in Ukrainian Parliament Over Language Law « Art And Culture News « News Map « GeoCurrents

  • Gaurang Karmakar

    “…. the focus is on the former Prime Minister Yulia Timoshenko’s imprisonment. Another women’s issue, that of gender stereotypes in Ukrainian society, remains ignored.”

    How did Yulia Timoshenko’s imprisonment become a women’s issue? She was found guilty of abuse of office when brokering the 2009 gas deal with Russia. So, when a corrupt female politician gets imprisoned, it becomes a gender issue just because she’s a female?

    • http://www.pereltsvaig.com Asya Pereltsvaig

      It is not clear to what extent the charges against her are substantiated and whether a male politician in her place would have been in jail as well, or whether it was just a way to get rid of a highly placed female politician.

      • Gaurang Karmakar

        “It is not clear to what extent the charges against her are substantiated”

        Well, even if she was unfairly charged, how will that still count as sexist? Many male politicians around the world are charged falsely and are often forced to quit office only to be cleared of the charges later (but that doesn’t at all compensate to the damage done, does it?).

        “and whether a male politician in her place would have been in jail as well, or whether it was just a way to get rid of a highly placed female politician.”

        How can you say that a male politician wouldn’t have been treated in the same manner? You yourself are saying that none of this is clear!! Well then, if nothing can be CLEARLY said by you about the whole situation concerning ex-PM Yulia TImoshenko, then how did you conclude that all this is CLEARLY sexist?

        When things are so ambiguous to you, how are you so assured of drawing clear inferences from them?

        • http://www.pereltsvaig.com Asya Pereltsvaig

          I did not say that things are CLEARLY sexist. I expressed an opinion that things may well be more muddled than meets the eye at first. What inferences you draw from this is up to you.

          • Gaurang Karmakar

            Sorry, but from the article above and your replies too, it is obvious that you are definitely alluding to blatant sexism and the hand of “a big boys club” behind the removal of ex-PM Timoshenko! That is why you referred to this incident as the first women’s issue in the article as follows:

            “…. the focus is on the former Prime Minister Yulia Timoshenko’s imprisonment. Another women’s issue, that of gender stereotypes in Ukrainian society, remains ignored.”

          • http://www.pereltsvaig.com Asya Pereltsvaig

            Yes because in my opinion there’s more behind Timoshenko’s imprisonment than her deal with Russia (which is just an excuse). You are welcome to disagree.

          • Gaurang Karmakar

            It’s just your opinion, and not necessarily the truth!! OPINION and TRUTH needn’t intersect at all!

          • http://www.pereltsvaig.com Asya Pereltsvaig

            The same applies to your comments above, regarding the alleged flaws in the surveys.

          • Gaurang Karmakar

            Well, one would assume that normally! But, the fact remains that I have no particular convictions unlike you. You allege blatant sexism in this article, while I allege nothing but skepticism about your conviction!

          • http://www.pereltsvaig.com Asya Pereltsvaig

            Well exactly: you have nothing of value to contribute to the discussion at hand, your blatant sexist and anti-women agenda is obvious by now, so why don’t we wrap up this discussion and you’ll find yourself another outlet for your frustrations. All further comments from you will be deleted. Thank you.

          • Gaurang Karmakar

            Yup, that’s the spirit, lady! Sack the dissenter by labeling him a misogynist, just because he refuses to fall in line with your thinking (and more importantly, just because you can’t convince him of the authenticity of the surveys used by you)! Three cheers for the Women’s Lib!

  • Gaurang Karmakar

    Also, when 55% of women apparently agreed that looks were more important than an education, and the minister Tabachnik merely pointed out this fact before asserting that “the better female students in universities, graduate and Ph.D. programs are those who have a less attractive, less model-like appearance”, how did it suddenly become offensive to the women (or to the feminists alone, I suspect)?

    Why was it not offensive to the women when the women surveyed themselves confessed in an absolute majority that looks are more important? And, how did Tabachnik calumniate women when he merely pointed out the survey results and drew a conclusion from the results that was actually logically right. Logically speaking, if the survey is taken to be authentic, it will only logically follow that most (55%) Ukrainian women will give a damn to education and focus on looks. Thus, those having good looks will not want to do higher studies, as they can (isn’t it obvious?) ensnare a loaded husband with their assets. Further, women on the unattractive side will definitely go into higher studies (as they know they will have to slog it out for themselves, and actually want to do so), with women that are both attractive and smart being a rare combination (Plz. don’t deny it, even you know it!).

    The surveyed women were the actual sexists; it was they who actually calumniated their own gender by their overwhelming insistence on good looks being more important, or is it that it is never sexist when women insult their own gender?

    • http://www.pereltsvaig.com Asya Pereltsvaig

      The gender stereotypes are indeed deeply ingrown in the Ukrainian society. It is offensive that politicians perpetuate them instead of doing something to correct the situation.

      • Gaurang Karmakar

        Well then, who is responsible for such gender stereotypes, the men like Tabachnik, or the majority of those Ukrainian women who have insulted their own gender (more specifically their intelligent, prodigious and hard-working sisters of Ukraine) by stating that looks are more important than education? Aren’t the majority of the Ukrainian womenfolk to be blamed instead, as it is they who have presented Ukrainian women as “dumb bimbos”? How do you expect us men to respect you women when you women yourselves have no shred of respect or dignity to spare towards each other? Men like Tabachnik only take advantage of this tendency of the women.

        If you women want to correct this sexist attitude, then it is not the men but the women PRIMARILY who’ll have to change their attitude. If the women stop turning themselves into bimbos and become serious towards their own selves and towards each other, the men will have no choice besides taking them seriously as equal partners in the personal as well as professional domain!!

        Who takes a joker or a fool seriously? Only a serious person with depth and intellect (or one who at least behaves like one) gets taken seriously. Wouldn’t you agree?

        • http://www.pereltsvaig.com Asya Pereltsvaig

          Ukrainian women do not present themselves as “dumb bimbos” (which may well be your opinion, but don’t project, please!). If you read the post carefully, you’ll see that about half the women expressed the opinion that looks are more important than education. More important for whom? For the society as a whole that consists about half of men. And if you look at this from a professional or marriage standpoint, more important for men. So it’s men’s attitudes that make women focus on looks not education.

          As for your idea that if women “become serious towards their own selves”, men will “have no choice besides taking them seriously as equal partners”—where on earth is that true? Because even in the western world the gender bias still exists.

          • Gaurang Karmakar

            “More important for whom? For the society as a whole that consists about half of men. And if you look at this from a professional or marriage standpoint, more important for men. So it’s men’s attitudes that make women focus on looks not education”

            But, how did you forget that the very same society consists half of women, too? Blaming attitudes or fancies of one half for the misguided aspirations of the other half is a bit beyond rationality and ethics. The simple fact is: Stimuli keep coming your way throughout life. How you react to each of them is your responsibility, not that of the external sources of the stimuli.

            You have firstly assumed that all Ukrainian men are shallow and will thus prefer looks over intelligence. Now, there are shallow Ukrainian women who prefer wealth over character of the man they fancy marrying, that doesn’t make all of them gold diggers, now does it? By the way, stereotyping the entire opposite gender based on (usually negative) attributes observed in certain specimens of that gender is sexist, whether done by a man or by a woman.

            Further, the survey results only showed the aspirations of the women, not the expectations of the men! It was 55% of the women who PERCEIVED that men liked looks rather than intelligence, being the shallow bastards they are spposed to be in Ukraine. Nowhere in the survey were men and their expectations from the women mentioned!! It only showed what women perceived men liked about them, not what the men liked per se. Let be honest, women know abt. men as much as men know abt. women.

            Also, since you’ve talked about superficial and shallow expectations of the men, then let us talk about those of the 55% women too; why do you think they voted for looks rather than brains? Because they, unlike the remaining 45% who want to make a niche for themselves on their own, want to net a wealthy husband who can bankroll their entire life and lifestyle. If they can’t find one in Ukraine, they will gladly become mail-order brides the region is famous for and migrate to affluent countries to have their “marriage of convenience”. Had this not been the case, then all or most of the women would’ve opted for education/brains! Oh, by the way, brains/intelligence/competency is also not the forte of every woman (which is true in the case of men,too).That is why the talentless and unintelligent women will have to devise some other way of getting through in life and good looks (natural or obtained) are the best bet in this scenario.

            “—where on earth is that true? Because even in the western world the gender bias still exists.”

            Well, maybe in your delusional feminist world (where all women are perpetual victims and all men are perpetrators) that is not possible! But, in the real world, it is very much possible. Women who are capable of earning respect from all round them due to their capabilities are never denied it. But, the ones incapable of earning it are definitely denied!!

            Western societies also have these superficial women who want men to bankroll their lives and will thus want to marry (and later divorce) rich. Of course, they aren’t the true representatives of the typical female attitude (even though the attitude of some Shallow Hal’s is perfectly representative of the typical male attitude, apparently!). The reason men don’t take those women seriously is that those women don’t want to take their own selves seriously. And, hence the residual gender biases.

          • http://www.pereltsvaig.com Asya Pereltsvaig

            First of all, you might want to check your tone if you want any further of your comments to be posted on this site.

            Second, surveys of Ukrainian society AS A WHOLE show that men hold those attitude that are reflected in the survey, even more widely than women do. Third, nobody talks about marriage of convenience, or mail brides here. It’s all about perfectly normal relationships, professional and marriage alike.

            As for the gender bias in the western world, unfortunately it exists, whether you know of it or not. I am not talking about (the few) women who want to marry rich. I am talking about the bias in the professional sphere, in business, academia and elsewhere. It has been well documented.

          • Gaurang Karmakar

            First of all, you might want to explain how my tone offends you! Neither have I threatened you nor have I indulged in swear words! The rod of truth does indeed hurt like hell! Threatening to shunt me out won’t exactly help.

            “Second, surveys of Ukrainian society AS A WHOLE show that men hold those attitude that are reflected in the survey, even more widely than women do”

            Can you elaborate about those surveys about Ukrainian society or men AS A WHOLE, which substantiate your point (sources, references, institutions and personnel conducting those surveys etc.)? Further, what was the sampling design applied for each of these surveys; was it Simple Random Sampling, Systematic Sampling, Stratified Sampling etc.? What exactly were the target populations (in terms of age etc.) chosen for sampling in such sample surveys? I have noticed that while most surveys usually state explicitly the entire procedure relied on, these surveys that emanate from feminist and other organizations dedicated to gender-based surveys usually don’t!

            It certainly can’t be this one, as like I had said, this survey’s results only showed the aspirations of the women, not the
            expectations of the men! It was 55% of the women who PERCEIVED that men liked looks rather than intelligence, being the shallow bastards they are supposed to be in Ukraine. Nowhere in the survey were men and their expectations from the women mentioned!! It only showed what women perceived men liked about them, not what the men liked per se.

            Finally, I’d like to mention that I, being from a Statistics background, am well aware of certain phenomena in Statistics, which can lead to spurious inferences:

            1) Bad Sampling, or Selective Sampling: Wherein the surveyor usually picks up those sample observations that seem to be very much (if not perfectly) in line with the pre-set dogmas and notions of the surveyor, while eliminating the rest.

            2) Spurious or Non-Sense Correlation: Wherein 2 or more attributes, which logically have no scope whatsoever for being correlated, somehow show correlation. This is often done by resorting to Bad Sampling mentioned above.

            Is there any chance or proof of these surveys being immune to these above mentioned spurious tactics?

            The same query I’d like to put forward for your allegation of sexist tendencies present (if not rampant) in the Western world, whether the surveys relevant in this case have been qualitative or quantitative in their approach.

          • http://www.pereltsvaig.com Asya Pereltsvaig

            The survey I am referring to questioned men as well as women, and as a matter of fact an even higher proportion of men said that looks are more important for a woman than education. So it is clearly not a view that women hold DESPITE men’s attitudes, no? Moreover, the survey was conducted by a respectable sociological institute, a UN-sponsored one, if I remember correctly. While I am familiar with various problems in sociological surveying (as sociology is my background too), I don’t see a reason to accuse the said study of malfeasance without any shred of proof or even suspicious evidence.

          • Gaurang Karmakar

            “………So it is clearly not a view that women hold DESPITE men’s attitudes, no?”

            Stimuli will keep coming your way, how you react to each of them is totally up to you, like I have been insisting. If you feel that the survey is right in concluding that women’s attitudes in Ukraine are BECAUSE OF men’s attitudes, then basically what your survey is trying to tell the world is that the Ukrainian women are owners of such impressionable minds that can be so easily molded, nay manipulated, by the attitudes of the men! It’s almost as if these women are nothing more than 4 or 5 year olds, as far as mental maturity and autonomy of conviction is concerned!So much for women’s emancipation. Women of Ukraine are themselves so mentally subservient to the superficial whims and fantasies of their men, yet they don’t like to be reminded of this fact by MCPs (male chauvinistic politicians) like Tabachnik. Hypocrisy or what!

            I think it is your favorite surveyors who are calumniating the Ukrainian women, not the men of Ukraine! The men of Ukraine will only take advantage of this aspect, that’s all!

            But no, that cannot be the case, as I realize that women, like rest of the human race, may get insecure, but never that insecure that ALL or MAJORITY of them end up with misguided aspirations based COMPLETELY or MOSTLY on what the opposite gender says. The human mind and spirit is much more robust than that. Were you, as a woman, ever as impressionable as these women?

            This is enough to suspect foul play using typical statistical manipulation to do what feminists have been doing the world over: give women a perpetual victim status, so that they can find it just too easy to blame men for all their deficiencies, in-competencies, their stupidities and all the ills that besiege them and the society as a whole! Women want freedom, but no accountability for their actions; they want equal rights, but not equal responsibilities as the men!

            ” I don’t see a reason to accuse the said study of malfeasance without any shred of proof or even suspicious evidence.”

            But, of course! Given your feminist leanings, I’m sure you can never ever find fault with surveys that paint women as victims and men as the perpetrators! Further, knowing how well funded the feminist organizations are by the supra-national organizations like the UN, IMF, World Bank etc., it won’t be a surprise to me that such surveys come out from there. You still haven’t replied to my queries about the authenticity of the surveys!

          • http://www.pereltsvaig.com Asya Pereltsvaig

            As I said, if you want to discuss the validity of the survey, please show some specific facts that cast doubt on their validity, beyond the results not fitting you ideologized agenda. Otherwise we have nothing to discuss.

          • Gaurang Karmakar

            “………..please show some specific facts that cast doubt on their validity, beyond the results not fitting you ideologized agenda. Otherwise we have nothing to discuss”

            Strange! This is exactly what I have been wanting to tell YOU all this while! As for the facts, you know how very well facts and figures can be twisted and turned as per people’s preset nations and dogmas. Even I can come up with surveys that allude to something really nonsensical; only thing is I have no backing of a strong and lofty supra-national entity like the UN.There are lies, damned lies and Statistics, as Mark Twain quipped once.(Funny I’m saying this, as I am a statistician myself!).

          • http://www.pereltsvaig.com Asya Pereltsvaig

            So you admit that you have nothing for a reasoned discussion except you need of a forum to pour out your sexist frustrations? But this is what I’ve been trying to tell you all along: this is not a proper forum for that.

          • Gaurang Karmakar

            Oh please! You haven’t read my reply to your query abt. contacting the authors of the survey, have you? And, how did I become a sexist for merely questioning the authenticity of the surveys? Have I ever cast aspersions abt. women and their capabilities? Am I advocating anti-female attitudes? Typical feminist tactic, I guess! Label a questioner a misogynist just like that!

          • Gaurang Karmakar

            PS:- Frankly Speaking, I have my doubts about VIRTUALLY ALL surveys based on the genders (incl. the survey Tabachnik was alluding to in this article), as these surveys can be so easily be subjected to spurious statistical techniques mentioned above. And, knowing pretty well what feminists can do to drive their point (whether correct or otherwise), one has to be very skeptical of these survey results (if one is sane and rational and not easily misled, that is)!

          • http://www.pereltsvaig.com Asya Pereltsvaig

            You can be sceptical all you want, but before you accuse the survey of falsifying facts (and indirectly me, for using a bad survey to make my point), why don’t you look it up and find actual flaws with it?

          • Gaurang Karmakar

            Done that already!! Hence my assertions/doubts.

          • http://www.pereltsvaig.com Asya Pereltsvaig

            I meant show specific flaws in the survey, with facts, numbers, references.

          • Gaurang Karmakar

            I already have; they haven’t specified the exact sampling method and explained how these surveys have been insured against bad sampling or spurious correlation etc., nor have they mentioned what is the exact target population they have chosen for sampling; whether they have chosen a particular age-group or generation. How many of the surveyed men and women were from the older and younger generations? Attitudes are known to vary from generation to generation! Further, which socioeconomic strata or income group did the sample units (men and women interviewed or surveyed by them) come from? Were the men and/or women from a lower educational and socioeconomic background where people in general tend to have such unfavorable viewpoints about women? These questions don’t seem to have been dealt with by these surveys. They only show a group of men and another group of women and the percentages and proportions in which they have respectively given their answers.

          • http://www.pereltsvaig.com Asya Pereltsvaig

            I’m sure these issues have been addressed. Why don’t you contact the survey authors and find out from them?

          • Gaurang Karmakar

            Oh, I’d love to, but I have a feeling that such a thing would be totally redundant, as I’m sure you must have already done the same, hence your rock-solid and unwavering conviction regarding the authenticity of those surveys and the logical correctness of the subsequent inferences drawn by you from them!

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