Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Russia's irresponsible men

One of those traditional cultural stereotypes is that of the irresponsible Russian man who is drinking too much. In this article I found some explanation for that:

Or take 1940s Russia, which lost some 20 million men and 7 million women to World War II. In order to replenish the population, the state instituted an aggressive pro-natalist policy to support single mothers. Mie Nakachi, a historian at Hokkaido University, in Japan, has outlined its components: mothers were given generous subsidies and often put up in special sanatoria during pregnancy and childbirth; the state day-care system expanded to cover most children from infancy; and penalties were brandished for anyone who perpetuated the stigma against conceiving out of wedlock. In 1944, a new Family Law was passed, which essentially freed men from responsibility for illegitimate children; in effect, the state took on the role of “husband.” As a result of this policy — and of the general dearth of males — men moved at will from house to house, where they were expected to do nothing and were treated like kings; a generation of children were raised without reliable fathers, and women became the “responsible” gender. This family pattern was felt for decades after the war.

Indeed, Siberia today is suffering such an acute “man shortage” (due in part to massive rates of alcoholism) that both men and women have lobbied the Russian parliament to legalize polygamy. In 2009, The Guardian cited Russian politicians’ claims that polygamy would provide husbands for “10 million lonely women.” In endorsing polygamy, these women, particularly those in remote rural areas without running water, may be less concerned with loneliness than with something more pragmatic: help with the chores. Caroline Humphrey, a Cambridge University anthropologist who has studied the region, said women supporters believed the legalization of polygamy would be a “godsend,” giving them “rights to a man’s financial and physical support, legitimacy for their children, and rights to state benefits.”

Social policies can have far reaching consequences.

An alternative theory can be found here (Deep Roots of Russian Homophobia: Indeed, many writers have noted that Russia is a female-dominated culture. Russian women are often portrayed as strong, dominant and even domineering — both negatively, such as Kabanikha, the tyrannical mother-in-law in Alexander Ostrovsky's play "The Tempest," and positively, as in Nikolai Nekrasov's paean to the Russian woman, who supposedly can stop a galloping horse and enter a burning house. [] Russian men, on the other hand, have tended to fall short and display a variety of weaknesses, such as fear of authority and predilection for drinking. This is a common problem in oppressed societies, where strong, responsible, self-respecting males are seen by the authorities as a threat. The pattern of strong women and weak men — a reversal of ­"traditional" roles — has been observed in other oppressed cultures, such as among the Irish and African-Americans.

During the Soviet era, the situation became much worse. The system was specially designed to identify and eradicate strong and honorable men. Men were also often physically missing because of wars, purges and incarcerations. The ones that remained were often useless as husbands and fathers. Several generations of Russians were raised predominantly by mothers and grandmothers.

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