home Commentary, Europe, Feminism, Politics, Women Azarov’s sexist remarks in context

Azarov’s sexist remarks in context

Last month, Mykola Azarov made Ukraine look like a wonderfully modern and enlightened nation when he famously said that conducting reforms “is not a woman’s business.” Since then, plenty of people have reacted, including my acquaintance Anna Hutsol, leader of the controversial FEMEN organization.

The response I found most interesting, however, was that of the Kyiv Post’s Nataliya Bugayova. Criticizing the outrage that naturally followed Azarov’s comments, Bugayova claimed that the small percentage of women who make it in government are strong enough to be able to ignore Azarov’s comments – and as for the rest of us, we don’t matter, because we’re not suited for the job to begin with. Most interestingly, Bugayova chose to sum up her piece by pointing out that she herself has “never in [her] life felt any sexism or male chauvinism coming from Ukrainian men.”

While I obviously disagree with Bugayova’s first statement – and find her second statement incredulous to boot – what struck me about her position is how little it actually surprised me. One of the most popular arguments against women’s movements in general – and the Ukrainian women’s movement in particular – is rooted in a kind of determinism. Strong women don’t need any help in getting ahead!

If we don’t support a culture of strength, though, where are those strong women going to come from?

I would agree with Bugaoyva when she talks about the fact that Ukraine has, in fact, produced many excellent examples of feminine strength – though whether or not that strength translates to actual power is debatable. Regardless of any stereotypes, the majority of Ukrainian women are worker bees, fighting for survival right alongside the men. Whether their work usually translates into success is another matter entirely.

As Hutsol put it,

…gender in Ukraine works against women. They get lower salaries, fewer opportunities to move up the career ladder, and even fewer chances to get a good job or a good education. It is in this light that deep antagonism exists between gender and professionalism that Bugayova singled out in her column.

Professional success for women in Ukraine is often determined by the random lottery of privilege. Christina, 29, a successful dentist and a childhood friend of mine, recently remarked to me that she would have never gotten anywhere had her parents not looked out for her. Though one can argue that young male professionals must clear all of the same hurdles, the hurdles that are in place for Ukrainian women are higher. After all, the pressure on women to succeed is equated, if not surpassed, by the pressure to marry young, have children, and keep a perfect house, while still earning money.

Nobody gets ahead on merit alone. Some of us have people looking out of us. Some of us get by on luck. Some are blessed with a combination of the two. But what is most certainly clear is that any Ukrainian woman who stands up and says, “well, I have everything I need. Guess that means that sexism can’t be a problem in our country,” most likely lives a fairly insular existence. And yes, even in Ukraine, an insular existence is entirely possible.

Azarov’s remarks are more than an issue of sexism – they bring us to the intersection of sexism and class. The most privileged members of Ukrainian society can, in fact, ignore whatever it is that Azarov is saying. The rest of the country, though, best take heed. Attitudes like Azarov’s strike at society’s most vulnerable members, after all. For those young women who are already taught that they are nothing much, sexism among the nation’s elite acts like another nail in the coffin.


Natalia Antonova

Natalia is a writer and journalist. She’s the associate editor of openDemocracy Russia and the co-founder of the Anti-Nihilist Institute.

2 thoughts on “Azarov’s sexist remarks in context

  1. Editor Antonova

    You are being sent this communication because of your dedication to the amelioration of child abuse.

    A photograph of a 12-year-old child is currently being used, on line, to promote a college professor’s book — which he wrote about his marriage to a 12-year-old child. This 12-year-old child is nude in this photograph and she is accompanied by her then 35-year-old anthropologist husband. To view this photograph, Gooogle: Kenneth Good — then (about four groups down) click on the first photograph (of Good with his child bride) Enlarge this photograph and read the accompanying story (August 2009) by a Columbia University professor.

    This Pennsylvania anthropologist, married a 12-year-old third-world child, wrote a book about it (Into the Heart) was given a job — and tenure — at a university — is made an exemplary faculty member — is promoted — is the object of a National Geographic special — and the question is “why?”

    Current status: This anthropologist field a complaint against me – with the NJ Attorney General’s Office –because I was critical of this professor teaching New Jersey college students – that marrying a third-world child is an acceptable type of “participant-observation” anthropological research. Interestingly, this NJ Attorney General investigated this complaint – but wouldn’t investigate a ten-year no-show professor (documented) or the fact that our university president used a fraudulent academic degree to become the president (documented). The results of this Attorney General’s investigation will be available in a week or so.

    I have also objected to this professor’s having violated the NJ ethics law by compelling his students to buy the book he wrote about this “courtship.” Professors are not allowed to profit from their interactions with students – but if they do — by selling their books to them — they are required to turn the money over to a university fund. His university will do nothing to require him to do so.

    By definition – this professor meets the definition of a pedophile.

    Diagnostic And Statistical Manual Of Mental Disorders

    Diagnostic criteria for 302.2 pedophilia

    A. Over a period of at least 6 months, recurrent, intense sexually arousing fantasies, sexual urges, or behaviors involving sexual activity with a prepubescent child (generally 13 years or younger)

    B. The person has acted on these sexual urges, or the sexual urges or fantasies cause marked distress or interpersonal difficulty.

    C. The person is at least 16 years and at least 5 years older than the child.

    Quotes from this professor’s book (Into the Heart – Kenneth Good – Easton Pennsylvania) that might interest you. And as a woman, I hope you will find this type of sexual exploitation – under the guise of anthropological research – abhorrent.

    Page 53 “One little girl who lived with her mother…won my affection. She was no more than eight or nine…after a little coaxing I’d be able to get a bright smile from her, which always gave me a feeling of satisfaction…She was without a doubt the most charming youngster I had met among the Yanomama

    Page 64 “Toward the end of the first month…I noticed Yarima, the little girl with the enchanting smile. She approached my hammock…although I was pleasantly surprised by her coming over, I didn’t think anything of it. Later that day when I passed her mother’s shelter I asked jokingly “Is your daughter betrothed? I’d like to marry her someday.

    Pages 102, 103 this “anthropologist” observes a rape – doesn’t get involved (demonstrates awareness of research methodology) “don’t go in there – why not — because they are eating her vagina.”

    121 And now, suddenly, out of the clear blue sky, I had a Yanomama “wife” – a wife of sorts anyway. And not only a wife, but Yarima no less, who couldn’t be more than twelve years old.”

    125 Before, she had been the cute little girl with the smile and the hello. Now it was something more than that, and as time passed, a good deal more.

    128 (while in Europe with his age-appropriate girlfriend) “but despite it all I missed Yarima. I felt attached to her as if some bond had knotted itself around my heart. At night I would take her pictures out and look at them.

    141-2. For the first time I had anxieties about leaving. Always before, I left a young girl behind…Yarimi, I knew would in due course make her way into adulthood and assume the life as a Yanomama woman. I would have had an unusual experience with her, a unique experience…

    143 “She has been given to me! She is my wife (telling others not to have sex with her while he’s gone)

    158 Yarimi moves her hammock next to mine… (his first book has the picture of her with him {semi-nude; topless} – I will send you this picture if this story interests you.

    159 Yarimi was certainly at the most desirable moment in her life (must worry about protecting her from straying

    Full story – and much, much more http://www.njcu-gadfly.com

    Rules stipulating that professors are required to return royalty income to NJCU-type fund:

    State Ethics Commission

    Scholarly Capacity Rule

    Vol 39 Issue 22

    Issue date Nov 19, 2007

    NJR 495 1a

    Someone must challenge the American Anthropology Associations refusal to become involved in issues such as this, will Ms. Antonova be willing to take on this challenge?

  2. Hi William – I’m not in the States, so I’m not in the best position to offer any concrete response at this time. I’ll pass on your message, though. This story certainly *sounds* creep-tastic at best.

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