Long-time readers of this blog know that I have a “ignore the idiots” rule. They also know I frequently break that rule, particularly in the face of idiocy that’s so egregious that it’s fall-down-in-hysterics kind of funny.
So when I got this charming missive from an e-mail account that immediately went into defunct mode (because, it would seem, the author follows my Twitter and may be someone I’ve crossed paths with before – and, I’m guessing, doesn’t want me to find out his real name), I knew I’d have to break my rule yet again.
For the record, I’m not entirely sure that this guy believes everything he says. It all feels a little too pat and manipulative. At the same time, the attitude he displays is actually pretty common – both for certain Moscow expats and other folks. And his crude stereotyping of Russians is even more common. As such, I want to publish this letter, and respond to it publicly. The author certainly doesn’t deserve that, so this letter is aimed at otherwise decent people who harbor similar sentiments. Maybe by reading this, they’ll realize how ridiculous these sentiments make them look.
You know things are about to get awesome when you get an e-mail beginning with a “gosh.”
in a way, I really didn’t want to send this letter. But in another way, you really leave me no choice. Allow me to begin by saying that the Moscow News is a great paper: its funny, witty, accessible without being stupid, and very much of use for expats. As a seasoned Moscow expat I have admired it for a while, and even the fact that the print edition is now an insert in Moskovskie Novosti doesn’t detract from it. If anything, it’s fun to read two papers in one (and my Russian, i dare say, is good enough).
It starts out being so sweet! Awww. He’s trying hard to be nice, but I have left him with no choice. Prepare yourself for real talk, ’cause it’s coming.
There is only one problem with the paper. There is no way in saying this in such a way that won’t be hurtful, so I will merely have to be blunt about it: that problem is the fact that it’s run by a woman. It’s run, in other words, by you.
I like how he has to really sit there and explain to me that the paper I run is run by me. Just in case I don’t know that. I mean, crazier things have happened in this world, I suppose. You could run a paper for months and even years and never know about it. Thank GOD I have “seasoned Moscow expats” looking out for me.
I know what you’re thinking right now. “What? How? This is the 21st century you neanderthal [SIC] and I am a liberated young woman (here you can mention all of your skills, your diplomas, awards, experiences)! How dare you question my skill!”
Yep, it’s true. When someone tells me I can’t do something because I’m a woman, I immediately start listing all of my awards – including those horse show awards I got in the 7th grade – in a desperate attempt to prove that I TOTALLY CAN DO IT ALL. Because I naturally take such claims very, VERY seriously – and you should too, ladies.
The problem is…… (And I really must stress this point) I’m not questioning your skills. Skills are fine! But there is also the problem of image. And in Russia, a woman in charge will never be fully accepted or truly successful. Sorry for laying down the cold, hard truth in this manner, but surely with your own Russian roots (which you have talked about on Twitter), you know exactly what it is I’m talking about. You can be in denial, thats [SIC] fine. But this is Russia. Some things will never change.
You know, this caricature of Russia is fantastic, but it’s totally missing a bear playing sexist songs on his balalaika while wearing an “I like rape” t-shirt. Come on, seasoned Moscow expat! IS IT TOO MUCH TO ASK FOR YOU TO REALLY GO FOR IT?
For expats, Russia is a man’s world. We come for the women, the parties, the money.
We fuck with abandon and take the best prizes.
And we’re not the only ones. Russia for Russians is also a man’s world. This won’t be something you can deny for long.
See? I told you guys that things were about to get awesome and they TOTALLY have.
In the long term a woman in charge is simply bad luck for the paper. There is a REASON why there are no interesting female journalists in Russia, and no interesting female expat journalists in Russia.
Yeah, I personally found Pulitzer Prize winner Ellen Barry to be boring as hell. Same goes for BuzzFeed’s Miriam Elder & TNR’s Julia Ioffe. Oh, and the ones who have remained here? God, don’t even let me start on how dull THIS lot is. Lynn Berry bores me to tears, for example. Colleagues Natalia Yefimova and Anna Arutunyan, Kristen Blyth and Joy Neumeyer? I fall asleep every time one of them does so much as begin a sentence in my presence.
This is all beside the terrifying fact that RIA Novosti, Russia’s biggest news agency and the owner of The Moscow News, is run by Svetlana Mironyuk. The boredom is so overwhelming and oppressive that it’s a wonder how we manage to do any work around here.
In general, uninteresting, uninspiring, positively lifeless women in the Russian media abound - everywhere from pro-Kremlin juggernaut Russia Today (run by Margarita Simonyan) to the stylish Dozhd TV (run by Natalia Sindeeva). Everywhere you look, there’s some boring woman going up in the mountains to talk to terrorists (see Russkiy Reporter) or chasing after corrupt officials (see Novaya Gazeta).
And everyone knows that Anna Politkovskaya was shot dead because of how utterly bland HER style was. There, case closed.
Russians know more about human nature. They know about nature period. They don’t believe in aggressive female movements (look where Pussy Riot is right now and you will know what I mean), they couldn’t care less about western PC norms, and they loathe to have a woman in charge, and think it is unnatural.
This is SO true, you guys. In fact, Russians are SO into nature, that they recently went ahead and banned nanotechnology and antibiotics. Mother Russia is synonymous with Mother Nature, and no one here will let you forget that. Of course, it can get a bit annoying. People drop their pants and do their business on the street – since it’s the natural way and all – and that takes some time to get used to. Sometimes, my sleigh gets stuck in the snow on the way to work. Every once in a while, we discover a family of squirrels hibernating in my husband’s natural, traditional beard, which he hasn’t shaved since he was 15, ’cause he’s a real man. But hey, whatever. Russians are into nature, REAL nature, not some watered-down, PC type of nature they propagate in the “dwindling” and irrelevant West.
I will bet a thousand dollars that Your Russian colleagues hate you, even if you can’t admit it it won’t be any less true.
This is the horrible truth at the core of my existence. My vast professional experience proves that they hate me. The journalists, the film critics, the producers, the theater directors, the media managers, the PR gurus, the IT developers, the bank executives, the overworked beat cops who answer their phones in bedroom voices, the doctors, the lawyers, the shop owners, the chefs, the restaurateurs, the political analysts, the sociologists, the actors, the war veterans, the big-name bloggers, the TV hosts with polished manners, the sound guys in torn t-shirts, the celebrated painters, and, well, pretty MUCH everyone I’m in contact with personally or professionally – they despise me for the leadership roles I’ve taken on in my lifetime. Sometimes, they scream and throw rocks.
In fact, every woman hurrying on her way to work at the expense of her traditional, “womanly” role gets rocks thrown at her in Russia. It’s a national past time – like hockey, only with more violence.
I don’t know when you arrived in Russia, but I assume it wasn’t that long ago.
And it is best you hear the truth now, from a friendly source.
There are traditions in this world that shouldn’t be overlooked simply because it is now “in fashion” to do it in the rapidly dwindling west. If I were you, i would think long and hard about your real purpose in this world – and about your REAL purpose in Russia.
I’m honestly feeling blessed that this guy totally took time out from his busy schedule of fucking with abandon and getting all of the prizes to write this screed. My life is forever changed. In fact, my life is now a brooding montage of me whispering the question of my real purpose in this world as the snow falls in slow motion all around me and migalka-laden BMW’s honk in the street. And that, my friends, is a special gift.
Eat your heart out, ladies, for he is MY admirer, and totally NOT YOURS. My life may be dull and meaningless, my lady-brains may be inferior and hormone-addled, but I have “seasoned Moscow expat” on my side – and if seasoned Moscow expats be with us, who could be against us?
On that note, I am now going to quit my job, renounce my education, and go wander in the desert. Who’s with me?