Tomorrow (March 8) is International Women’s Day, which, as everyone knows, began as a Leftie phenomenon. Back in the day, every Labor or Socialist Party had a Women’s Auxiliary, which militated for the rights and special needs of working women within the platform of the overall party line. Women’s Day itself was initiated by progressive American women in New York in 1909. Many of these women had political roots dating all the way back to the Abolitionist movement. A primary demand was the right to vote in elections, in addition to many other demands, both political and social in nature. (Later, after American women gained the vote, they sort of perverted it into Prohibition, but that’s a whole ‘nother story.)
After the Revolution (1917) Russian women gained the vote earlier than most, and March 8 became a national holiday in the Soviet Union. In 1975 it was adopted by the United Nations. Nowadays, in countries like the United States this holiday is barely noted, and even when yawningly noted, is treated more like a variant of Mother’s Day, with gallantries such as flowers and cakes, masking the original communist nature of the event. See, kids, back in the day, sexual equality was the domain of the Left.
Be that as it may, I am starting the celebrations one day early, in order to bring you this piece about a powerful Russian woman named Maria Zakharova. Zakkie, as her friends do not call her, is addressing the issue of sexual harassment. By the way I couldn’t help but notice that the Russian press has picked up still another Anglicism: харассмент (“harassment”) which will soon, no doubt, replace the native Russian variant домогательства.
Zakkie is the official representative of the Russian State Department and is known for her witty and sometimes blunt verbal ripostes against Russia’s enemies. As an attractive woman in her early 40’s who started her career as a simple journalist, Maria would have seen and experienced various types of bad behavior in the workplace. Probably not nowadays, that she is in a position of power. Harassment is mostly the cross that the powerless are forced to bear. And sexual harassment in the workplace, after all, takes many forms, not just the crude type of “Have sex with me if you want the job.” Well, maybe that’s the norm in Hollywood, but in my own humble experience as a white-collar worker, “harassment” in the office place is usually more subtle than that. It involves things like office politics, bullying, put-downs, making people feel uncomfortable, jockeying for position with the boss, trying to demoralize your opponents, forming lunch cliques or “boys clubs” within the team, that sort of thing. Victims can be males as well as females, but it’s usually the girls who experience the rich fullness of the “hostile workplace”, as Americans term this ghastly situation.
Zakharova pondered on this issue, came up with some ideas, and posted her recommendations on her Facebook. She advises against the B.S. type “mass campaigns” that are so popular in the West. Things like the #MeToo movement. As if hashtags on Twitter can resolve issues of office politics and force people to treat each other with respect. Nah, ain’t gonna happen.
If a girl comes up against “classic” sexual harassment, then she should turn to the police, Zakharova advises: “As I understand it, my position is a fresh one, and not widespread. If there is a breach of the law — go to the police, immediately. Public campaigns have never solved any problems.” I believe the scenario here is the one involving actual rape or attempted rape, or physical battery. Something that would attract the interest of the police. As one of the commenters to the VZGLIAD piece (Palets Russkovo Khakera) notes, the Russian legal code has an article against rape, but not against harassment per se. Hence, the police are not going to get involved unless there is actually a physical crime. Palets is correct, of course.
On encountering something perhaps not quite meeting the benchmark of a crime or requiring police action, something like being verbally disrespected, Zakharova recommends expressing one’s opinion immediately, right in the face of the offender, and right in public. This is great advice, IMHO, but not always practical. For example, if the person doing the verbal disrespecting is your actual boss, or one of the boss’s henchpersons. Office Politics, again.
The VZGLIAD piece notes that a commenter named Liliya Akhmetova vigorously debated Zakharova’s opinion on her Facebook and supported the #MeToo type of approach:
“But this campaign, as you called it, in the U.S. and other countries, did in fact solve the problem with Weinstein. He was fired in disgrace. And others paid the price too: Spacey & Co. lost their contracts. Editors, publishers, Media Moguls were fired, along with officials and others. It is only in backward, Domostroy, anti-feminist Russia, that harassment is not only tolerated, but encouraged! Not only that, but the victim is blamed, and even women throw their own under the bus! There is a certain etiquette, there is even the law, but where in the legal code is there an article against harassment? There is not one. So what use is your advice? Society itself must be the judge, and the perpetrator, like is done in proper countries, should be relieved of his job.”
Aside from Liliya’s naive belief that “proper” countries such as the U.S. deal with sexual harassment and sexual inequality any better than Russia does, her points, IMHO, are valid. What would a policeman be able to say, or do, if a woman marched into the precinct and declared: “My boss called me a bitch and told me to shut up, right in the middle of a public meeting with top management!”
Nothing. The cop would not be able to do one damned thing. Which is why the real solution, as those New York women already knew, back in 1909, is for the working man and woman to have “proper” trade unions and political parties, which protect their rights and their human dignity on the job. So there!