We all know how much I love people from other cultures pitying us, the Russian-speakers. The subject of mail-order brides is one of the topics that allows folks to feel profoundly sorry for poor, silly, victimized Russian-speaking women. Here is an example of how the image of Eastern-European mail-order brides is constructed for the enjoyment of the Western bleeding hearts:
I knew there was absolutely no way I could rationalize the “Win a Wife” contest. The whole event could easily be the premise for an episode of a popular crime show. And while this comparison is a superficial one, there are many more substantial issues I would like to address.
I am immediately disturbed by what women are referred to on the radio station’s website. The phrase “hot foreign chick” elicits a strong reaction from me because while it is utterly demeaning, it also plays off this awful notion of female exoticization. As though women who work with such “matchmaking” agencies are not human at all, but rather, a fantasy crafted strictly for the seeker’s pleasure. The phrase reflects attitudes towards women that are gravely misogynistic and ultimately, it is hyper-reductive. However, the radio station is not the only source of such behavior. The agency that the radio station is working in conjunction with, Volga Girl, describes itself as “an integrity-based American company”. But upon closer examination, there seems to be little integrity on the website. While the radio station chooses to classify the Russian women on the Volga Girl website as “hot foreign chicks”, the agency’s website itself takes it one detail further. Visitors to the site have access to profiles of various women (who are each assigned a number for categorical purposes) which include a photo of the woman, her age, height, weight, religion and most importantly, her bust-waist-hip measurements.
What’s missing from this overly dramatic description is how the women in question imagine and approach the men they contact through the agency. Is there any evidence that they are not as driven by a silly fantasy fueled by a desire to see a future partner as an object that possesses a set of desirable characteristics? Why is there an immediate assumption that the women don’t treat men they contact through the agency in the same way those men treat them?
The author’s incapacity to imagine the women this article seemingly attempts to defend as valid human beings becomes glaringly obvious from the following sentence:
To be clear, this is not an attempt to criticize women who use agencies like Volga Girl for their services, but to simply make clear what the true aims for such matchmaking companies are and to also note that being in such a position presents many risks.
And why, may I ask, should we not criticize these women? Moreover, why not criticize them for the same reasons we criticize the men who use the agency? If these men are guilty of engaging in a baseless, uninformed fantasy that exoticizes people from other countries, how do the women who pay to be listed by the agency not guilty of the same attitude? Both men and women who use such agencies attempt to buy a spouse because they are, for whatever reason, incapable of finding one at home. And usually, the reasons for their unpopularity among their peers are exactly the same.
On both sides of the mail-order marriage business, there are people who pay for an unrealistic fantasy of a problem-free, perfect partner who has to be amazing by virtue of being foreign. To say that the victims in this game are always women while the men always win is a complete and utter distortion of the truth.
I have written some really good posts on mail order brides in the past, when my blog was less popular. If you haven’t read them and are looking for something interesting and less one-sided to read on the subject, I highly recommend. You can find them here and here. These old posts also contain information as to the social class from which the majority of mail brides come which is a factor that the pseudo-feminists who love to pity them always try to forget.