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.
14 thoughts on “More on Mail Order Brides”
*And usually, the reasons for their unpopularity among their peers are exactly the same.*
Doesn’t it contradict what you said earlier about post-USSR realities, in which even your favorite, interesting, smart Russian journalist and blogger strives to become a mistress? In USA realities are different and many bride-buying men seem to be MRA losers. More info, please?
The blogger in question isn’t trying to find a foreign man and never did at any time that I’m aware of. She is strictly pro-Russian oligarchs. 🙂 This makes sense in practical terms because if you want a really rich guy, you don’t go American. You go Russian. 🙂
So we are talking about two completely different kinds of people here. One is looking for a rich lover and another is looking for a foreign lover.
Usually, mail order brides from our countries end up with American and Canadian men who are significantly LOWER DOWN than they are on the social scale.
By the way, there was an advertisement of doing business in Russia in Vancouver airport: “Russian billionaires are on average 15 years younger than American billionaires. That’s where the opportunities are”. Or something like that.
In other words, they deserve each other. And you’re probably right. I once used to receive a penfriends magazine – they have probably been overtaken by the |Internet, where you can easily make contact with people from far-away places and different cultures, just by reading their blogs. But about half the people who advertised in the magazines were obviously driven by fantasies, not only about other people, but also about themselves. One (in the USA) described humself as a “well-endowed long-enduring male”, and that kept us in giggles for ages.
“In other words, they deserve each other.”
-That’s exactly my point.
I also had tons of penfriends since childhood. 🙂 Now, of course, as you say, blogging has substituted for that.
In 1992 the brother of a Swiss friend was sent by his company to open a branch in Kiev. While working there he met a medical student, fell in love, married her and had a child. When he returned to Switzerland with her in 1995 she could not get credit for her medical schooling & went to pharmacy school as a quick way to a medical type degree. 10 years later she divorced him. My friend and her family think that she just married him to get out of Ukraine and get Swiss residency. I don’t know, but they are not close with his daughter which I find very disturbing. Today he is marrying a Brasilian who he met in Switzerland and is setting up a business in Brasil. It seems he has a thing for exotic foreign women.
A Mexico born friend from Texas just married a South African woman he met online. He was working in Iraq and their first date was in Dubai. Six months later they were married in SA and he was trying to get a spousal visa for her to the US. We warned him it wouldn’t be easy, but 6 months later he got her in the country after being on unpaid leave from his company the whole time and spending almost all of his money. Did she marry him to get out of SA? Nobody knows for sure but her. Did she think he might be “a good catch” and “a good provider”? I sure hope so. Two years before the husband’s wife died leaving a 12 year old at home. She went to live with her sister. Now she is living with her stepmother and step brother while her father continues to work out of town. I sure hope that the husband thought about her as a stepmother before marriage instead of just thinking of how hot she was in bed.
Another friend’s son is trying to marry a Romanian woman who he met online. Of course he wants to bring her to the US to live with him here. He wouldn’t think of moving to Romania and living with her there.
Is he being exploited? Is our Mexican American friend? Was the brother of my Swiss friend? Are the westerners just losers who can’t attract their countrywomen? The men are very good looking, bright and have good jobs. I have never met the women. But don’t both men and women in most parts of the world think about what kind of spouse and parent their lover might be before they start thinking about marriage? I certainly did before each of my marriages. I never thought, “OMG, she is so hot & sexy, I want to marry her.” Instead I thought about how she treated children and whether she would be a good model for a growing child. I thought about her relationship with her parents and what that indicated about how she was treated as a child and how she might treat our children. Perhaps that is too cold and calculating, but we are talking about marriage, not sex buddies.
30 years ago one of my brothers married a woman from Bangalore. Did she want to get herself and her mother out of India? Damn straight she did. She worked hard, progressed from a receptionist to the top paid professional in her financial services company and after 25 years and 2 children she divorced my brother. Would my brother’s marriage have been better with an American woman? I doubt it.
Finally, the elephant in the room that we are not talking about is women trading sex for money or security and men trading money or security for sex. If the relationship is short lived, I see no harm. If the relationship leads to children and/or marriage, then I hope that both are thinking about that as well as sex. But as many marriages fail in the US between American men & women as succeed. At least a modicum of thought and calculating needs to go into any relationship that is going to be successful. I certainly wouldn’t want to marry someone with so little common sense that she didn’t think about the practical aspects of the relationship as well as the romantic.
The problem with such relationships is, in my opinion, that if you haven’t been able to create anything longstanding with somebody from your own culture, what are the chances of you doing this with a person whose language you don’t understand, whose culture is alien to you, who doesn’t share your frame of reference, who cannot possibly have the same interests or topics of conversation as you, who hasn’t read the same books, watched the same movies or Tv shows, who thinks the food you eat is weird, your relationship with your family and friends is bizarre, your clothes are strange and everything you do is incomprehensible? Seriously, what are the chances? And this is all on top of the fact that you are having some issues that are preventing you from being in a relationship even with somebody who shares all these things with you.
People in the West have the strangest idea about our FSU countries. The amount of mythology spread by the media is staggering. And the same happens back in our countries in relation to the US (Canada is simply not on the radar screen at all.)
These are the practical aspects people should be thinking about. You are sitting at home together in the evening and you want to share a joke or a story that you find interesting or funny with your partner. And s/he simply doesn’t get it. And not just once or twice. Ever. I think we can agree that this will be a very sad kind of marriage.
*And s/he simply doesn’t get it. And not just once or twice. Ever.*
Clarissa, I wanted to ask whether your husband is Russian-speaking too.
Imho you aren’t exactly right. I came to Israel in teen years, without watching Israeli children programs or watching much TV at all. Whom can I marry? Only somebody who immigrated too? What about somebody who immigrated at the age of ~40 like my mother? Why don’t you think that people absorb another culture and enrich themselves? That they become citizens of new country too?
N. is Russian. I don’t see what this has to do with me, though. Did you think I was a mail-order bride? 🙂
Mail-order brides spend very little time together with their future husbands. They maybe get to see each other twice for a few days before entering into marriage. What is it that one can absorb and enrich on a couple of occasions where the groom comes to visit you for a week?
How familiar are you with how mail-order business works? It cannot even begin to be compared to regular immigration.
I think you overestimate the influence of cultural differences, Clarissa. Especially between Eastern Europe and North America or Western Europe. As long as both partners have good command of some one language, they can adjust on the fly and explain things when necessary. Even the Stierlitz jokes can be translated (if they do not involve play of words) successfully, and delivered with very brief introduction a la “there is this mini-series on Russian TV about the Russian spy in Nazi Germany who is so good it is just ridiculous”. I’ve done that multiple times.
You are a highly intellectual scientist who speaks many languages fluently and is brilliantly educated. I can’t really see you in the role of a mail-order bride or her prospective groom. 🙂
The men who go to purchase brides are usually from not extremely educated social classes. During the words “There is this mini-series on Russian TV”, their eyes glaze over.
The reason I know all these things is because I have a family member who was in the mail-order bride business for years and is now a mail-order wife. 😦 And all of the stories about her and her sisters-in-arms are based on how both men and women are horribly disappointed, miserable, and contemptuous towards each other. We are not talking about cosmopolitan sophisticated couples here who met at a conference and fell in love. We are talking about extremely limited, immature people with severe personal issues.
Funny you should discuss this subject now, because an Edmonton Radio station doing something relevant to this topic means you’ll probably be getting a lot more hits on this post, and you will have a *lot* of fun dissecting the bloggery surrounding it, I bet: