I just had a really scary experience. I’m reading a lot about the Franco-era propaganda for my research right now. (A new article is in the works, and the subject will fascinate you when I share it.) My brain works best when there are several sources of information coming at it at the same time. This is why a Russian TV show is on while I’m reading.
So I’m reading about the way the fascist propaganda in Franco’s Spain defined women’s role in society: women are secondary to men, their role is to serve, women are incapable of producing any original thought, they are weak, they need a strong male guidance, women are incomplete human beings, women are inferior to men in terms of intellect and the basic human worth, a woman’s only role is to be an object of male pleasure, etc.
As I read, however, I get the uncanny feeling that the words in front of me are being repeated aloud. I raise my eyes and realize that the host of the Russian TV show is repeating the same things, word for word, and everybody in the audience is agreeing passionately.
The really weird part of this situation is that the female TV star who delivers this fascist anti-women garbage and the absolute majority of her all-female audience are women who have worked their entire lives, who have been the primary bread-winners for their families, who have fed and clothed their non-working or barely-ever-working husbands, who rule their families with an iron fist, and whom you wouldn’t dare to contradict in real life for fear of being chewed down alive and spit out. I saw this very TV host being interviewed with her husband, and the poor guy lives in holy terror of this woman. She obviously doesn’t practice what she preaches but she honestly thinks she does.
When a bunch of fundamentalist housewives gets together and chirps out this stuff, it at least makes some sort of a practical sense. They sell their agency for being fed and clothed, for having an identity they didn’t work to achieve, for being spared the unwelcome need to grow up. It is not the kind of bargain I can understand or approve of, but at least it makes some sort of sense.
What I don’t get about the women in my (Russian-speaking) culture, though, is the sheer impracticality of their willing self-debasement. It is mind-boggling that in the XXIst century women who have have grown up in a society where for the past 95 years all women worked (by all I mean 100%), have been strong, powerful, and active, women would spout the Franco-era garbage of their own free will and for absolutely no discernible reason whatsoever.
P.S. These Russian TV shows I watch have traumatized N.’s feminist soul to such an extent that he started having nightmares. I now have to turn them off whenever he comes home from work because the poor man suffers too badly when he hears all this anti-women crap. I will continue watching, however, because this is an ethnographic phenomenon that needs to be studied.