Cultural differences between Russia and the West: what your children learn (part I)

Have you heard of a "drag queen story hour"? For those who have not, it is an event where genderbending strangers with painted faces, gowns and bright-colored wigs show up to cuddle and read with children:

I thought it was an exclusively Western phenomenon until I saw the following video screenshot while surfing Russian-language YouTube. I was completely taken by surprise, and found myself wondering if "drag queen story hour" had spread to Russia, too:

But, if you watch the video, you will see things taken in a completely different direction. We get a fun story for kids about a self-interested and wicked caretaker. In other words, the very visual form and character that the West wants to present as harmless (and a means to expand a child's worldview at "drag queen story hour") is that of a selfish and corrupt character.

Suddenly it occurred to me: I could not name a single scenario in Western culture - in the modern, mainstream Western culture - where any individual who looked like the character in the video could be presented as a selfish and corrupt character like in the Russian video. And so, we essentially have a taboo persona for people with such an appearance - not unlike the current state of affairs in the West where it seems that black people cannot be portrayed as crooks and burglar villains, so it is likely we will never see them in that role again.

Of course, it could be a coincidence that "drag queen story hour" wardrobe resembles that of a wicked Russian old maid character. Plenty of gender-bending types look totally different - just like a biological female could also end up looking like the Russian old maid character. But that still gives us something interesting to talk about. After all, the idea of a wicked old maid who tends to inflict harm hearkens back to imagery in the West that is now fully antiquated:

Once, there were also societal jokes about being so polite as to not point out where an "old maid" might have gone wrong:

And, for years, the children's card game "Old Maid" reinforced that it was undesirable to become such a woman. Not surprisingly, that impression was something that Western women have rebelled against (1, 2). A feminist blogger known as ReelGirl even called for the game to be banned:

The West has slowly gravitated towards the idea that all bodies are sexy at any age and no matter what they look like (see also: 123) - at least as long as they are female. Males, meanwhile, are told they should have no say in determining beauty.

Books plant these ideas at a young age...

During the 2020 social-distancing/home-schooling situation, the above book was widely promoted online. Another book, sponsored by Disney on YouTube Kids, parrots the same message of power and entitlement:

Note the part about taking off clothes, and how that ties in to women's "choice"; incidentally, in the West, we have this...

"Her body, her choice", thus removing all limitations or considerations that stand in the way of maximal attention, praise and sex, non-stop, for girls:

Of course, it is not really clear in what way society benefits from this. The same thing can be said about television shows that imply women are a super race that can do everything:

And then there is The Powerpuff Girls, a series that, with two exceptions, cast all of the girls' enemies as boys. 

We also have Steven Universe, which features a largely-incapable young boy who respects and idolizes plump, muscular and potentially-lesbian female superheroes. 

Advertising in modern Western mainstream culture often plays to this theme, and suggests to women that they should strive to be powerful because they are great at everything, from the boardroom to the sports field.

Perhaps this sort of thing explains why there are people who think everything is a gender battle and somebody should be elected to office just because that person identifies as a "her":

In high school, my gym class would protest that the teams were constantly broken into "boys" and "girls", because we wanted the thrill of a close contest. But the teacher refused; to her, it was more important that, perhaps one day, the girls' team might win, and she could make whatever statement it was she was looking to make. She would sometimes even join in on the girls team. I can only imagine how many girls in the West are raised to think according to these principles:

And in Russia?

Well, for starters, statistics suggest that only 30% of Russian women believe women should engage in politics. This raises the question as to whether this is just a natural feminine disposition, or whether girls are simply a product of the environment they are brought up in.

As far as influence goes, major multinational corporations have attempted to shape Russian girls, if only for their own corporate interests to increase sales. Indeed, stroking the egos of female viewers, pushing a narrative that makes females feel victimized and convincing females that you are on their side in their fight is a sneaky way to create brand support and loyalty - and it is exactly what Nike has been trying to do in Russia:

For what its worth, the Russian women's team did not even qualify for the last two World Cup soccer tournaments and the champion in both cases, the U.S. women's team, lost in a scrimmage to an all-boys team. Australia's team suffered a similar embarassment. So much for girl power.

Note that the melody for the Nike commercial was hijacked from a Russian children's song, to make the commercial and its suggestions seem more "Russian":

Interestingly enough, in response to the Nike advertisement, one Russian woman sued Nike for "trying to turn girls into men."

As The Moscow Times reports:

from "Russian Woman Sues Nike Over Ad That 'Could Turn Girls Into Men," The Moscow Times

Marina Rybnikova said Nike's clip could "corrupt young women," Russian news site Moslenta reported. She is demanding 525,000 rubles ($9,300) from Nike for "causing moral harm."

Rybnikova was particularly outraged by a lyric in the ad that claimed little girls were "made from bruises and punches." The words appeared alongside an image of a female boxer training with a punching bag.

"It's outrageous that lots of teenagers are watching this on Youtube," Rybnikova told Russian news site Afisha. "Girls could easily go out and start fights after this video. That's what angered me," she said.

Rybnikova also found cause for concern when an onscreen choir declared modern girls to be made of "aspirations, skills, independence, and freedom."

Similarly, Russia moved to block Nike from selling its LGBT-themed merchandise (rainbow flag), citing that it violated a ban on "gay propaganda".

Well aware that the idea is to turn women on to Western modern mainstream culture and perhaps inch the country closer towards a color revolution, Russia is careful about what its youth are exposed to (especially in view of the push for Russia to produce more children). But can Russia hold back the tide, and the pressures from modern Western mainstream culture?