When progress stalls

TW: heterosexism, violence against protesters

I’m a bit short on time today, so I’ll just offer some quick commentary on Masha Alexandrovna Gessen’s interesting piece in the New York Times. She does an excellent job of describing the current situation in Russia – one in which queerness is often a political identity as it comes at odds with visions of politically acceptable and even legally protected action and speech. She alludes to, but doesn’t directly call out the sort of cult of masculinity the modern government has created for itself which undoubtedly plays a role in the both sexist and heterosexist attitudes of many powerful institutions in Russia today.


(An online rhyming joke poster, which can be translated as saying “A friend told me where the gay pride parade was passing”. The original site of this has been deleted, thankfully.)

It seems incomplete to let that go mentioned without acknowledging how that’s a development, not some constant fact of Russia politics. That’s often the political framing of liberation movements, especially the quite contemporary queer liberation movements – as a slow but inevitable movement towards selfhood and enfranchisement and away from old bigotries and inequalities. Russia today is an excellent counterexample to this linear view of history.

The early revolutionary period was in fact defined by a tentative sexual liberation –  explicitly seen variously in the new marital laws (which secularized marriage and permitted divorce), in the legalization of abortion, in the decriminalization of мужеложство (muzhelozhstvo), roughly comparable to “sodomy” in the US and English legal systems (although with implications of bestiality and pederasty as well). There were absolutely limits to what began occurring during the immediate post-Revolution period (namely for queer women), but it’s notable that those new found freedoms were challenged (particularly in the case of queer sexual conduct) in the ensuing decades of dictatorship, which neatly leads up to the modern dominance of ex-KGB Vladimir Putin.

So among the questions worth asking is not only why Russia has, as Gessen describes it, a “gay-bashing ritual”, but how it gained one.

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2 thoughts on “When progress stalls

  1. […] case you’ve missed my previous coverage of it, the longstanding problems of heterosexist and cissexist violence in Russia have become pretty apparent to just about everyone, even those who weren’t following the slow […]

  2. […] of their writings and views. More globally, there’s been a dramatic rolling back of queer political rights in first Russia, and now India. There’s some political conversations where heterosexism is talked about as […]

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