Google and the Dialectic of Russian Women Versus Western Women
One of the more underrated devices for sampling collective attitudes, at least in the West, is also one of the simplest: googling. Simply typing a concept in the search box and looking at the first five references that come up, produces rather telling results, sorted by the mathematical model of relevance which, however debatable, is widely accepted by most web surfers. It is also remarkable as a tool for overcoming writer’s block – particularly when attempting to tackle a topic as delicate as the cultural divide between Russian and American women.
And so, yours truly typed in American woman and Russian woman in Google, with the following results:
GOOGLE ON AMERICAN WOMAN:
1 Center for American Women and Politics
2 African-American Women – On-line Archival Exhibits
3 Votes for Women: Selections from the National American Woman
4 American Women Home Page – American women’s history and culture
5 African American Women Writers of the 19th Century.
Utterly wholesome, humorless, and PC to the point of nausea, these references lead us to university departments of Women’s Studies, where unisex-clad coeds earnestly imbibe the thorny history of suffrage and civil rights, and then strut out on the campus lawn looking like gnomes in oversized sweats, hunching under backpacks filled with texts on sexual harassment. Theirs is the non-trivial chore of executing nothing short of social revolution, a generation-long insurgence against patriarchy. And similar to Russia’s 1917 revolutionaries infusing sex with class consciousness, American women, en masse, tend to infuse sex with gender equality.
All well and good – until they inevitably stumble on the ever-sounresolved tension between perfect equality and perfect romance, because, like it or not, romance is a traditional role-playing concept, deeply rooted in an almost medieval pathos compelling Man to act adventurous, strong, and chivalrous, i.e. masculine – and Woman to act emotional, gentle, and mysterious, i.e. feminine. Unable to reconcile the practical imperative of gender-neutral society with romantic role-playing, the more radical American women denounce romance altogether, and the more moderate ones, unable completely to resist the natural draw of romantic play, enter the territory so awkwardly and with such ill grace as to render the whole game of seduction stillborn.
GOOGLE ON RUSSIAN WOMAN:
1 Single Russian Women for marriage
2 Russian Brides Cyber Guide
3 Free Men’s Guide: Dating Russian Women
4 Russian Mail Order Brides
5 Russian Dating, Russian Woman, Russian Music.
In the environment of the universally trumpeted reluctance of Western men to grow up and start a family, the zealously matrimonial references to Russian women are nothing short of phenomenal. In fact, here the pendulum of Western opinion swings to the other extreme, affording Russian women no role other than that of a romantic interest and a bride.
The romantic appeal of Russian women is usually attributed to their physical beauty. It is useless to argue with young Slavic women’s pulchritude – particularly when it is aided by malnutrition in place of diet and by the extreme focus on appearance in the absence of other opportunities to get ahead in life. It is also easy to exaggerate the beauty of Russian women – extrapolating from what one sees in central Moscow to the whole of Russia. Moscow is the New York and the Beverly Hills and the Miami of Russia – all in one; it draws some of the most beautiful and adventurous women, striving to escape the statistical average of Russian life, which continues to be as abysmally ghastly and hopeless as Moscow’s night-life is unbelievably sexy and glamorous.
At least on the surface. Russia’s transition to market economy has unleashed a powerful pent-up wave of consumerism – with vastly exaggerated attention paid to cafes, clothes and cars. Drifting in the ocean of conspicuous consumption, untethered from the obsolete anchors of family values (still weakly preached somewhere in Kemerovo by their semi-forgotten, confused parents), Moscow women take refuge in believing that they emulate Sex and the City’s heroines. But without the key component of financial self-reliance and that little not-needing-men-for-sustenance bit underpinning Sex and the City, Moscow women’s priorities are much closer to Harlem’s ghetto: squalid apartments, no money for food – but flashy cars and lots of jewelry as signs of respect, no matter what abject poverty underlies the thin veneer of glamour – as manifested by the still relatively volatile acceptance of deodorants lagging far behind the acceptance of designer perfumes.
So are Western men so naive as not to notice – or so shallow as not to care about the gaping schism between appearance and reality? Not quite. It is the particular ease with which Russian women negotiate this schism – and along with it, playfully resolve the apparently impossible (in the West) tension between practicality and romance – which deserves mention here.
Precisely because Russian consumerism co-exists with patriarchate, practicality and romance are not in opposition here, as they are in the West. This is the Russian dialectic of what my expat American friend calls naive cynicism, or romantic practicality – which presents such a relief to the Western man in providing the welcome synthesis of seemingly irreconcilable concepts.
It is in this synthesis that a Russian prostitute, paid by the hour, can and often does, open her heart to a client – so that it is actually possible to have a meaningful and emotional preand post-coital conversation which does not stutter as money changes hands. Conversely, it is in this synthesis that a perfectly decent Russian girl from a good family can hint, on a second date, that her shoes are too thin for the coming winter – and will accept a new pair with no ambivalence clouding her sense of gratitude, underpinned by a sense of entitlement (you are the man, so make me warm). Prostitutes acting like soul mates and vice versa… Russian dialectic again – synthesizing the concept of sponsoring, which is so poorly understood in the West. While relying on a man for the living expenses (including the very basic needs that still remain after paying for the glamour bit), Russian women wear this dependence as gracefully as they wear impossibly high heels on a casual walk down the grocery store.
The ability and willingness of Moscow girls to go off to Ibiza for a week with a near-total stranger bespeaks the kind of zen-like state of inner liberation that can only thrive in the absence of opportunity. Likewise, their hedonism is not of the synthetic intellectual nature – but rather of the raw primeval kind that is virtually extinct in most civilized places these days, vanishing under the onslaught of morality and responsibility.
It is this synthesis of romantic carefree naivety and almost cynical practicality which gives Russian women the ability to bestow a particular brand of warmth, coquetry, and defenseless charm of vulnerability upon rich foreign men – while milking them for gifts and money quite unabashedly and consciously. And – judging by Google at least – everybody wins.
It is this vulnerable, naive practicality which is the powerful engine driving Western men to seek Russian wives. Along with the much-lauded beauty of Moscow women, it is also arguably an important factor underlying foreign investment, as western portfolio managers generate excitement about the Russian economy partially to have a reason to come to Moscow for due diligence more often.
P.S. Incidentally, the first Google reference for French woman is a news story about a 35 year old French lady actually marrying her dead boyfriend, becoming both bride and widow in the same ceremony. The second reference is about French cuisine. O, the unerring relevance of Google!