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View Diary: Understanding Russia's homophobia (179 comments)

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  •  This is a immensely useful piece of work (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    smileycreek, pico

    Came via Jim Burroway, who I read regularly.

    I have been mulling on writing about this, mainly in reaction to reading so much knee-jerk anti Western reaction and conspiratorial talk.

    Your thoughts on some ideas I had would be useful.

    I have noticed many activists seeking out Russian opinion as a way to back up their own. As if Russian opinion was one big block and everyone agreed. See opinion on Sochi boycott for example.

    It's not the first time I've seen this 'we must get the opinion of people in X country!' used as a cudgel to bash those western activists who other western activists disagree with. To me, this is political opportunism at the expense of those we're supposed to be showing solidarity with. It pretends that they are not just like us: i.e. they have movements with internal disagreements too.

    The other point is how little I have seen on practical support for the movement. By this I mean Russian LGBT people themselves but also allies, like Ksenia Sobchak.

    For example you mention Vykhod. AllOut have fund-raised to pay their fine. That has had no publicity. I have yet to read a glowing profile of Ksenia Sobchak.

    If Russia is to change and we're to help then we need to practically support the movement in Russia which will do that. I just don't see much discussion of how to do that, which is very important when they face numerous practical problems.

    •  Hi Paul-- I hope the diarist sees this thoughtful (0+ / 0-)

      comment, but since the diary was written last Monday you might not get many eyeballs.  

      Stay active in the comment threads of newer diaries on the subject, and perhaps consider writing your own diary for discussion.

      Welcome from the DK Partners & Mentors Team. If you have any questions about how to participate here, you can learn more at the Knowledge Base or from the New Diarists Resources Diaries. Diaries labeled "Open Thread" are also great places to ask. We look forward to your contributions.

      Oh, I used to be disgusted
      Now I try to be amused
      ~~ Elvis Costello

      by smileycreek on Wed Aug 14, 2013 at 05:05:11 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Welcome, Paul! (0+ / 0-)

      I apologize for the late response: I saw your comment this afternoon, and my computer has been crashing on me all day.  This is my fourth or fifth time trying to write you a response.  This is what I get relying on a near-dead laptop.

      Anyway, I'm sorry to say I don't have a clear and constructive response for you.  I'm trained to do the kind of cultural history I've written here, but I'm only an amateur advocate.  My own attitude toward advocacy is that movements are big and messy, and there's room for a lot of different strategies to coexist.  

      Plus, as you point out, the Russian LGBT movement is far from homogeneous itself.  Some of the groups and major figures are barely on speaking terms (not unlike some of the groups in the U.S., for that matter).  Conspicuously absent from my article is the most well-known Russian advocate, less because of his style of advocacy (some people hate it; I'm all about coexistence) and more because he's aired some pretty unsavory opinions that I prefer to keep at a distance.

      That doesn't give us much of a blueprint for moving ahead, unfortunately.  And it's even harder when our movements - themselves a mishmash of ideologies and personalities - don't speak the language and aren't sure what they're getting into.  I do think it's important to listen closely to what locals are saying because the context of homophobia in Russia is so different, but I also understand what you're saying, about some people using that as a cudgel to beat down suggestions they don't like.  That's frustrating.  The boycott has its mix of supporters and opponents from within Russia; cherrypicking one or the other isn't very productive, I don't think.

      I think a really basic step we need to take - and we've gotten better at it than we were just a few weeks ago - is to advertise the movements, figures, and actions in as specific and widespread a manner as possible.  Most Westerners following this story couldn't distinguish between Sobchak and Mizulina if they met them on the street.  Knowledge is power.

      I'm sorry to say I don't have anything more concrete and productive than that.  I've gotten more and more depressed about the situation in Russia over the last ten years, and the homophobia feels more deeply-embedded now than it was when I first started traveling there.

      But in the meantime, I think people need to find the group or the advocate they feel most comfortable with, and address them directly.  Ask them what they need.   Help other people learn about them.  Money can be dicey because of the Kremlin's capriciously-enforced "foreign agent" rule, but some groups will accept it.  Whether it's allies like Sobchak, or groups like Vykhod, the Russian LGBT Network, or even Alexeev, there's room for a lot of different types of advocacy and support.  

      Saint, n. A dead sinner revised and edited. - Ambrose Bierce

      by pico on Thu Aug 15, 2013 at 12:21:09 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Thanks for this (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        on the PC crash front :[

        Great to hear back from you.

        What you've said reinforces what I'm thinking and it's good to hear that! Most times discussing this civilly elsewhere is neigh impossible.

        I know what you mean about their infighting, I have witnessed some of it, as I have in other countries too. Can be 'take no prisoners' but that is *precisely the same as it can be in the UK (where I am) or US too!

        I know that people are working on how to deal with the Foreign Agents and other laws (Alexeev has his own opinions on that ... (

        It has happened before that focus has come and gone (Uganda) and it will happen again after Sochi, longer tern support needs to happen. They need it.

        In my notes i have been thinking of Russian 'influencers', because that has been very important elsewhere. Not just Sobchak but the rest of the more Westernised caste. I also think there would be not just the business opportunities for influence with Sochi sponsors but with other business relationships. Then there is entertainment, media - I'd even suggest religion, because that is interconnected in many ways too, what if the Catholics opposed the law as they did the Ugandan one? I believe the trendy term is 'multi pronged', dialogue not boycott.

        Another point I thought of is assessing what Russia actually does think of this law, how important it is to Russians - because I suspect 'not very', that most are not much bothered about gays. Hence that offers a 'point of resistance' because if you can make proponents a oddball minority and the law seem costly then ... ? That has worked elsewhere and Mizulina and others seem wide open to that.

        The idea that most Russians aren't that bothered, aren't the sort of homophobes we assume, is from this analysis >

        Final point. I think the notion of international human rights norms should be the rhetoric, constantly. With an emphasis on what Brazil and South Africa and Cuba have said and done. I'm not hearing any of that. How would Russians feel being in a box with Muslim-majority countries (bar Turkey) and some, not all, of Africa and the entire rest of the world on the other side?

        Oh and this may interest. Kindof related and far worse than Russia, even

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