In The Conversation
Through his years in power, Vladimir Putin’s regime has clung close to the concept of masculinity and conventional norms of gender and sexuality. Since launching a war in Ukraine in February, Putin has referenced “gender freedoms” to justify Russia’s attacks.
In an April 11 article for The Conversation, Valerie Sperling, a Clark professor of political science, and co-authors assert that Putin sees anyone who seeks gender and sexuality rights as anti-Russian. It’s a method he’s used to control Russian citizens and in addition to explaining the war.
“Putin’s ire at Ukraine for its assertion of autonomy, including moves toward democracy and human rights, is fuelled by his patriarchal belief that Ukraine’s proper ‘feminine’ role was to submit to the will of its stronger neighbour,” the authors write.
When Putin rose to the presidency, his background with the KGB and interest in fitness were seen as “macho.” It made masculinity central to his regime’s legitimacy.
Gender rights are “explicitly democratic,” write the authors, “so they threaten authoritarian regimes like Russia’s that rely on traditional, unequal gender roles, heteronormativity and, especially, the cult of masculinity.” Recently far-right groups like the Male State have applauded the invasion of Ukraine while feminist groups and activists have led resistance efforts.
“Regardless of whether these activists are using stereotypical gender roles (like soldiers’ mothers) or asserting a non-normative gender politics (as feminists or queer activists), they’re challenging a regime that relies on patriarchy for the legitimacy of its leader,” the authors write.