Russia – the land of male oppressors – or not

[Originally from a comment, which I’ll just leave here. There seems to be no adequate descriptions of sex slavery in Russian prisons in English – the one that I’ve linked is vastly inadequate – so I plan to write one later]

From my experience, the privilege model may apply even less in more patriarchal societies – like in Russia. By nearly every metric you can invent to gauge the gender gap, it’s way stronger there – wage gap, the representation of women in the government, the representation among the richest people, the representation in tech, etc. Women are even banned from being employed at several “hard work” positions – http://elementy.ru/library6/p162.htm?page_design=print – which is marketed as the way to protect them. At the same time, there are multiple ways in which discrimination targets men in a big way, not present in the American society.

The biggest one is military draft. Being in Russian military sucks in a very big way. Aside from the very real possibility to be sent to Chechnya or Ukraine, fight against the regulations of the Geneva Conventions, be killed, and have your death listed as accident during exercises, you have very decent chances to be severally mentally and physically abused, maimed, or even killed during hazing: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Andrey_Sychyov , http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dedovshchina . Some categories of people are exempt from the draft: men with debilitating conditions, caretakers of two or more infants, doctorates, and college students but only for the period of their education. Other than that, every man from 18 to 27 years has to serve in the military for (as of now) one year. It affects rich people a bit less that poor people – often it’s possible to bribe recruiting officers, and going to college allow men to postpone this problem while coming up with better solutions – but not that much: not everyone is corrupt, and college education is mostly free, so it’s more accessible to the poor. Thus, most life choices of men of all classes from 18 to 27 years old revolve around not getting into military, under the fear of having their life, minds, and bodies wrecked.

The retirement age for men is 60 years, while for women it’s 55 years. All pensions and retirement savings are controlled by the government, so there’s very little one can do about it, and that affects all classes equally. At the same time, the average life expectancy for men in 62 years, and 70 years for women, so on average men have way less chances to even use their savings.

Going to prison, as you noted, is not a large risk for the middle class, which is true, but in Russia it is also conditional on not being a political activist or a business owner – these categories face higher risks of going to prison, if the authorities want to shut them up or to seize their business. And it’s not just the likelihood of going to prison, it’s what happens in prison. Male prisons exclusively have a caste-like system of sex slavery: http://news.infoshop.org/article.php?story=20081019111824513 , http://www.interpretermag.com/homosexuality-in-contemporary-russia/ . Every male inmate who was raped in prison, who committed rape outside of prison, who is gay, who has earrings, who who has ever given oral sex to a woman – and there are couple more “offenses” – permanently becomes an untouchable sex slave. They can only be touched with others’ genitals; otherwise the one who had touched them also becomes the untouchable. The untouchable cannot refuse to serve as a sex slave under the punishment of severe beatings, all the way up to death. The prison administration knows very well about it, and if the untouchable tries to complain, he will be forced to write ridiculous papers stating that he accidentally fell on the floor, or that it’s him who asked for sex. In internet discussions, whenever the prospect of incarceration appears, the discussion quickly converges to sex slavery; men don’t fear the prison per se – they fear slavery.

The classical patriarchal upbringing that answers to boys’ problems by saying “stop whining, man up, fight back, and if you don’t, we will punish you for being a pussy” is also in place, and is probably stronger than in the US, which is probably reflected by suicide statistics: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_suicide_rate , http://www.who.int/mental_health/media/russ.pdf . The average suicide rate in Russia is 1.5 times higher than in the US, but in the US men are 3.8 times (3.7 / 0.97 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_sex_ratio ) more likely to commit suicide than women, whereas in Russia it’s 5.7 (4.9 / 0.86) times. Thus, not only the total suicide rate is 1.5 times higher in Russia, but the suicide gender gap is also 1.5 times Besides, that’s an interesting point by itself – why is suicide nearly universally much more prevalent in men than in women?

Some examples of sexism are double-edged swords. For example, women are clearly culturally discourages from pursuing STEM degrees, and the gender gap in tech majors may well be over 10. At the same time, may professors explicitly value those scarce female students, and commit to not give them anything less than B.

Given all that, I wasn’t particularly surprised when I heard several transwomen claim that one of the reason for transitioning was that it’s way easier to live as a woman than as a man. I don’t take at the face value their other claims like that it’s the main factor that motivates transition, but I would totally believe that for them personally, male social role was completely unbearable, and there wasn’t enough space to fiddle with it. I can totally relate to the feeling that the male social role as prescribed by the Russian society is unbearable, due to my strong preference to crossdress, and the knowledge of what can happen to crossdressers in Russia: http://vk.com/video_ext.php?oid=88600057&id=166069833&hash=f72ec3f30b1f459d&hd=2 . I just solved this problem by emigrating

So. On one hand, we have an incredibly patriarchal society that bans women from several jobs, that discourages them taking highly paid positions of from being politicians, that expect them be housewives, that expects them to always dress feminine and care about their look, and judges them hardly for not doing that. On the other hand, in this society men exclusively face the risk of being maimed in the military, the risk of becoming sex slaves in prisons, and 5.7 times higher risk of suicide. I dare to contemplate that the privilege model fails to predict this kind of society.

It seems to me that it would be reasonable to claim that there is a system of structured gender discrimination. In some cases, it objectively hurts one gender or the other – like exposing men to the draft or paying women less. In other cases, it limits their number of the life choices, the perception of which depends of one’s preference – a woman who wants to be a stay at home mom, and a man who want to be an engineer would be reasonably fine, while a stay at home dad and a female engineer would face very strong social pressure. However, I would be cautious about making claims beyond that – like what gender faces more problems, and which of these problems should be prioritized to solve.

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