N 4, 2002

Hate speech in Russian mass media: gender dimension

Alla Denisova
Candidate of Philological Sciences

Russian woman's movement was defeated in the question of legislative securing of gender quota in institutions of power - not more than 70% of persons of identical sex. This amendment was rejected by the State Duma during the second reading of the bill on elections. In these circumstances positive approach to socially active women in the materials of Russian mass media takes on special significance for realization of the very possibility for women to enter the institutions of power. But unfortunately, we observe quite opposite tendencies, extreme manifestations of which form a special concept or notion, determined today in the world as the hate speech.

The hate speech - in this term is generally accepted to summarize all linguistic means of expression of quite negative approach of "opponents" - bearers of different system of religious, national, cultural values or even more specific sub-cultural ones. This phenomenon may manifest as a form of racism, xenophobia, national hostility and intolerance, homophobia and sexism. The latter represents to be ideology and practice of discrimination of people on gender basis. Surely, the language of enmity is a consequence of contradictions and conflicts, which mainly has nothing to do with linguistics and, for example, may have roots in history or in today's political and economic interests. Besides, as a particular case, the language in question may signify absence of culture in holding debate.

A number of Russian public organizations accomplish the project, in the course of which monitoring of the hate speech in Russian mass media was carried out (by Informational Research center "Panorama" and Moscow's Helsinki group). Upon results of this monitoring it was scheduled to have public actions (Center of development of democracy and human rights) and to work with journalists (Fund of protection of openness), including working out of training aids on journalist ethics in national and religious themes. The hate speech was considered as "the totality of texts (headlines, photographs and other elements), prepared by mass media, directly or indirectly stimulating national or religious enmity or even dislike"1. The gender aspect of the hate speech was not included in the monitoring, though, in our opinion, the hate speech towards persons of the opposite sex is so widely spread in mass media that it can be compared with permanent radiation background, which is invisible, unless dislike between sexes is "pinning" and quite brutally and visibly violates ethic norms, too decent even without this dislike. The Russian society is insensitive from gender point of view and it is not random that the peoples' rumor without any embarrassment declares the following "gender distinctions: "All women are fools and all men are scoundrels".

In the article, proposed to your attention, in addition to the data of above mentioned monitoring, which gave a well turned description of all forms of the hate speech2, we shall do our best to point out some specific for gender theme forms and pay attention to the very linguistic mechanisms of the language of enmity origin.

From the point of view of expressing enmity or hostility the Russian publicism has history, which cannot excite optimism, - it began from reading-books of the chief of the world proletarians V. I. Lenin, who called his opponents as "prostitutes"; a lot of the latter were later on renamed as "enemies of the people", "henchmen of the world capitalism" etc, which, in conformity with the historical rhetoric of that time, were to be "shot like mad dogs". At that period the hate speech washed out and substituted the professional legal style of speech. Echoes of it influenced the Soviet publicism for many decades, for example concerning "cybernetics as prostitutes of capitalism" or in discussions about "fops".

Unfortunately, observations prove that today, at turning point of centuries, the Russian mass media is filled with materials, clearly demonstrating various manifestations of the hate speech, and that the publications, somehow dedicated to gender problems of the modern society, are not exceptions.

The hate speech may take form of creative remake of famous proverbs: in a TV program, dedicated to horse race and to victory of a stallion, belonging to V. V. Zhirinovsky, the latter remembered about women and introduced a new version of the old saying: "Woman is a friend of man, right after dog and horse". Aware of the campaign, conducted by Ruslan Aushev, ex-president of Ingushetia, in favor of polygamy, many people with interest expected to hear opinion of Murat Zyazikov, new President of the Republic, who, in his turn, "pleased" the people with another saying of the same type: "We say that if in your house there are two wives you don't need a dog". Eventually, Alexander Nikonov chose the following epigraph for his article (as usual making the people responsible for this "creation"):

        There live women in Russian villages,
        They are modestly called "baba",
        They can stop a galloping elephant
        And tear off its trunk.

The matter concerns his article "Open sexual question" (magazine "Ogonyok", # 9, March 2002; http://www.ropnet.ru/ogonyok/win/200209 /09-24-25.html), which can be used as the reading-book to study the hate speech. This author uses quite often metaphoric comparisons: paying close critical attention to feminism - the notion, which also can be considered as traditional object of enmity in certain mass media publications, - A. Nikonov determines feminism as the evil eye spoiling and the potatoes rot and women as the consumers of these products. I cannot help quoting: "But not all women are equally useful! Lately (to be more exact about one hundred years ago) they were attacked by the evil eye spoiling of such type, which makes women of little use in everyday life. The spoiling is like potatoes rot in a vegetable store, which spoils one tuber after another. Its name is feminism".

One of spread out sources of forming the hate speech is a wrong semantics, distortion or substitution of meaning of both commonly used lexical items (which is more difficult to do since their meaning is known to everybody) and items of the language of special fields of knowledge - terms ( what can be quite easily achieved since the meaning of so many terms is not known or "supposedly" known). In one of TV programs "My family", conducted by Valerie Komissarov, he told a story about obviously sadistic inclinations of a woman, which were described to audience as feminism. Thus, sadism and feminism are used as synonyms - it is a brutal substitution of the notions. Representatives of woman's movement from the Baltic countries told us that they had to avoid this term in the names of their organizations, since feminism in this region was considered practically as analogue of lesbian movement. Moreover, distortion meaning can display in the form of wrong definition. The program of Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR) (adopted on April 25, 1998), the text of which you can read in the party Web site, announced as a well known fact that "feminism is an extremist political current, inflaming antagonism between sexes" and the party would oppose to it (the "right" women were called as "the fairest half of the Russian nation").

The theme of so called woman's logic and even clumsy attempts to find its sources became the talk of the town. One can simply and unpretentiously, to write like a peasant (once I quote A. Nikonov): podzol soil of woman's brains (podzol means not efficient - A. D.). But there are attempts to "drag in" some elements of "scientific" analysis. A lot of people with astonishment perceived, to put it mildly, original interpretation of hypothesis of functional asymmetry of brain, given by Alexander Gordon during discussion on possibility of creation of masterpiece by women in the TV program "Masterpiece can be created only by man" from the cycle "Cultural revolution". The presenter of the program is Mikhail Shvidkoy, Minister of Culture, (which does not give ground to be deceived as for the success of such a culture). When such thesis is announced by a state functionary of high rank it is considered like a statement, which has a direct connection to the state policy. In the follow-up of such a policy some views of deputies that the Constitution was not intended for women and children (meaning that they would never understand it) are quite appropriate.

The hypothesis of functional asymmetry of brain is a very professional one, it is difficult enough for understanding and, if somebody wishes it, can be interpreted in a vulgar and very insulting way for all women. There was a remark or, to be more exact, a cue in the program, made by A. Gordon (according to his unenviable role of vulgar bio determinist, which he performed): "with women the right semi-sphere dominates, which is more ancient and more sound than the left one, but, unfortunately, does not permit to engage in such types of activity, which leads to creation of masterpieces". I would not take on myself to comment this brutal simplification and distortion of the hypothesis from the point of view of its essence, but would refer to the Dictionary of gender terms3, published this year, namely to the article of E. I. Goroshko, Dr. Philological Sc., psycholinguist, giving the professional description of the hypothesis. This example is a manifestation of ideology of sexism in its classical execution. It should be noted that the general context was formed by its name: "Masterpiece can be created only by man", - he did not create, he is not creating, he just can create, the matter concerns the principal possibility. You know, gentlemen, the world heard about it already - about only-Aryans, it was about 60 years ago. Also they widely discussed the woman's hormones, which supposedly would not permit women to adequately perceive or comprehend the reality and to adequately behave themselves. In general, we have to say that bio determinism is a solid foundation for discrimination, based on sexual features, and very often performs as ideological reasoning of the hate speech.

Analyzing some other materials of mass media, I came to a conclusion that there was a certain superfluity in sharpness of feminist themes rejection by the mass media. It means that among reasons, lying in the basis of all this, there is something else, which cannot be "calculated", but plays a very important role and is not limited with historical factors or notorious patriarchal stereotypes. According to deep philosophical traditions woman is an attribute of private sphere and man is a subject of the public sphere. And all this goes without saying. Psycho linguistic associative experiments represent, in this respect, rather interesting data. Attitudes of men and women towards each other, place of men and women in the world and their value are quite strictly fixed in the naive linguistic picture of the world in our conscience. According to results of associative experiment, made by A. V. Kirilina in 1998, all informants, irrespective of their sex, associate image of Russian woman with patience, kindness, diligence, beauty, love (first of all the mother's one) and selflessness. The informants praise in Russian woman her activity, resolution, energy and purposefulness, thrift, maternity and high morals: fidelity, tenderness, ability for sympathy, emotional warmth4. The data testifies that in associative picture of the world a Russian woman is, first of all, mother, and then follows other most often reactions: beautiful, enduring, strong in spirit, patient. The data, received by non-linguistic methods, confirm it. Most of enumerated qualities, if we try to relate them to one of two spheres - private or public - will be related by us to the private one - this is firstly. Secondly, they have evident, almost prototypical value character. Feminism always tried to move women from the private, family sphere into the public one, which is quite obviously considered as a threat of loss or degeneration of these qualities, highly praised in our associative picture of the world. Above mentioned data of psycholinguistic experiment interestingly call up with psychoanalytical revelation of A. Nikonov: "Yes, there are women purposeful, pushing, careerist type, cruel, with man features (notice, that these qualities are not associatively valuable, are not included in the core of associative semantic field in above mentioned experiment - A. D.). But according to statistics they are less numerous than the regular ones - soft and yielding ladies by Nature itself created for bringing up descendants. A male can devour his cub. A female of mammals would never do it. She is softer and more kind. Nowadays women demand equal rights. Do you also want to devour your children?" The revelation includes both brutal hyperbole, appellation to the world of animals, so sweet to author's heart, and explanation why feminism is so dangerous. The latter encroaches upon almost sub-conscious prototypical system of values and, if to reduce it to real absurd, upon preservation of the biological species.

In this aspect appraisal of Victoria Averbukh (article "Feminism has died. Long live gender equality!" in newspaper "Rossiyskaya gazeta", # 152, August 15, 2002) is very indicative: "Feminism is a complete failure Bridget Jones, literature feminist of our time, calmed when she found a good job and a fair prince. It was in this way and it will be in this way, since the world is arranged in this way (my italics - A. D.). You should work well, irrespective of your sex. And "gender" relations should be left for bed".

In reply to feminists' slogans on gender equality or attempts to clarify their positions, the press, in average, reacted in the following way (again A. Nikonov): "Tyetky! (aunty) Do not torture yourselves by feminism and do not torture us. Quietly give birth to and bring up children, bake your pies". In the language this approach is expressed in sharp change of estimation of women. Colorful epithets come to the end, women are not called any more as "the weak half of the mankind", "the fair part of the Russian nation" or in any similar way. Socially active women and , surely, feminists, receive different names - neutral women, stylistically reduced tyetky (aunty), brutal babie, deputatshy (women-deputies), slighting girls (addressing women of middle age) (A. Nikonov), "ferocious tyetky, who cannot bear writers and women in general"5 and other similar names. The word deputatsha is used in spoken language or belongs to stylistically reduced vocabulary. The author purposely uses this form but not deputy - the neutral one, suiting both sexes. Traditional naming of professions in feminine gender is considered as synonym of second-quality or second-grade. For example, Irada Zeynalova in her article "Bella Akhmadulina. Jubilee of the poet of the "thaw" ("Vesty", RTR TV channel, 10.04.2002) especially insisted that Akhmadulina is categorically a poet but not a poetess. The same applies to the traditional estimation of the notion women literature. New abbreviations for woman's movement are invented. The Movement of Women of Russia - DZhR -is transformed into Defenders of Woman' Rights, with abbreviation of ZaZhP (it sounds indecently in the Russian language) (I think that comments are unnecessary and again it is A. Nikonov).

Description of "Russian Amazons" in historical context is indicative from the point of view of motivation of the hate speech (NTV TV channel, program of A. Gordon "Fear of the woman's body. Why from ancient times various cultures kept man's fear of woman?", theme # 104, broadcast of 29.04.2002). Philologists Andrew Toporkov and Alexander Stroyev, analyzing artistic interpretation of this fear in the French literature and publicism of XVII-XVIII centuries, mention characteristics of woman's images by comparing them with amazons. Notice, that popularity of this comparison prevails even today - activity of one of woman's organizations was described in local press in the article "Amazons from Murmansk". Comparison of Russian women with amazons is given in "Secret notes about Russia" by Charlie Phyliber Masson (1800): "Existence of amazons does not seem a tale for me since I saw Russian women. Another couple of autocratic empresses and we would see the revival of the tribe of militant women in the same climate and in the same region where they existed in ancient times". If in France of that period the image of amazons was used as romantic Utopian (or comical) image of active women for joking foundation of necessity of political equality of women, the Russian women are described as conquerors, as manifestation of woman's despotism and sadism - thus quite different qualities of the militant mythical tribe (savageness, sadism, treachery, uncontrollability etc) are used as metaphors. This interpretation of Russian amazons became quite common in the French publicism of the end of XVIII century. What was the matter? In the last years of the century, when France saw in Russia a serious military threat, description of reign of Ekaterina II was changed and was represented as unbroken chain of debauchery and evil deeds. It means that the language of enmity in its gender aspect has a long history and gives us possibility to follow how a certain epithet is quite differently interpreted depending on political conjuncture. On the other hand, the materials of above mentioned program allows to see how deep are non-linguistic roots - mythological, philosophic or folklore ones - in the hate speech towards women, based on fear of woman (psychoanalytical fear, as we would say today), and how concrete political motives can influence it.

It sounds oddly, but demonization of women (remember medieval stories about monster-werewolf disguised as wife or mother) continues to live in modern publicism and occupies almost leading positions, though it acquired modern forms and plots and could have intentional or intentional character. I discovered it , analyzing the themes of mass media materials during the monitoring (2001-2002), which I conducted as editor of section "Mass media about women" on portal "Woman and society" (project was realized with support of Woman's network program of the Institute "Open Society"). It was anticipated that the results of the monitoring would allow to draw conclusions as to peculiarities of reflection in mass media of woman's themes (themes' range, characteristics of types and images of women, accents in work etc).

Well known mass media, which have Web sites in the Internet, were selected for the analysis, using the following criteria: rate of quotation in Internet, mass character of readers of various editions, rate of attendance of separate pages. Summing up these criteria following editions were selected: Lenta.ru - news tape, Gazeta.ru - network newspaper, "Russky zhurnal", "Utro" - daily electronic newspaper, National Service of News, radio station "Echo of Moscow", Vesty . ru - national information service, Strana. ru - national information service, Zhurnal. ru - bulletin of network culture and others. Web sites of the central TV channels were also selected, since it was not possible to analyze tendencies in TV presentation of woman's images and woman's themes in the boundaries of our program. Purposely we did not consider Web sites of radio and TV programs and publications, dedicated to "woman's problems", for example, program "I'll do it myself". The same applied to programs, which considered more wide range of themes, but include the mentioned one as a repeated subject (for example, "My family"). Any of theses programs, in my opinion, can pretend to a separate investigation.

Today I can propose to your attention the results of analysis - as preliminary ones - of woman's images in Gazeta. ru, electronic edition, which has a rather high rating in Internet (in attendance and heats it occupies the second place upon Rambler system of estimation). The so called all-round selection of materials over all subjects was made in the period of April 8 - 13, 2002. I would like to say that during the first general familiarization with pages of this newspaper I did not detect any sexist tendencies - the hate speech on both vocabulary of lexical level was not traced. But as the "woman's materials" were accumulated in a single whole the picture changed. (In the investigated period) the women are represented in the newspaper either as very cruel criminals or as mentally diseased (Petrakova Irene. Because of Pugacheva a man was deprived of his genitals; The same author. Wife revenged his husband, killing three children; Pavel Moroz. 69-year old woman-terrorist was neutralized by special forces team; and similar materials). Sometimes women are presented as subjects of some "funny" cases (Skvortsova Anna. A rat separated a woman from w.c. pan). Or they are presented as bearers of some " deviations" (Arsenina Lera. Grandmother falls asleep only after devouring some cigarette butts). In article of Vasily Sergueyev "Soldiers rape the Chechen girls anonymously" the accent is made on falsity of the information, delivered by the latter: "No European court could accept these petitions for consideration since concrete accused are not mentioned in them". Article of Vasya Baga "Allah is a woman", placed in the section "Culture" about installation of Aydan Salakhova "Kaaba", stands apart: assumption that Allah is a woman at least by half does not seem to the author so absurd (though later he writes: "This is not proper for a lay-man to meddle in secret depth of eastern mythic and modern art-process. If woman avant-gardist mention Allah - let her do it"). There is another article of Vasya Baga "They will bid farewell to Queen-mother till morning", in which the deceased is considered as a woman-legend, stressing her "tact, grace, strong character". The other women in the Web site of that period include top-models, noticed in "vicious relations", divorced or married women, women, who undressed somewhere and to such extent, 16-year-old girl, who was attacked by a lion, and a bride of Prince Charles, who did not like her wrinkles (as is stated in the article head-line). It is noteworthy that any other women are not mentioned in the site of that period. Accepting some doubts concerning scientific correctness of the following action, I still tried to picture generalized image, which I called "Woman of Gazeta. ru: April 8-13, 2002". The characteristics of the image were described in succession to the volume of materials, in which these very features of women were presented.

Women are mainly criminals, sometimes with psychic deviations, in particular, sexual ones; they are aggressive towards their husbands and children; they are subjected to other abnormal features and have quality to get into a mess or "funny" stories or to undress in public; they got married and divorced; they are probably raped but very likely they lie; they can try to deny "generally accepted" cultural or religious truth, but all for nothing; they can have tact, grace and strong character, but it applies only to deceased queens.

It is striking that this generalized image of woman is created by collective efforts of, mainly, women journalists. The matter is not in discrimination tendency of a single material, but in thematic tendentiousness (or thematic negligence). In reports on criminal theme, which is a constant source if information, they select materials, demonstrating women as demons or victims. We cannot but admit the following: the similar materials are presented about men, but they "sink" in the floods of positive information about men in politics, economics, culture. That's why one cannot picture out united generalized image of a criminal-victim-funny man as it happens in case with women.

Sometimes the press reacts very sharply against attempts of adaptation in the public conscience and, accordingly, in mass media of some terms, which are well known to English-speaking persons. They were introduced in the Russian language with beginning of activity in gender enlightenment of our society. For example, sexual solicitations at places of work. In the USA this notion was formulated in legal terms and it became a key in a number of lawsuits, widely reported in mass media. Lawyers, tired at last of consideration of similar cases, worked out a document for men and women employees, which emphatically reminded of what it was and what was not proper to do or to say. I cannot help quoting reaction to this document of one of the participants in the program of studio "Radar" of radio station "Mayak" (06.10.2000), who, in his gender illiteracy, made happy all American secretaries: "All America pinch secretaries and they are happy and they have not yet put each other into prisons. There is category of people who sink into marasmus".

There is another widely spread technique of the hate speech - stressing of womanhood is followed by ascribing to women of infantilism and, along with it, of lack of self-dependence, of want for guardianship, of lack of self-sufficiency: addressing us as "our sweet dear women", "our beloved women", even during woman's conferences as "our lovely ladies" and indispensable mentioning that "there are so many beautiful women at the meeting". We have no choice but expect to be addressed as Gogol did: "Ladies, pleasant from all points of view". I draw your attention to the word our - it brings in a certain intimacy and attracts the whole context - again - to private sphere. It is not by chance that during woman's conferences the stories of politicians and functionaries about their wives and distribution of roles in their families became obligatory.

Through public mentioning of womanhood their wish to return and firmly fix women in private life can be realized; when V. Zhirinovsky said with resentment at the meeting of the State Duma that it was time for Galina Starovoytova to deliver, he meant: "What does a person, who is capable to deliver, i. e. woman (!), do in the Duma?" And as epilogue I would like to quote a fragment of shorthand record of the State Duma meeting, where amendment on quotas for representation of persons of one gender was rejected: "Zhirinovsky V. V. There is a technical question. Imagine a situation: dissolution of parliament, a sudden dissolution happens and you have at your disposal two or three weeks for elections. Where do you find 90 women? Will you call them: come on, come on? What is this problem about? This is also a technical one. Doing so you will stop the elections! (The noise in the auditorium). Yes, you may find them, but it will be a silent parliament, a proletarian parliament, a mad parliament, an uneducated parliament. And the last. Women of Russia do not want power, they want to have a normal husband and a good salary. This should be your concern! (http://umnyi.narod.ru/STENOGR-02/020426/020426-8.htm).

Thus the parliament, consisting of women-deputies (only) to one third, seems to the party leader as "a proletarian parliament, a mad parliament, an uneducated parliament". Most likely, the deputy was reproved for this definition. And all of us, as result of similar discussions in the State Duma and thanks to the hate speech towards women, filling TV screens and the press, again received men's parliament, which does not believe that it can elect 90 women in the whole Russia, who can be worthy to represent their voters.

1 Monitoring of manifestations of racism and xenophobia in the Russian mass media / Web site of info-expert group "Panorama": <http://www.panorama.ru/>
2 The types of the hate speech, in particular, consist of: direct or indirect (in the form of general slogans) appeals for violence; appeals for discrimination; creation of negative image of the ethnic or religious group; justification of historical cases of violence or discrimination; declaration of moral disadvantages of certain ethnic or religious groups; mentioning of certain ethnic or religious groups in deteriorative or humble context etc.
3 DICTIONARY OF GENDER TERMS /edited by A. A. Denisova/ Regional public organization "East-West: Woman's Innovation Projects". M.: Information XXI century, 2002. 256 p.
4 Images of men and women in the lingual perception / Dictionary of gender terms / edited by A. A. Denisova / Regional public organization "East-West: Woman's Innovation Projects". M.: Information XXI century, 2002. 256 p. - pp. 164 - 165.
5 Bossart Alla. Collective Dostoyevsky in the beginning of the XXI century is written by women. When Orpheus is silent Eurydica begins to compose songs / Novaya gazeta, 10.06.2002: http://2002.novayagazeta.ru/nomer/2002/41n/n41n-s32.shtml