Woman Plus...
  N 3, 2002

Our television as a mirror of Russian phalluscracy

Natalia V. Ivanova,
Candidate of philological science

     "Only a man can create a masterpiece" - this statement was made during a program which recently was broadcast on the TV channel "Culture". How can such a TV-show influence our society, anxious about the problems of survival? Will unbridled chauvinism of Alexander Gordon, the program presenter, who suggested this thesis, cause indignation? And finally, are there many people who will be exasperated by the confession of the Minister of Culture of Russia that he shared the position of the presenter and, therefore, supported the suggestion of initial superiority of the stronger sex? Knowing how difficult it is to introduce in Russia the ideas of gender equality, I can assume the answer in advance. As well as the fact that it will be distressing.
     That is why I suggest that we should consider the program more thoroughly, as an event concealing a number of meanings. In other words, as a signal which can tell us about the things that are unlikely to be on the surface.
     Of course, somebody may object to the fact that this act with the assistance of the TV presenter A.Gordon, actively propagating male chauvinism in culture, of the Minister of Culture and Masha Arbatova, taking the side of the defendant, was planed as a real "steb". And there is no sense in breaking a lance and searching for hidden meaning. In that case, the question suggests itself: why do they play a joke on women inability to great creativity and do not choose the other subject - the initial unfitness of certain nations to creative work? Finally, why don't they jest about lowest and highest races? Or is it already not funny but is fraught with responsibility?
     Well, let's consider it as a stab. Let us laugh together. The following information exactly reproduces the program course and the meaning of its participants statements, but only the signs are changed. Nothing special, we only change "male" for "female" and look what will happen.

… "Only a woman is able to create a masterpiece". This recent theme of the program "Cultural shock", alas, didn't become a discovery, and especially a shock. The statement in the program title is so evident that it was difficult to turn it into a subject of an interesting discussion.

It is always difficult to prove something which is evident; and to make this undeniable fact of creative primacy of women new and more convincing for the TV viewers, the program presenters had to turn away from usual statistics and, instead of well-known facts, to turn to the deep layers of the national culture, psychology and social order. At the same time, counter-reasoning of the opposite side, represented by the fighters for men rights, could claim to be called a masterpiece of polemical art or, at least, of a creative thought, in case they approached it as an original creative task, demanding destruction of stereotypes.

Unfortunately, it didn't happen. The format of the program itself disposed to lack of surprises. A popular female Minister of culture played a role of the program presenter; she didn't trade-off her own ideas for the sake of a so-called political correctness and without ceremony said that she shared the statement, which became the program title. It made the life of those, who took a microphone, much easier. Now instead of looking for excuses for their chauvinistic views, famous female producers, editors, script writers, journalists and other female cultural workers with a grain of self-irony showed off their consent with the position (or was it a policy?) of the Minister. A famous female TV-program presenter Anita Gordina spoke on the suggested subject in a pushing, aggressive and even provocative manner together with the head of cultural sphere; she laid a special stress on biophysical restriction of the opposite sex, which by definition don't let men to create masterpieces. Here is a brief list of the main reasons: Narcissus intent attention on their own phallus, unmotivated aggressiveness, caused by the abundance of testosterone, an obtrusive aspiration for being stronger and more sexual than other species, drawing men in a foolish endless competition, contests and violence, and finally, feeble link between the left and right cerebral hemispheres.

Indeed, what constructive creativity can there be, if man's behavior is ruled by an irresistible need for sperm ejaculation, and each six seconds a man remembers about sex. The rest of the time he is in the grip of instincts of rivalry and hunting. The opposite side didn't impress by their ingenious answers. Following the tastes of the program organizers, the representative of the opposite side took a solid defensive stand, without any grounds denying all the adduced thesis. Appeals to the world public opinion, followed by indignant gesticulation, cannot be considered counter-arguments. Unfortunately, due to the fact that men are in no demand in public politics and have little practice in participating in the debates, their representative failed to find original and convincing arguments against the thesis of biophysical unfitness of men to creative work, based on a classic Freudist postulate declaring that anatomy is a fate.

In the comments of the audience, form the both sides of the sexual barricade, a liberal point of view prevailed: men are unlikely to succeed in creating masterpieces, why aren't they satisfied with a consolation prize of an inspirer of creativity? But for you, our lovely imperfect creatures, what for would we, women, do our utmost and create imperishable works of art?

Is not this simple change of signs enough to show the mock and at the same time insulting gist of the TV program named "Only a man can create a masterpiece", which was twice on the channel "Culture" this spring. To make the half of the audience (guess, what half ) knit their brow, feeling hurt: isn't it time to stop this farce?

… Finishing our story about TV gender discussion, we remind you that restoring justice, madam Minister mentioned two world famous poets, the proud of our culture, belonging to the sex, disabled by the nature to create masterpieces. And make the justice even more just, madam Minister hurried to correct herself, observing (with irony )that only one of this great names may be ranked among the creators of masterpieces, for the creative work of the other poet was marked by specific feelings peculiar to the given sex…

… And that is why it cannot be called a masterpiece, we add. What a short and not dusty is the road to national chauvinism. Not dusty means that any of its postulates - form rational and gender discrimination to ideological intolerance - enter mass perception, avoiding a thorny path of proofs and arguments, as we see it before. Here they use ritual appeals similar to practicing shamanism, which aim is to consecrate the superiority of the one category of homo sapiens over the other one (superiority of the Aryan race, imperfection of women prose and finally A.Gordon's statement that in the terms of our culture neither dreams, nor hysterics, birth cries and other "women" demonstrations cannot be masterpieces). By the way, it was followed by a disrespectful statement, declaring that all above mentioned and unworthy to be called a masterpiece in "our" culture, is acceptable in other cultures, for example, in the Eastern one. Isn't it the best proof that defending men superiority and national chauvinism are soul-mates, flavoured with contempt to everything different, alien, unlike Me?

During the program turned out a word "gender", so disturbing us by its exotic appearance. A considerable part of the present people were not sure in its meaning: social sex, or biological sex, perceived from the social point of view and embodying the relations between the power and people. For example: "Only a man can create a masterpiece". A natural continuation offers itself: "Only a man can rule a state" and so on.

I heard opinions of many women about this program. If they were not indifferent to the problem, they shared the indignant view, which speaks in favour of developing and educating potential of this program and testifies that today male chauvinism is not unconditionally taken by the society. There were appeals to bring an action against the program organizers. Well, as far as education is concerned, it could be an effective way of training to inculcate some norms of behavior, essential in a civilized society. And indeed, isn't it a critical situation when a minister of Russia confesses in public that the statements, made during the program, could be a cause of court examination in the West, and the statements are still made but with a smile, as if saying that, thanks God, they are not in the Western sitting-room. Exactly, most of our politicians and public figures would have to lounge about beyond this imagined sitting-room. Our special, Russian way is really amazing. On the one hand, we want to be on a level with the other civilized world, and on the other - if something goes wrong, we may kick: we aren't in the West.

Saying that the program is a remarkable one, we mean that it successfully reflects certain peculiarities of national male thinking and the condition of our social perception as a whole. Using the language of psychoanalysis, it is interesting to watch the above mentioned program from the point of interaction of open and secret discussions. Open discussion includes all the facts presented form the screen ("Only a man can create a masterpiece"). Secret discussion has a deep internal meaning, made of unconscious motives, preferences, fears and desires. For example, the lack of dots or interrogation mark openly imposes the thesis of the program title, and the structure of the phrase sets off a man as a creative beginning: not against a woman but against all the other things, against faceless, unformed elements. It means that the continued phrase could be the following: only a man can create a masterpiece (not a woman, a child, nature, an animal, artificial intelligence, Gods and so on).

An obstinate standing up for this thesis tells us how our men depend on the feeling of their exaggerated significance and how important men self-identification in the society is for them. And isn't it natural that in our modern society, with its instability, inflation, change of guiding lines and depreciation of values men cling to their special, men status? They pronounce monopoly of creative work for themselves, they violently resist spreading of this beginning on women, and then impose this excessively exaggerated and exalting self-identification upon all the society. If it sounded in a private conversation we could disregard such evidence of psychological immaturity of men and its well hidden complexes. But in our case demonstration of men self-exalting takes on special significance due to demonstration of this act of exhibitionism on a TV program. Imposing and fixation of the stereotype, that women play the second role, is made with the help of both peremptory questioning and public identification of the views of a state official with the given stereotype.

The reaction of the audience didn't please with the realization of the situation. A sensible commentary, saying that the thesis under discussion is equal to a question "Did you stop beating your wife long ago?", sounded against a common background. On the whole, the opinions varied from condescending patriarchal (shared not only by men) "A woman is hidden behind a masterpiece (model, inspirer, muse, wet nurse, etc.). so, what's more?" to statements that a woman had nothing to do in the war and to the nation's wail. Oh boys, you just touch me! Thus, your genetic type is separate from our horrifying figures of alcoholism, drug addiction, domestic violence. And when, I wonder in what connection, somebody was indignant at the domination of homosexuals in art, it became quite clear to what extent fanatical men chauvinism was overburdened with the similar fanatical authoritarism of our mass perception. And to all those who consider their gender identification the most correct one, I am eager to repeat the words of Gloria Steinem: "And what if everybody who were not bisexual would be called 'monosexuals'"?

Executing the aim of this article, I invite you to look at the program "Only a man can create a masterpiece" in a wider cultural psychological context. We will notice a very interesting feature of Russian men mentality - it is an ability of their thinking to speed away beyond the clouds, to solve global problems in general, common to all mankind ways or, rather, theoretically. To pass their time in the eternity, instead of paying attention to everyday trifles. I think, in the West the discussion of the question of whether a woman can create masterpieces, is unlikely to take place on television. It is unlikely to attract the audience and is very unlikely to become an event. I can imagine a discussion on the Western television, where they argued whether a woman should serve in the front-line forces and take part in operations, or, may be, the terms of imprisonment of accused women, and certainly about gender examination of the legislation. In a word, the discussion would be about the things which somehow or other touch the questions of social order of the society. Here and now.

This particular feature of national men thinking was brilliantly noticed by Victor Erofeev, a colleague in researching gender relations. But the researcher has his own points of view, quite opposite to the views of feminists. The views which in the West would be regarded as open male chauvinism and the respected colleague would be left beyond that civilized sitting-room together with our other famous persons. However, in his interpretation of that very horse, an ancient companion of women from Russian settlements, Victor Erofeev ascends to a doubt: "Russian man-horse is galloping, galloping, he is bolting, and doesn't understand where he is galloping, what for and how long he has been galloping". And then: "And still, if we understand where these Russian men are galloping, we will realize that they are galloping form the past to the future, form yesterday to tomorrow, jumping over today. They fail to confine themselves to today, it is crowed, stifling today, they have nothing to do today, they haven't learnt to live today. Without a Russian woman a Russian man-racer would have been far away, he would have been already off and away".

Our men long to discuss high things in order to admire themselves and to strengthen themselves in a role of masterpieces creator. So women have to lower them, crazy of a wild galloping in a herd, to the Earth, making them to face the reality. And the reality, meine herren (my dear), testifies that creativity is a universe of freedom, which absorbs different ideas of the world, while directives of what should be considered creative achievement and what shouldn't, are rather "masterpieces" of the other kind.