Woman Plus...
  N 3, 2002

About gender political correctness

Boris Panteleev

In my two previous articles* I tried to examine in detail the existing legal base of fighting against domestic violence and the real problems of our national practice of using our rights. In my opinion, Russian legislation currently in force quite meets international standards, determined in this field. Anyway, I am sure that today it allows almost all the interested persons to act rather actively and in different directions.

The problem is that in our society there are still very few such "interested persons" to influence social processes, including activity of law-enforcement organs. Moreover, personal life aims of these persons are not always deep and logical. I would call it a volitional factor of violence prevention, which is often found to play the key part.

During training seminars and numerous meetings with prosecutors, police officers, activists of Independent Women Organizations more than once we had to establish a regrettable fact of vitality of the double standards and an amazing inconsequence in minds and actions. And it is not a fault but a real misfortune of several generations of our people. I think, that it isn't even a specific Russian peculiarity, but a disease of all the countries of young democracy in the making of a civil society.

For example, a police officer, solving a model game problem, frankly says that he, of course, should help a woman, according to the well-known official instruction, calling him for protection from a domestic villain; but to imagine his own wife in such a situation, he says he would immediately divorce with her. Psychologist of a special regional crisis center also shared her problems and doubts, always arising while consulting women who suffered from violence. Women, calling for help, met her explanations and recommendations with distrust because she herself didn't believe that her advice was feasible.

It's hard to imagine that professional activity of these people will be successful and effective. Thus, a border between good and evil doesn't demarcate mountains and rivers, but exists in people minds and hearts. The problem is that they have lost the earlier existing moral orientation, and haven't found the new ones. This search of such ideals and new standards is especially difficult in centuries-old relations between a man and a woman. That is why it is very important to look for and adopt the experience of the other countries.

In the middle of the previous century the Western feminist movement, trying to find new approaches to solving this problem, proposed a specific concept of political correctness, which now is understood as a special cultural delicacy in the questions of protection from any forms of discrimination. I think that this concept really discovers some fundamentally new approaches to solving of the above mentioned gender problems, taking into account our still feebly marked volitional factor.

In what social cultural surroundings a person is brought up and lives, what ideas and terms he learns form the surrounding world, has a very important meaning. Think, what feels a woman, who till recently had an officious label of a "lonely mother". Social legal status, which was unconsciously imposed by this definition, was unlikely to assist in valuable development and active struggle against gender discrimination.

Other terms, widely introduced in Soviet mass perception - "privileges for working women", "privileges for nursing mothers" also played an evil trick both in private life and on legislative level and didn't assist in real protection of women rights. In this case, natural physiological and labour duties of women, unpaid by the state, were artificially categorized as privileged duties. There, where society and state should have acknowledged the fact of at least double labour loading of women at home and at work, which for justice had to be double paid, a concept of "privileges" had been introduced, while house work was almost ignored.

There are many such terms-traps in our legislation and they don't assist in realization of a constitutional principle of equality of rights for men and women in Russian Federation. We should also confess, that it is almost impossible to change the legal thinking, developed on this basis. In this connection we rely upon a new for Russia concept political correctness.

While defining the legal status of the concept political correctness we face certain difficulties, caused by its dual nature.

First of all, potential discrimination of people, i.e. violation of some significant human rights, always concerns the state and its law-enforcement organs. But the demands of political correctness aren't subject to outright protection of the forces of the state repressive machinery, for these are not formal legal norms. It's quite another matter, that new standards of political correctness should be picked up and actively propagandized by all the state structures.

Secondly, these demands of "special cultural delicacy" should be complied with only under the threat of social condemnation. From this point of view the demands bear resemblance to moral norms. But the problem is that our historical morality, unfortunately, doesn't consider a woman as a subject of social relations, equal in rights with a man. There are more than enough folk sayings and proverbs, touching this subject. Including those, where blows of a husband are openly justified and even exalted as a norm, demonstration of love and care about wife education: "He beats - then he loves", and so on.

Political correctness supposes establishment and keeping on-position social state mechanism, consisting of at least three parts.

Firstly, it is working out of some moral codes, dictionaries of cultural delicate language. Samples of complex approach to creating such a language already exist. For example, concept unpaid women labour is more often used in business and legal spheres, and this fact allows us to hope that this problem will be solved in some indiscriminative way. We are sure of the importance of such practice in Russian Federation.

Secondly, it is introduction of new approaches in the society with the help of propaganda and teaching, educating of all the strata of society, including the youth, at the expense of the state. On this stage Western feminist movement found true ideological allies - so-called "greens" - ecologists, defenders of animals rights; all other defenders of rights. Nowadays, there are effective structures, which are able to hold mass PR-campaigns in Russia, but they are mainly occupied with election technologies and working with electors.

Thirdly, organization and keeping with the help of state structures constant feedback, wide range discussion and prompt adequate estimation of continuous tense situations, their correlation with the existing and new social standards. We should more actively use already existing methods, like open TV-processes and others, for a serious discussion of gender problems.

Only in this case, in our opinion, we have a real hope that written laws will be put into practice for protection of women rights, including struggle against domestic violence. And the vast masses of the community won't take struggle for real gender equality of rights as eccentricity of transoceanic rich men but as the barest necessity.

*look through "Interaction of the Prosecution with social organizations" ("Woman Plus…", ¹ 1, 2002) and "Legal mechanism of preventing domestic violence: sleeping norms and idle resources" ("Woman Plus…", ¹ 2, 2002).