“Traditions, manners, degrees, and generally the whole culture of sexual behavior differ from one country to the next,” Russian music critic Artemy Troitsky wrote in a recent op-ed published at The Moscow Times, explaining that “the human race might long ago have died out,” were it not for harassment. If Troitsky’s “confusion” about the #MeToo movement, as well as a rape joke Vladimir Putin enjoyed last week, are at all a barometer for attitudes in Russia about sex and gender, then the latest copy of Schastlivye Roditeli (“Happy Parents”) should come as no surprise. In the magazine’s February edition, editors asked two psychologists if children should be encouraged to fight back when confronted by bullies. The question turned out to be a gender powder-keg.
Schastlivye Roditeli solicited expert advice from two psychologists: Maria Vishnyakova and Evgeny Idzikovsky. Vishnyakova’s recommendations are mostly what you’d expect to hear from anybody living in the developed world: In addition to alerting adults to any playground fights, Vishnyakova says the “most successful strategy” is to encourage children always to share their feelings, letting aggressors know when they are in pain or feeling insulted, and telling them to stop. “First and foremost, defending your own boundaries means being able to say where they are,” the child psychologist explains.
Vishnyakova’s advice rolls along in an enlightened tone until the final three sentences: “At home, dad can show his son the best ways to defend himself. This will toughen him up and fill him with a sense of masculinity. If you have a daughter, you should immediately let any aggressors know that the girl is under your protection and that they cannot behave like that.”
If you’re disturbed by Vishnyakova’s sudden U-turn, perhaps you’ll find solace in the recommendations of Evgeny Idzikovsky, who never hides his condescension for defenseless “young ladies.”
As you may have guessed, Idzikovsky is tired of politically correct experts encouraging children to turn the other cheek. He advocates the following mantra: “Act according to the circumstances.” In other words, if fists are flying, kick some ass — unless you’re a girl facing a boy. While Idzikovsky wants boys trained in non-lethal hand-to-hand combat, he says girls should be taught never to raise a fist against a boy.
What should happen to the girls who do fight boys? “If a boy fights back against a girl, it’s great news for the girl,” says Idzikovsky. “The moment a girl starts fighting, she ceases to be a girl and becomes an aggressor. And you have to hit her. It’s just the right thing to do.”
But there’s more at stake than just girls’ girliness, Idzikovsky warns. If a boy must “constantly” endure abuse from females, “it might negatively influence his sexual orientation.” Yes, folks, stop worrying about the U.S. government’s project to create gay frogs, because pugilistic damsels might already have punched the heterosexuality out of your sons.
In his advice, Idzikovsky later clarifies that he is okay with girls fighting other girls (the same rules for scraps among boys apply to fights between girls, he says), insisting merely that a female can never defeat a male in a physical fight. Telling girls that they can hold their own against boys is dangerous, the psychologist argues, because one day they might encounter a man who “isn’t bothered by social norms” against striking a woman. “Ladies of all ages must understand clearly: provoking gentlemen is no good.”