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‘The struggle against lesbophobia, against homophobia, and against biphobia is our calling’ How Russian feminist protesters celebrated International Women’s Day

Meduza

A typical International Women’s Day gift in Russia might include flowers or chocolate. On March 8, Russian feminists demanded more vital forms of attention. Protesters took to the streets in multiple Russian cities, touting slogans like “We need rights, not flowers!” and spreading the word about a wide variety of legal and political causes.

In Moscow, protest organizer Yekaterina Patyulina called on the city’s residents to “celebrate March 8 right.” She told the radio station Ekho Moskvy that she and her fellow protesters intended to maintain the historical intention of the holiday as a “day of struggle for women’s rights” rather than gift-giving and niceties.

On Friday, a small crowd followed her lead, carrying gear from colorful banners in a range of post-Soviet languages to pink “pussyhats” like those that gained popularity in the 2017 Women’s March in the United States. Attendees held lively discussions of intersectional theory, economic segregation, and leniency for nonviolent drug offenders while a sizable group of police officers stood in the background.

International Women's Day 2019 protests in Moscow
SotaVision / YouTube

In St. Petersburg, a larger crowd gathered to hear short speeches on a similarly broad range of issues and to perform songs and chants as a group. Trans and rainbow flags waved among posters that declared, “The word ‘woman’ can mean many things— you don’t get to decide which ones!” and “Domestic violence kills 14,000 Russian women every year.” The rally brought together ideologies from intersectional feminism to lesbian separatism and communism.

International Women's Day 2019 protests in St. Petersburg
Marx byl prav / YouTube

Advocacy for LGBTQ rights was an especially prominent theme at the St. Petersburg rally. In a speech that has since circulated widely on social media, local activist Olga Razmakhova declared, “The struggle against lesbophobia, against homophobia, and against biphobia is our calling, and so is the struggle against transphobia.” She told the crowd that she had received online threats for her participation in the March 8 rally: “This morning, someone wrote to me that if I go out and talk about my rights, I might end up with antiseptic dye in my eyes.” Looking out from behind the sunglasses she had worn as a form of protection, she added, “I don’t want that. I want my eyes to be able to see the woman I love.”

Hilah Kohen

Social media photo: Russian LGBT Network