This Thursday, on the eve of International Women’s Day, members of the pro-Putin organization “Set” (Network) barged into a feminist cafe in St. Petersburg, filming themselves handing out flowers and shouting holiday chants, while ignoring repeated demands that they leave.
The activists came to the “Simone” cafe with armfuls of tulips, deliberately arriving at an hour when the establishment is closed to men, declaring that they’d come to honor International Women’s Day, a holiday in Russia that’s treated much like Valentine’s Day in the United States, with much of the same misogynist baggage. As the activists were leaving, celebrating their great victory over feminism, one of the women in the cafe spoiled the party by spraying mace in the cameraman’s face. Spokesmen for Set say he suffered an eye burn, as a result.
A coffee shop and coworking space, the Simone cafe opened in St. Petersburg last month on the premises of the feminist project “Eve’s Ribs.” Between 11 a.m. and 7 p.m., the cafe is closed to men. Conservative State Duma deputy Vitaly Milonov has also tried to enter the cafe during these hours, and at least one blogger has filed a police report against the cafe, arguing that its gender police is discriminatory.