Women in politics have always been spoken of as the exception to the rule, if not as a curiosity - this can be seen in the example of the upcoming presidential elections in the United States. Hillary Clinton is very willing to use the gender factor in her election campaign, which, quite possibly, is trying to attract a certain electorate. Someone Clinton supports this, while someone, on the contrary, criticizes: they say, stop being a populist, simply because the president is a woman, she will not be the best president. In Russia, the topic of women politicians has not yet reached the level of discussions about the presidential chair, but is treading somewhere between athletes, Komsomol members and just beauties, sometimes taking breaks to discuss Valentina Petrenko's hairstyle. There are several times less women in politics in Russia than men, and rare representatives often have to defend their right to be competitive politicians, and not decorative objects.
Just over a thousand women are candidates for the elections to the State Duma on September 18, 2016, which is 23% of the total number of candidates. Among them are public figures, lawyers, businesswomen, young activists, teachers of rural schools, pensioners, two workers of the Voronezh nuclear power plant and the first woman in space, Valentina Tereshkova. The average age of all female candidates is 44, indicating a high level of involvement of young people in politics, despite the widespread perception of the general apathy of the millennial generation. We spoke with some of the young women candidates in the upcoming elections and tried to find out if women politicians in Russia can have real power.
There are no seats
Political scientist Tatyana Stanovaya believes that in the current political situation in Russia, women perform a certain function, but at the same time they are not politically independent in the full sense: “We know examples of bright, strong and successful women, such as Valentina Matvienko, Olga Golodets or Elvira Nabiullina. But their functions are rather apparatus, party or economic. All of these women are good performers and lobbyists. But there is not much room left in Russian politics for independent and bright, precisely politically, women. The reason for this is the conservatism of society. There are no special artificial obstacles for women in politics, but for objective reasons men occupy more space in politics. And in traditional societies and harsh regimes, this is even more pronounced."
↑ Yulia Yuzik, candidate from the PARNAS party in the Southern single-mandate district
While the authorities are served by women business executives, and Moscow, hungover after a summer renovation, sits on a 100-meter shop in Novy Arbat with a Yarovaya bag on its head and tries to tune in to the elections, a real election campaign unfolded in the villages of Dagestan, cut off from each other by impassable roads and mountain passes. Yulia Yuzik, a candidate from the PARNAS party in the Southern single-mandate constituency, walks around the Khasavyurt market in a T-shirt with her poster and distributes calendars with the contacts of her receptionist, and in a remote village of the Khunzakh district, mosque speakers announce her imminent meeting with voters.
Yulia Yuzik is a candidate in a republic where there have been no new faces since the 90s and the cult of strength and clannishness rises above everything. When she began to travel to mountain villages and meet with future voters, people confessed to her that she was the first politician whom they saw live and with whom they talked on equal terms. But in order for her to be allowed to work with voters, Yulia had been building a dialogue with the authorities for several months: “At first, no one paid attention to us at all and did not take us seriously.As a result, the head of the republic, Ramazan Gadzhimuradovich Abdulatipov, met with me and told me to contact him if I had any problems, and promised that no one would interfere with me. After that, it became easier for me to negotiate with the heads of districts”.
Julia first came to the Caucasus in 2001, when she came to Chechnya to work as a military reporter. She later wrote two books related to the region, Brides of Allah and Beslan Dictionary. Yulia admits that she deliberately chose the republic of Dagestan for her activities, because she always wanted to work in the Caucasus: “I was offered to leave Moscow and not consider the Dagestan option, because in the Caucasus, United Russia always wins by 146%. It was said that this was a plan doomed from the beginning to failure. But I decided to try my hand. If we close our eyes now to corruption and clannishness, Dagestan is a region with great prospects, it can be brought to the level of self-sufficiency and make a model out of it."
According to her, voters accept her warmly: “When you say that you have a book translated into 11 languages of the world, people do not perceive it. In a conservative society, such statements are regarded simply as bragging. I realized this very quickly and now I am building the dialogue differently. People often think that I am younger, and this makes them distrust. Therefore, I always start with the words: “Hello, I am 35 years old, - they immediately look at me with different eyes. And then I kill everyone on the spot and say: - I am a mother of four children. Everyone starts to applaud at this point. It looks very funny. But for them this is a defining fact that deserves trust and respect."
↑ Maria Epifanova, candidate from the Yabloko party in the Ryazan single-mandate district No. 156
“At the beginning of the campaign, I tried to appeal to the male audience, because our Moscow consultants advised me to do so. But then I myself quickly realized that in my election campaign it is better for me to turn to women. For example, at my recent meeting, out of 400 people, almost half were women. At the end of meetings, I usually say: “I beg you to support me. Of all the candidates for the State Duma from the Republic of Dagestan, I am the only woman. You have to understand how hard it is in the male world to try to break through and be heard. " My assistant, an Avar by nationality, when I speak, hears women talking to each other: "We will be for her, because only a woman can understand a woman."
Gender faction and the "Women's Wing"
The topic of women's solidarity, to which both Yulia Yuzik in Dagestan and Hillary Clinton somewhere in California appeals in communication with voters, is far from alien to women politicians in Russia. Perhaps this is the reason for our universal strong love for the holiday of March 8 and echoes of the solidarity of working women in the struggle for equal rights.
As political scientist Yekaterina Shulman notes, "'all women' as a political actor do not exist" and "the feminist movement, speaking of a common female interest and a common women's political agenda, operates with a kind of false plurality." But at the same time, when it comes to politics, women often need to unite in a faction, commission or council. And in Russian politics this can be seen in the example of both the center-left and center-right parties, the Yabloko party and the Growth Party, respectively.
Maria Epifanova, a candidate from the Yabloko party in the Ryazan single-mandate constituency No. 156, believes that it is the Yabloko party that acts as a vivid example of the fact that there is a place for women in politics in Russia: “We are the only large party in Russia headed by woman, Emilia Slabunova. We have a strong gender faction, and only our party has a section in the electoral program dedicated to gender equality.I hope that there will be more women politicians in Russia and men will support us in this. As for talking about who is more professional or smarter, it all depends on a particular person and on his abilities."
The persistence of the 29-year-old candidate for deputy Maria Epifanova can only be envied. After all, she, in fact, conducts her pre-election campaign almost alone: “I am a beginner candidate, therefore I do a lot on my own and through the efforts of my relatives and friends. That is, I am a candidate, an agitator, and a PR man in one person. For example, I myself transported my leaflets in a suitcase on the train and then I myself distributed them to people on the streets of Ryazan and in the region. I just approached the voters on the street and got to know each other. People reacted in different ways. In general, the mood was positive, there was not a single negative comment about my age or gender. Many were attracted by the fact that the candidate himself communicated with them, and not his agitator. There were several comments: they say that you can do alone. To this I replied that, of course, one candidate in the field is not a warrior, it would be better if a whole democratic faction of the Yabloko party appears in the State Duma, but I go to the State Duma to lobby the interests of the residents of the Ryazan region. Many people rejoiced: “At last, young. How tired we are of the same people who have been in our parliament for twenty years."
↑ Tatyana Mineeva, candidate for the Kuntsevsky single-mandate district of Moscow
Another party with a strong female agenda is the Growth Party. Tatiana Mineeva, candidate for the Kuntsevsky single-mandate district of Moscow, heads the "Women's Wing" of the party and deals with the development of women's and family entrepreneurship. “I invited all my acquaintances, women entrepreneurs, to the Women's Wing of the Growth Party. Not all of them became party members, but just supporters. These are the women who saw the Growth Party as a platform that will speed up the process of implementing their project and promote the adoption of laws necessary in certain social areas. We have already developed a bill and several amendments to existing legislation. For example, on the introduction of the concepts of “family” and “family business” into the Civil Code and the corresponding amendment of labor legislation. We have an example of a mother of seven sons. She opened a cafe just to feed her family, due to the fact that she is not hired anywhere. She is being punished and fined because her children are helping her in this business."
When asked whether a woman can have real power, and not a decorative function, Tatyana explains that young women in Russian politics have to pay attention to their presentation: “By myself, I can say that they often say to me:“Where are you so young? Are you going to go to politics? "Then I start talking about my experience, about the fact that I am a candidate of economic sciences, I show the program of work, and people are already changing their ideas." Tatyana is really watching her serve very closely. She leads an active election campaign online, and in her video blog she openly talks about the everyday life of the candidate. “Women are well represented at the federal level and in Moscow. This is very trendy now, - continues Tatiana. - But there are very few women in the Duma. How women differ from men: we will not miss a single trifle, we will not put a raw dish on the table. When it comes to all aspects of quality of life, women are better at it. Because we know how long the queue is in our clinics or how difficult it is to place a child in a kindergarten. The guarantee of the happiness of any family in harmony between a man and a woman. Likewise, there must be women in the State Duma to ensure its successful work."
Woman as a way to be in trend
According to political scientist Tatyana Stanova, the role of a woman-politician in Russia is heterogeneous and varies depending on the party: “Women in Russia remain a kind of accompaniment of a political party or power structure. This is only getting worse now. We see that the authorities are playing up the feminine theme especially actively: some ladies are becoming symbols of Putin's defensive and conservative policies. For example, the prosecutor of the Republic of Crimea Natalya Poklonskaya or the official representative of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation Maria Zakharova.But such a demand for women can be associated rather with the image flirtation of the authorities, where the real influence is still mostly assigned to the male half."
Tatiana Stanovaya believes that in Russia now there is a certain fashion for bright women politicians: each structure adjusts to this in its own way, but in general, this fashion in the case of Russia speaks of the washing out of real politics. Indeed, a number of parties running for elections are showing cosmic results in the area of gender equality. For example, according to our calculations, the Russian Party of Pensioners for Justice ranks second in terms of the ratio of male and female candidates - 68% and 32%, respectively. After all, there are many active pensioners in Russia - the thought immediately suggests itself - and the shops at each entrance clearly prove this. But the average age suggests the opposite: it is five years lower than the retirement age, and a quarter of the candidates are not yet 35 years old. The first place is taken by the party "Civil Power". Here the ratio of men and women is a record - 55% and 45%. Moreover, the average age of women is 28 years. But the party's online activity does not speak of its youth or progressiveness. There are no press service contacts on the site, and the profiles of female candidates in single-mandate constituencies are either absent or full of a variety of cats and selfies.
“This has to do with dead politics,” explains Stanovaya. - Many parties are projects that perform a specific function. Accordingly, those on the candidate list play an instrumental role. In this form, a woman becomes only a fashionable attribute that makes it possible to emphasize the progressiveness of the party. This is an absolutely formal technological approach: fill the list with names based on gender and age, while not caring at all about the political content."
↑ Natalia Eliseeva, single-mandate candidate from Civil Force
According to Natalia Eliseeva, one of the youngest single-mandate candidates from Civil Power, the reason lies elsewhere, namely, the candidates' misunderstanding of the power of social networks: “I told the party leader that if the team wants to seriously develop the party, then they will have to change everything from the logo and website to the party structure. As for the candidates themselves, unfortunately, there are still people who underestimate the power of social media. They work offline and at the same time completely forget about online activity. This, unfortunately, is fraught. " Natalia herself is not yet officially a member of the party and is presented to voters as a separate unit: “I had proposals from different parties. I chose Civil Force, because the party positions itself as a party of young, active and socially versatile people. Although we have disagreements on the program. The party itself, for example, is of a more liberal orientation and encourages controversial strata of society, for example, non-systemic opposition. I do not support this. But the leader of the Civil Force supported my position, as the party is developing and it needs bright young representatives”.
Natalia has been involved in politics since the age of 18, from the moment she entered the university with a degree in political science. Today she is 23 years old, she is writing a postgraduate dissertation and is a candidate for the Kuntsevsky single-mandate district in Moscow. In her electoral program, Natalia focuses on education. She proposes to develop secondary technical and secondary vocational education, which will help people to enter the labor market earlier. When asked whether there is a place for women in politics in Russia, Natalia replies that everything depends on the person: “I have repeatedly heard the opinion that it is necessary to increase the number of women in politics. But not all women who go into politics now really understand it and have serious political intentions. For some women, this is just a "get-together". In general, it would be better if they did not go there.But if a woman thinks that she has a chance, then, of course, she will pass, or at least she will be noticed. Nobody will put a stick in the wheel."
Sportswomen, beauties and male politicians
An analysis of the candidate lists of parties shows that the LDPR has the smallest percentage of women from the total number of candidates - only 13%. When asked if she is upset that women are the worst represented in her party, 27-year-old Yekaterina Fedotova, a candidate in Chelyabinsk single-mandate constituency No. 189, responds negatively. “There are only three girls among the activists in our party headquarters. But it doesn't upset us. We do not strive for complete matriarchy,”she replies calmly. Ekaterina joined the party three years ago. Before working in the Liberal Democratic Party, where today she heads a public reception, Ekaterina was a doctor at the sanitary and epidemiological station and, in parallel, the chairman of the local trade union. She decided to go into politics after the beginning of the optimization of health care and the ensuing massive layoffs. Then she became disillusioned with the power of budgetary structures and trade unions and decided that it would be easier for her to provide real help to people in politics: “Everyone asks me why I chose the Liberal Democratic Party. I always honestly answer that because of Zhirinovsky. Outside people simply do not understand well enough what kind of person he is and how talented he is as a politician."
One of Ekaterina's projects is a plant for the processing and disposal of solid household waste: “In Chelyabinsk, the city dump is located in the very center of the city. To move from one end of the city to the other, you have to drive past 11 thousand tons of garbage. We do not have waste disposal, we just store them, and for many years this problem has not been solved. I suggest making money for the city and the region at this landfill. The amount of waste is growing every day, and the amount of oil and gas is decreasing, and municipal solid waste can become an alternative source of energy. There is little interest in my project in the region. Unfortunately, I cannot implement it myself, because I do not have enough resources. I would even be glad if my idea was stolen, if only this project would come true”.
↑ Ekaterina Fedotova, candidate in the Chelyabinsk single-mandate constituency No. 189
Local media in a condescending manner call Ekaterina an athlete and a beauty competing with male candidates, and in interviews with her they only raise questions about Zhirinovsky's personality and are practically not interested in her election program. Ekaterina does not particularly react to this: “I try not to argue with anyone, but, on the contrary, to prove by deeds that people are different. Now I actively go to debates, and I am always surrounded only by men. Initially, there were grins, but when it came down to it, not all of the candidates could answer some sharp questions. I then said that everyone was laughing at me, but I, a young girl, can definitely put a stamp for every word I say."
“There has been, is and will be a place for women in politics,”
- answers Maria Baronova, an independent candidate in the Central single-mandate electoral district No. 208 of the city of Moscow, when asked if a woman has a place in politics in Russia. “Because politics is the art of managing society. Society is ruled by people, and a woman is a person,”explains Maria. She, like Yulia Yuzik, became a candidate in the upcoming elections thanks to Mikhail Khodorkovsky's project "Open Elections". But, unlike Yulia Yuzik, who was supported by the PARNAS party and helped to register bypassing the bureaucracy, Maria Baronova had to collect signatures from residents of the Central Administrative District of Moscow to register her candidacy: “This is the most uncollectible and very difficult district. People are afraid to participate in the signatures, so some said: "I will come, I will vote for her, but I will not leave my passport details." As a result, we sent out a copy of my passport to all the mailboxes of the Central Electoral District.By this I told the voters: “I showed you my passport, do not be afraid to show your collectors to the collectors. The passport is not you, it is only a document. There is little that can be done with this document without you.” After that, people began to show their passports more willingly and leave their signatures."
In the Duma, Maria plans to deal with criminal, civil and arbitration legislation: “We have obvious problems with legislation and, in general, with legislative activity. In the previous five years, many laws of a repressive nature have been passed. I plan to seek the abolition of these laws and the decriminalization of the mass of articles of the Criminal Code. I also want to deal with the availability of modern medicines and the distribution of powerful painkillers for seriously ill people. It is also necessary to fight the spread of HIV infection, to advocate for the prevention of HIV infection not through prayers, but with the help of barrier contraception and regular testing."
↑ Maria Baronova, independent candidate in the Central electoral single-mandate district No. 208 of the city of Moscow
The example of Maria Baronova is important for this whole candidate story, not for gender reasons, but simply because it shows the ability of a politician to collect signatures in a short time in the most uncollectable constituency during the summer holidays. And it gives some hope for the development of civil society in Russia. “A mature civil society, a developed human rights theme, the existence of a real opposition - if all these institutions develop gradually, Russia will move towards the fact that women will get more chances for self-realization in politics,” said Tatiana Stanovaya. - But Russia is a very heterogeneous country, therefore it is more difficult for it to move in a progressive direction. This process will go very slowly, I do not think that we will see the result any time soon."
Despite the fact that the political scientist's forecast does not make us hope for quick changes, he at least outlines a route that should be followed. Moreover, examples of politicians capable of undermining people and awakening in them the desire to be active citizens for a while are already appearing. This instills confidence in the fact that in the future in Russia there will be even more opportunities for self-realization of politicians. Both men and women.
Photos: Julia Yuzik, Maria Epifanova / Facebook, Natalia Eliseeva, Ekaterina Fedotova, Tatiana Mineeva / Facebook, openrussia.org