Last Thursday, a controversial tweet highlighted the cultural differences between American and Russia yet again. After President Obama announced economic sanctions against the country, the Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin posted a picture of President Obama with a small, white dog next to a picture of Vladimir Putin holding a leopard. The caption stated "We have different values and allies," which was apparently intended to be an insult to Obama's masculinity.
Although America is far from perfect in gender role expectations, this recent debacle is another highlight of just how restrictive Russian gender roles are. This follows previous controversy over the government actively enforcing anti-gay laws. Although attempting to insult the president by showing a photo of him with a puppy seems ridiculous, the pressure for men in Russia must be overwhelming if such a minor act is a threat to their manhood. I can only imagine what they would think of my husband, who is 6’7” and often has our little white Maltese mix on his lap and a 4 lb. Yorkie mix perched on his shoulder.
Like other societal norms and values, “cultural rules regarding sex, gender, and sexuality are no exception to the phenomenon of cultural variation” (Kimmel p. 100). To many Americans, the subliminal pedagogy of our society does not become obvious until we are presented with one that is so drastically different than ours. However, Russian culture shares many of the same values that are associated with a stereotypical “real man” in the US. Kimmel states that “the content of masculine gender ideology in mainstream US culture is not a static entity” and is continuously evolving, just as I hope they will continue to evolve in Russia as Soviet Union-era values becomes a part of the past (113).