Russian women and the currency of femininity

A while ago I asked the question ‘does it matter what women wear‘? and Clare from The Potty Diaries, who I am now going to think of as my roving Russian reporter, said that yes, in Moscow it definitely DID matter. In fact, it matters very much.

I was intrigued, as I’ve heard from friends that Russian women are quite something, so Clare has very kindly written us a fascinating post from actual Moscow. How cool is that? Please leave Clare lots of lovely comments so she’ll come back again another day.

From Russia With Love

‘Yes, sure.  Write me something about women in Moscow’ said Slummy Single Mummy on Twitter when I offered her a guest post.

Oh god.  Do I have to?

Well actually, yes I do, because I offered and so – bolstered by copious supplies of camomile tea and a half empty tin of condensed milk (can you tell that I am somewhat out of my comfort zone?) – here goes.

Russian women – or rather, Muscovite women – are just like the rest of us.

Cue long, expectant, pause.

Oh, alright, just kidding.

Russian women are nothing like the rest of us.  They have much better shoes, for starters.  And much shorter skirts.  Perhaps a little less (for which read ‘no’) body hair.  And fewer boundaries about what it is acceptable to do to get what they want and to where they want to go.  And I would go as far as to say that ‘sisterhood’ is even less considered an important attribute here, than it is elsewhere.

Mind you, why would they be like the rest of us? They’ve grown up in a society where femininity (aka ‘Sex’ obviously, but I’m going to stick with ‘femininity’ to spare your blushes) is a currency to be utilised to it’s full extent in a world where nothing is certain.  Remember, the other currency – the Rouble – has proved less reliable than femininity, crashing twice during the 1990’s, devaluing people’s savings and pensions and leaving previously comfortably-off people with next-to-nothing. That’s not some 1930’s anecdote from school history lessons; it’s within living memory for the majority of the population here. So nowadays, most people’s main aim in life is to make as much money as they can, as fast as they can, in almost any way they can, and then get the hell out of Russia to raise and educate their children somewhere else.   A country with a strong currency, preferably.

And whilst I don’t want to launch into a full-on sociological thesis here, it seems to me that this –  along with the small matter of how 70 years of Communist repression affected the individual and his/her hopes and dreams – impacts strongly on how women here are, and how they present themselves.

When I first visited Moscow in the mid-90’s, I was astounded by how good-looking many of the women and girls were.  They were, quite frankly, intimidatingly gorgeous – and they knew it.  After a while I began to work out that yes, there were some seriously good gene pools going on here, no doubt about it, but there was more to it than that.  Russian women identify early on what their main physical attribute is, be it beautiful hair, a fantastic figure, great legs, and maximise that.  So, if they have beautiful hair, they grow it.  A fantastic figure? Show it off.  Great legs?  Let’s invest in short skirts and sky-high heels then.

Some things have changed in the 17 years since my first visit (the impact that the advent of fast-food culture and the hugely increased numbers of cars have had is depressingly obvious – although still less so than in many more ‘Western’ societies) but what hasn’t is the Muscovite women’s determination to make the best of themselves.

And neither has their complete and utter incomprehension of why the rest of us wouldn’t bother…

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20 Comments

    • 19 March, 2012 / 1:28 pm

      Well… what can I say? I’m not sure their exchange rate would be that great…

    • 19 March, 2012 / 1:28 pm

      The Eurovision Grannies are a beacon of hope, I think, that Russia is – after all of those years of being uber-competitive – finally taking the competition as seriously as it deserves to be taken… (And I love – just LOVE – the incredulous expressions of half of the audience).

    • 20 March, 2012 / 1:09 pm

      The one on the left isn’t even singing. Perhaps she’s just been to dine at Pushkin Restaurant and is still stunned (rather like we were when in Moscow a few weeks ago). Or still reeling over the eyewatering bill after eating supper at Bolshoi Restaurant? (Ditto). If anyone knows of any sensibly priced good restaurants that actual Muscovites frequent (rather than gullible tourists or oligarchs) would be eternally grateful as we are now popping across to Russia on a frequent basis to do business. Thanks. Grace (one of the Countrywives).

      • 20 March, 2012 / 4:57 pm

        Actually Grace, I do. Of course when I say ‘reasonably’ priced, we ARE talking about Moscow, but still. Try these (and visit my blog to leave a comment if you want more): Strelka, Art Akademia (both on Bolotny Island opposite the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, the former with particularly amazing views across the river and still OK-ish prices), actually ANY Akademia (they are all over the place), Ouilliams in Patriachy Prudiye (a bit more expensive than Akademia but delicious Italian food), and Ellergie for delicious Georgian food. That’s it for now as I don’t want to turn Jo’s blog into a restaurant review site…

        • 21 March, 2012 / 9:37 am

          Haha! Feel free – I’m sure it will come in handy should I ever find myself hungry in Moscow :-)

  1. Philipa
    19 March, 2012 / 12:01 pm

    Perhaps it’s not that the rest of us wouldn’t bother so much as the resentment that we should have to tread that path. Some women in the UK feel that our brain should be sufficient in a job that requires a brain. The shortness of our skirt should be irrelevant. Especially when we see equally qualified men failing to wear short skirts and have six-packs. We think we should be paid and judged equally. If people in authority see us as simply a sexual commodity it can short change our other abilities. I don’t want to be a sex worker, even if I am sitting on a fortune. I want other choices in a society that congratulates itself on fairness and equality.

    • 19 March, 2012 / 1:26 pm

      Phiipa, I completely, totally and UTTERLY agree with you. However, that is simply not how people think here. I’m not suggesting for a moment that the rest of us should follow their example, simply that they can’t understand why we don’t. It makes for an interesting culture clash, I can tell you!

      • 19 March, 2012 / 1:30 pm

        Absolutely agree with you both, and I just can’t imagine Clare how it must feel to be living with women, and men of course, who just don’t GET that women are about more than their bodies. It feels so incredible to us, but is so normal for them.

  2. hilly
    19 March, 2012 / 3:48 pm

    I understand that in their youth they are able to flaunt their assets, but what happens as they age? Do these women invest in surgery to keep up or is that simply out of their reach financially? I’d be very interested to know if there is a tipping point, age-wise, where they go from glam to gran.

    • 19 March, 2012 / 5:01 pm

      Hi Hilly, there is a tipping point, of course, but it’s becoming progressively older and yes, those that can afford it are perhaps more likely to get ‘help’ than people elsewhere. Today’s 40+ yummies are definitely looking smoother and more youthful than their predecessors (though of course this could be as much to do with improved skin care as anything more surgical). And even those that don’t go down this road – or even look particularly ‘yummy’ will be wearing clothes that perhaps their counterparts in the UK wouldn’t normally consider given age and size… (have you ever heard the term 16:64? Welcome to Moscow!)

  3. 19 March, 2012 / 7:14 pm

    Hi Clare, thank you for your post, it’s helped me understand some Russian women in the UK. Have you felt pressurised to change your appearance there?

    • 20 March, 2012 / 7:08 am

      I would love to say ‘no’ but can’t; I’m not that self-assured. Yes I have – felt it, and done it. You could argue that it was past time for me to lose the last of the baby weight at any rate, and you wouldn’t be wrong (my youngest is now 6), but I’m not sure if I would ever have got round to it back in the UK. Maybe I would – maybe I’m underestimating myself – but being here surely gave me a push. As for the clothes I wear however, no; I pretty much dress the same way here that I would back home.

  4. honeybee35
    19 March, 2012 / 10:18 pm

    Thank you to Clare for her post today.
    It would be great to read comments/personal experiences from women from other parts of the world as well as Russia… China, India, America, Africa, The Caribbean, Australia etc…Is there anywhere in the world where ‘equality’ is moving at a greater pace than in the UK? Or, are women from around the world still finding themselves simply valued on their looks and therefore having to use their ‘ personal currency’ to survive…Put in their situation, I would be inclined to take the same approach to life.
    Maybe the UK isn’t so bad after all in terms of improving opportunities for women?

    • 20 March, 2012 / 7:10 am

      HB, it’s all relative I think. Compared to here, then yes, the UK is not bad at all, but that’s not say that opportunities for women there are what they should be – just that they’re better than elsewhere. Doesn’t me we should stop striving to improve them, though!

  5. 20 March, 2012 / 9:13 pm

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-17429151

    Well as Engelbert says ” Love will set you free.”

    Re Honeybee’s coments, I will be in Spain for much of the summer researching current social attitudes there for a book. I last lived there in the 1980s when the status of women seemed stuck in the 1950s equivalent of Britain ( not that I can remember those times!). It will be fascinating to see how times have changed.

    • Philipa
      21 March, 2012 / 8:30 pm

      No it won’t be fascinating, it will be very boring. Let me go instead?

  6. Shawn Esskew
    5 February, 2013 / 10:20 pm

    Dating a Russian girl is a wonderful experience for everybody. Russian females are charming and sociable. They are excellent housewives. They rank family and motherhood first. They are well-educated. Nearly all Russian women have a university or college education. They are good at many things and highly respect the traditions.Therefore, before striking up a close relationship, men should learn a few important things about Russian culture and traditions.It is necessary to discover some facts about the country, its history, politics and religion. This will indicate that you are full of serious intentions and are genuinely interested in the world around your potential girl-friend or spouse.`

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  7. 18 May, 2013 / 11:20 am

    Russia, Ukraine, Czech and also Belarus undoubtedly produce more top fashion models than any other four nations located within the identical continent

  8. 8 July, 2013 / 7:37 pm

    I Agree . Yes I have – felt it, and done it.

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