Audio Content: Women describe experiences of sexual harassment–or of male gallantry.
Visual Content: Mostly the women speaking, but also a few shots of the Duma.
Life is busy, but I’m not ready to let the blog die. Here’s a new post!
The #MeToo movement arrived in Russia in late February, just in time to offer a darker and more combative counterpoint to the rituals of male gallantry and flower-giving that are acted out on March 8, International Women’s Day. Although the scandal in question certainly did not attain the resonance of the Harvey Weinstein scandal in the U.S., and was not covered on Russia’s state-affiliated television networks, it did cause a considerable stir in political, journalistic and progressive circles. The initial reports emerged on the independent channel TV Rain (Телеканал Дождь) on February 22. Leonid Slutsky (Леонид Эдуардович Слуцкий), a longtime deputy in the State Duma and chair of the Committee on International Affairs, was accused of harassing female journalists who cover the parliament. At first the accusers remained anonymous, but as Slutsky denied and dismissed the charges, several of them decided to make themselves known. Daria Zhuk, a producer at TV Rain, described unwanted sexual aggression when Slutsky came to their studio for a news program (she tells her story in the video below). Farida Rustamova of BBC Russia had the most vivid story, backed up by an audio recording: when she visited Slutsky’s office for commentary, he called her “little rabbit,” suggested she become his lover and put his hand near her genitals. The third woman to publicly accuse Slutsky was Yekaterina Katrikadze of the television network RTVI.
Duma members mostly rallied around their fellow deputy. One exception was Oksana Pushkina, who called for legislation that would criminalize sexual harassment. More typical reactions were questions about why the women didn’t say anything earlier, suggestions that women who are unhappy in the Duma should find another place to work, assurances about having never observed any objectionable behavior from Slutsky, and claims that this is all a “provocation” somehow related to the upcoming presidential election. Nevertheless, members of the Duma determined that the issue needed to be addressed via the proper official procedures. On March 21 the Duma’s Committee on Ethics questioned Zhuk, Rustamova and Slutsky in a closed hearing and concluded that (subtitled video] no ethics violations had occurred. The next day, a few dozen news organizations (but, of course, none of the state-affiliated federal television networks) announced a boycott of the Duma.
In the first video below, Daria Zhuk announces that she is one of the anonymous accusers. She defiantly addresses Slutsky and