Zillah Eisenstein

My writings, thoughts, and activism.

Say No To Putin’s Homophobia


Say No to  Homophobia


Zillah Eisenstein

October 29, 2013


I have recently returned from St. Petersburg, where nationalist thugs assaulted gay pride demonstrators, in June of this year after Putin passed a law forbidding “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations to minors”.  The documentary “Children 404” describes these developments. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A0Rf4QYiUNA&feature=youtu.be Since the passage of Putin’s punitive bill anti LGBT violence and harassment is on the rise.


Putin’s most recent declarations use homophobic anti-feminist discourses to express his newest form of traditional hetero-patriarchal nationalism.  Much of this statist/corporatist cronyism of Putin is wrapped in the authority of the Russian Orthodox Church.  As such, homophobia will be a part of the world stage at the Sochi Olympic Winter Games unless it is directly challenged.


Let me set the economic and political context for Putin’s homophobic assault.  The Sochi Olympic Games bespeak Putin’s lawlessness, corruption, and incompetence.  Originally the Games were estimated to cost $12 billion and have risen to $50 billion.  Much of the problem is the location itself.  Sochi is one of the warmest places in Russia at 55 degrees when the Games are to begin.  Anywhere else would have made more sense for the winter Olympics.  But Putin’s friends, especially the Rotenberg Brothers—an Energy and Construction Company– have made out like bandits.  New roads and gas lines have been the greatest expense.  http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2013/sep/26/putins-downhill-race/


Putin hopes to jumpstart his flagging economy that was robust with gas profits at the height of his popularity in 2000, with this “economic stimulus”, instead of addressing the punishing poverty inside Russia.  He now tries to find new support in the Church’s right wing flank with an official homophobic nationalism.  This positions him against the West with its “so-called” excessive rights for gays and abortion.  A new anti-Americanism thrives cloaked in a mix of homophobic initiatives and the complex asylum for Edward Snowden.


What is to be done?  Many gay activists and progressives in Russia ask that people not boycott the Sochi Olympics, but instead boycott homophobia while attending the Sochi Games.  And, the Russian LGBT network, LGBT Organization Coming Out (“Vyhod”), and the Alliance of Straights for LGBT Equality are working on behalf gay rights in Russia and Sochi.  http://queerussia.info/2013/10/26/2372/


It is also important to note that some gay activists believe that if they had been more at the ready to stand against Putin and for women’s rights, especially to their bodies and abortion in 2011, that they would not have been caught so off-guard to defend their own rights at present.  So, coalitions are important to form across the gender and sexual spectrum.


At the time of this writing, Putin has just declared that gay and lesbian athletes have nothing to fear at the Sochi games—that they will not face reprisals.  This statement simply deflects attention away from the fundamental lack of full citizen rights and respect for gays and lesbians as well as others on the sexual spectrum, in Russia.   Putin’s hypocritical policies should be condemned and resisted.


As well, this Winter Olympics should be an opportunity to not simply demonize Putin but rather to mobilize people across the globe on behalf of sexual rights and the freedom of gender choices across the globe. And, there should be boisterous resistance to the well-established commercialization and marketing of the Olympic games, especially in the US, without criticizing this compromising of sexual rights.


The TODAY show began its 100-day countdown to the Sochi Games with a Ralph Lauren fashion extravaganza of athletic gear, a rollout of favorite Russian foods, and the all too well known race to win Gold.  There was no mention of Putin’s problematic anti-gay stance.  The US should not be complicit through a silence about gay rights at Sochi.  Hopefully US athletes will publicize their condemnation of limiting sexual rights—anywhere and everywhere.


Progressives, especially gay activists and feminists of all stripes across this globe need to stand with those who seek justice for people regardless of their sex, or gender, or sexual choice, alongside their race, or class.  There must be an embrace of all sexual and gender identities for social justice to prevail. Together we stand. United we can win.  So we must look across our borders—geographic, cultural, class, racial, sexual and gendered— and find and support each other.


If you agree, please sign this Human Rights Watch (HRW) petition: http://secure.hrw.org/site/c.nlIWIgN2JwE/b.8781943/k.8A40/Sochi_2014_Sign_the_Petition/apps/ka/ct/contactus.asp

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