Author, professors examine homophobic policies in Russia

Sitting shoulder-to-shoulder, roughly 50 folks squeezed into a WLH classroom Tuesday afternoon to hear 3 top authorities examine the intersection of law and sexual identity in Russia beneath Vladimir Putin.

Masha Gessen — known for her books “Words Will Break Cement: The Passion of Pussy Riot” and “The Guy Without having a Encounter: The Unlikely Rise of Vladimir Putin” and typical contributions to The New York Instances and The Washington Post, among other publications — spoke to an audience of undergraduates, graduate college students and professors about the history and present status of LGBT folks in Russia. Gessen was joined by two panel members — Bruce Grant, a professor of anthropology at New York University, and Eliot Borenstein, professor of Russian and Slavic studies at NYU — in examining Putin’s function in latest Russian anti-gay legislation.

Gessen stressed the ideas of civilizational conflict as a source of homophobic policies and legislation as a device for nationalistic assertion.

“In the previous two and a half years, we have seen a birth of a [Russian] ideology of civilizational conflict amongst Western and standard civilization,” Gessen explained. “Putin wants to remake Russia as the leader of the anti-Western world, as the defender of classic families … utilizing gay and lesbians as a form of the other.”

Gessen said there is a pervasive belief throughout Russia that the West is trying to impose its rhetoric of universal human rights on the rest of the globe. To fight Western importation of social norms, Russia is positioning itself as the leader of classic and anti-Western civilization, she stated.

Borenstein added that the Western values of liberal democracy and tolerance are demonized beneath Putin’s regime.

This ideology has fueled the political crackdown and wave of anti-gay legislation that began two and a half many years ago, Gessen explained. The laws that have been passed in that time period, she extra, are meant to be a symbol of the social frame of mind towards LGBT men and women a lot more than real legal measures, as they are seldom enforced.

Borenstein said homophobic hostilities are fueled by both hatred of the West and conspiracy theories rampant in society.

“There is a notion in Russia that the minority is quickly making an attempt to dominate the majority and that gay and lesbians are going to take over,” he mentioned.

The concern of sexuality was never talked about in Russia until Putin came along, Gessen explained. When Putin began the conversation, she extra, he gained the energy to form it.

Contrary to common belief, in the 1990s, Russia was really much more hospitable to conversations about gay and lesbian relationships, Borenstein mentioned.

Audience members interviewed reacted strongly to the concerns presented.

Kar Jin Ong ’17 mentioned he located Gessen’s discussion of self-definition of Russian identity specifically intriguing.

“It appears that the Russian nationwide identity is typically defined by telling Russians what is not Russian,” he said. “It’s an fascinating trope in background that we continually define who we are by indicates of exclusion.”

Historical past and American Studies professor George Chauncey — who teaches the common lecture class “U.S. Gay and Lesbian History” — said the issues Gessen presented are not exclusive to Russia. The anti-gay legislation that Americans condemn in Russia existed just recently in the U.S., he said.

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