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August 12, 2013

One Sochi, Anti-Gay Russia Line of Attack: Putin’s Repressed

Putin London gay rights protest

If the point of these posters from a protest in London on Saturday was simply to mock Putin, maybe there is more to it than that. Taking almost every photo-opportunity he can to demonstrate his masculinity, Putin seems like nothing if not the poster child for repression. That’s not to insinuate anything about Putin’s sexuality, by the way, except that he functions as the model for a society that not only denies homosexuality and persecutes gays, but in so doing, also denies that sexuality operates on a continuum.

Putin holding chick
It’s this fact that makes this Business Insider photo post so amusing. Because, in aggregating 39 photos that illustrate what a “badass” leader he is — badass substantially overlapping with “man’s man,” it’s also funny in that gallery seeing him in that fur hat, or holding the chick, or feeding those goats. It’s not just a photo editor inserting a few pics that go against type but also an acknowledgment, at some level, that the nature and expression of gender is not “unipolar.”

In the next weeks and months leading up to Sochi, there is going to be a flood of images, and I imagine, visual provocations pushing back on Russia’s primitive stance on homosexuality. (UPI set the table recently simply by publishing this beautiful photo of U.S. figure skater Johnny Weir.)

Screen Shot 2013 08 12 at 12 03 18 AM

In that span, you can expect more imagery that lands a direct hit on the silly assumption that a clear dichotomy exists between the Russian male as exemplified by Putin on the horse, Putin out hunting and the Putin on the poster.

(photo 1: Lefteris Pitarakis/Associated Press caption: Protesters held signs depicting President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia in London on Saturday. Via Gays in Russia Find No Haven, Despite Support From the West (NYT).photo 2: Alexei Druzhinin/Pool – Reuters/RIA Novosti/ caption: Russia’s Prime Minister Vladimir Putin visits an agricultural exhibition at Russia’s Exhibition Centre in Moscow October 11, 2008.

  • bks3bks
  • Scarabus

    Disclaimer: I know a good bit about the relationship between image and identity, but I don’t pretend to be a shrink

    Physically, Putin is a small man. Many (most?) of his bare-chested “Kodak Moments” are obviously staged. (Russians themselves recognize that.) He’s determined to present himself as a big, tough, macho man.

    For anything constructive to come out of this, it’ll have to be something that allows Putin, not just to save face, but genuinely to feel his “tough guy” self-concept has been confirmed.

  • GeorgeMokray

    Putin’s and Russia’s homosexual panic is a symptom of the resurgence of totalitarianism and, sorry Michael Godwin, fascism. You can see it in the Golden Dawn of Greece and their persecution of immigrants, in Russia and other former Soviet Republics’ organized beatings of homosexuals, and the probable repeal of the Constitutional ban on sending the military abroad in Japan.

    Putin, whatever his sexuality, is signaling that he is not at all secure in his masculinity by his actions and his policies.

  • GeorgeMokray
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