RUSSIA: Sex, women, Putin, and viral videos

See video

Young women calling on co-enthusiasts to rip off their clothes for Putin last summer, seemed to have disappeared from the scene after making the headlines for a couple of weeks. As the election season draws to a close in Russia, now, it is worth taking a look back at how that movement evolved, and how it inspired other women - both, for and against Putin - to get creative.

Here, it is important to revisit the concept of ‘2.0,' the use of which has been on the rise recently. Wikipedia defines Web 2.0 as:

[…] a loosely defined intersection of web application features that facilitate participatory information sharing, interoperability, user-centered design, and collaboration on the World Wide Web. A Web 2.0 site allows users to interact and collaborate with each other in a social media dialogue as creators (prosumers) of user-generated content in a virtual community, in contrast to websites where users (consumers) are limited to the passive viewing of content that was created for them.

The 2012 presidential election campaign in Russia, has in many ways deserved the 2.0 title. Not only has it mobilized the public both online and on the streets to take ownership of their politics, but it has also given way to incredible creativity on both sides of the camp. The Internet has become the outlet where they share it all, effectively engaging in virtual video arguments of a sort.

Pro-Putin

Putin's Army‘ [ru] is just one of the many examples. Since their peak of prominence, the ‘Army' has produced two soundtracks - one of which is their ‘Anthem‘, while the other is called ‘Go, Vova Putin!‘ - and several other provocative videos.

One of the most recent videos was an attempt at a hip-hop song, that attracted - yet again - some unfriendly feedback in the comments section:

Another one, released a couple of days before the elections, featured a young woman in a suggestive photo shoot. Towards the end she quotes Putin, which, if taken verbatim, can be interpreted in a very different light: “If one does not believe that it will rise, they will never have it up.”

The numerous comments ridiculing the video, were quickly removed from the section below.

Around the same time that Putin's Army came about, there was another group, ‘Devochki Za‘ (Girls for [Putin]), actively putting out music tracks (see the Vkontake page) and videos in Putin's support, as well. Their most recent video featured a fight for Putin among young women, who, according to the lyrics, are unhappy with all other potential suitors:

In February, there was another series of videos released, starring a new team of young women who - in different settings - discuss their ‘first time' (i.e. in terms of sexual experience), relating it all to Putin. The organization - ‘Pervyi Raz‘ [ru] (The First Time) - is encouraging the young electorate to get out and vote. More specifically, it encourages them to vote for Putin, because, at the motto goes, “the first time has to be out of love”.

In the first video, the young woman is discussing her experience with a psychologist:

The second one takes place at a gynecologist's, where he emphasizes the need for protection:

In the third video, the young woman is getting advice from a fortune teller, who mysteriously picks up a card featuring Putin with what appears to be a halo:

The comments from viewers are far from friendly, and yet, despite being released ten days prior to this writing, they have already gotten hundreds of thousands of views.

Anti-Putin

On the other end of the spectrum, however, there has also been quite a lot of ridicule and resistance coming from young women. Perhaps the very first example emerged back in August, soon after the Putin's Army came about. F1 Studio produced the following video featuring young women exposing Putin's Army, and asking young women to what lengths would they go to have “a normal president”:

As a response to the “First Time” project, celebrity and TV persona Kseniya Sobchak released the following video just a day before the elections, discussing her “third time” with a gynecologist, who suggests that she changes her partner. Surprised, she asks if that is possible. “I'm afraid I'll get some sort of a bug!” she says. “Like… an Orange one.” The doctor reassures her that she can protect herself with “the White” (reference to the white ribbon, the symbol of the protesters).

Then, there is the feminist punk band Pussy Riot [ru], who has been engaging in flash gigs all over Moscow in the recent months, including a performance on the Red Square (after which they were detained by the police):

They were also the ones to have caused an uproar earlier in February for holding a ‘prayer session‘ at Moscow's largest cathedral and calling on the Theotokos to do away with Putin:

Since then, the Church has brought charges of inciting religious hatred against the female band.

That “sex sells” is a well-known fact for marketeers and public relations specialists. Such campaigns demonstrate that in Russia this notion is also true of politics, as well, and that women are and can be vocal political activists, too, both online and on the streets.

This post is part of our special coverage Russia Elections 2011/12.

By Yelena Osipova in Global Voices.