Or from its president, to men in his country and probably everywhere. It's always educational to realize how very rare gender equality is in this world, of course, though I hate being reminded of that. But in a slightly different sense this whole story really is about a place where powerful men don't even have to pretend to view women as co-citizens.
Here's what happened:
Ramzan A. Kadyrov, the pugnacious president of the southern Republic of Chechnya and a close ally of President Vladimir V. Putin, finally had enough Wednesday of social media users’ mocking him relentlessly for seeming to push polygamy.
His solution? Keep women locked up at home and off social media.
“Lock them in, do not let them go out, and they will not post anything,” Mr. Kadyrov said in a video to a sheepish group of men and women who kept their arms folded across their chests and their eyes firmly on the ground during the harangue.
The scene, filmed at what appears to be his government palace and broadcast on local television, was prompted by what Mr. Kadyrov, who has long shown a flair for hyperbole, described as “The Wedding of the Millennium.”
The social media explosion was set off last weekend in Grozny, the Chechen capital, when a 17-year-old bride was married off to a pal of Mr. Kadyrov’s, a district police chief pushing 50 and reportedly already married.
The first report of the betrothal had emerged in late April in the Novaya Gazeta newspaper, which reported that the police chief, Nazhud Guchigov, had ordered the young woman’s parents to hand her over by May 2 or he would take her by force.
After the article was published, Mr. Kadyrov jumped into the action, saying he had investigated the marriage proposal and found both the young bride, Kheda Goylabiyeva, and her family agreeable.
Poor, poor bride. She looks scared and miserable in her wedding dress, while the thirty years older groom looks, well, determined and expectant.
But wait! There's more:
Pavel Astakhov, the Kremlin official who is supposed to protect children’s rights in Russia, defended the practice of older men taking young brides. During a radio interview, he suggested that was especially the case in places like Chechnya where women were “shriveled” by the age of 27, looking at that age like most Russian women do at 50.Astakhov is the officer who is supposed to protect children's rights in Russia! I wonder how he was chosen for the job.
His remarks prompted another wave of outrage, with hundreds of Russian women in their 20s posting pictures with the hashtag #wrinkledwomen. Mr. Astakhov apologized, saying that women of all ages were “wonderful and delightful.”
Astakhov's apology is worth quoting in full, because it so clearly reflects traditional gender roles and because it shows he doesn't get it at all:
"Women of any age are splendid and adorable," he writes. "God created Woman so that we could love her, defend her, take care of her, glorify her. A clumsy comparison, a rash word taken out of the context of discourse cannot change my attitude to the Fair Sex. I've loved, love and shall love and respect [them]! I apologize for the mistake I've made!"
Mmm. Tastes like 1950s America to me.
There are two points to this post:
First, most of this globe is terrible on gender equity, some places being pure hell (Islamic State) and many others showing the types of values this story demonstrates, or "traditional" values which almost always define women as second-class citizens whose concerns can be fairly safely ignored in most politics.
Second, things are changing, albeit slowly. Russian women protested the forced marriage of a young girl to a district police chief and the fact that this police officer (!) was breaking the law by already having at least one wife, and they also ridiculed the inanities which leaked out of Astakhov's mouth. That horse cannot be returned to its patriarchal stable.
Still, isn't the statement "lock up your women" just utterly delicious? It's the perfect summary of assumed male supremacy: The women are yours and you have the right to lock them up.*
*This doesn't mean that Russian or Chechen men would necessarily think like that. But president Kadyrov clearly does.