nation: Russia

We’ve posted a number of posts about cultural appropriation in fashion, particularly when it comes to Native Americans. Kristyn G. sent in a link to a story at the Huffington Post about a recent fashion show in Moscow that brings up questions about cultural appropriation of another group. The show, from St. Bessarion, included female models in hats, sidecurls, and some articles of clothing inspired by things worn by Orthodox Jews, combined with distinctly non-Orthodox items.

It’s not the first time Orthodox-inspired clothing has appeared on the runway. For instance, in 1993 Jean Paul Gaultier put together a men’s line he called Chosen People, which the New York Times says it was the first Judaism-inspired clothing line from a well-known designer. According to an article I found at Racked, “the collection ruffled quite a few feathers in the religious community, many of whom felt that Gaultier had misappropriated elements of religion in a disrespectful, frivolous manner.” It was quite the production:


UPDATE: Just a quick note, since I see some confusion in the comments — the designer who recently made some horrid anti-Semitic remarks was John Galliano, not Jean Paul Gaultier.

Gwen Sharp is an associate professor of sociology at Nevada State College. You can follow her on Twitter at @gwensharpnv.

Katrin sent us a link to a image at GOOD that illustrates the geopolitics of first-person shooter video games. The image was created by a group at Complex to illustrate the way that the changing actual political landscape can be seen in the nationality of villains in video games. Peter Rubin, of Complex, explains, “Gone are the days of all FPSes being either World War II or sci-fi; in the new milennium, developers are on the hunt for enemies that are speculative but still plausible.”

They looked at 20 FPS games from the past decade (unfortunately, they give no details about how those 20 games were chosen

The selected titles:

Return to Castle Wolfenstein (2001): Germany
Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Desert Siege (2002): Ethiopia
Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Island Thunder (2003): Cuba
Delta Force: Black Hawk Down (2003): Somalia
Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Jungle Storm (2004): Colombia
Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon 2 (2004): North Korea
Joint Operations: Typhoon Rising (2004): Indonesia
Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon 2: Summit Strike (2005): Afghanistan
Delta Force Xtreme (2005): Chad
Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter (2006): Mexico
Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare (2007): Russia/Afghanistan
Army of Two (2008): Somalia/Afghanistan/China/Iraq
Frontlines: Fuel of War (2008): Russia/China
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 (2009): Russia/Afghanistan/Brazil
Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising (2009): China/Russia
Singularity (2010): Russia
MAG (2010): Russia/China/India
Army of Two: The 40th Day (2010): China
Homefront (2011): Korea (They don’t specify if it’s North or South Korea)
Operation Flashpoint: Red River (2011): China

Anyway, it provides a nice little illustration of the way that global politics seeps into this element of pop culture, as well as a snapshot of nations currently perceived as rivals or even enemies of the U.S. — a mixture of old tensions (Russia, Germany), ongoing anxiety about China, and emerging focal points.

We’ve discussed American Indian mascotsadvertising featuring anachronistic caricatures of American Indians, the ice skater who appropriated aboriginal culture, the lie at the heart of the famous crying Indian PSA, and the stunning irony that is Avatar, but we’ve never directly addressed the use and appropriation of the idea of the Eskimo.  The term refers to the Inuit and Yupik people in Eastern Russia, Alaska, Canada, and Greenland.

Russell Potter, a professor of English at Rhode Island College, collected a few vintage advertisements featuring the idea of the Eskimo.  He argues that they fall roughly into two camps: cheerful adorable Eskimo and the Eskimo as primitive and backwards.

These first two for apples and ginger ale fall into the first category:

But this ad presents the “Esquimaux” as “dull” and Grape Nuts as civilized:

Building on Potter’s collection, Adrienne at Native Appropriations posted some more contemporary uses of the Eskimo.

Eskimo Joe’s (Stillwater, OK) uses an image of an Eskimo looking downright ridiculous and very much like his dog:

Any child of the ’80s probably remembers the Lisa Frank Eskimo girl (which Adrienne points out looks decidely anglo):

And this ad seems to suggest that even decapitated walruses speak better English than Eskimos:

Here’s another example of the childlike Eskimo, tweeted to us by @Matthew_Kneale:


All of these ads turn Eskimos into (cute but inferior) childlike figures or (deficient and inferior) backwards adults, or some combination of the two.  For a population with essentially no contact with the Inuit or the Yupik, the idea that they are real human beings can become lost.  When real members of a group are invisible, imaginary representatives can be demonized or romanticized as we see fit.

Lisa Wade, PhD is an Associate Professor at Tulane University. She is the author of American Hookup, a book about college sexual culture; a textbook about gender; and a forthcoming introductory text: Terrible Magnificent Sociology. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

In the tradition of highlighting different Christmas characters (e.g., Krampus and Black Pete), we bring you Santa’s granddaughter Snegurochka, the “Snow Maiden.”  Snegurochka was brought to my attention by my Dmitriy T.M.

In Russia, Santa is frequently accompanied by Snegurochka. This allows female high school and college students to get in on the Christmas gig that, in the U.S., is restricted to guys with (fake) beards. Apparently lots of students get holiday work playing her.


Lisa Wade, PhD is an Associate Professor at Tulane University. She is the author of American Hookup, a book about college sexual culture; a textbook about gender; and a forthcoming introductory text: Terrible Magnificent Sociology. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

Dimitriy T.M. and Keith Marszalek sent in a video by Isao Hashimoto, posted at Wired. The video, titled 1945-1998, shows the location of all known nuclear tests during that period, as well as the nation conducting the tests. It starts off slowly (with the U.S. test during World War II and the two bombs dropped on Japan), and the U.S. has a monopoly on nuclear weapons for several years. By the early 1950s the number of tests starts to increase and the U.K. and Soviet Union start testing. By the late 1’50s and through the ’80s, the flashes indicating tests (with different sound effects to indicate different nation) are pretty much constant, and then drop off quite a lot by the ’90s.

The Wired article points out that there have been two more nuclear tests since 1998 (when the video ends), both by North Korea.

I found this graph over at the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty Organization website:

Broken down by type of test; since 1963 almost all testing has been underground:

They also have an interactive map that includes information such as who has signed the test-ban treaty, where tests have occurred, and locations of facilities under the international monitoring system. Here’s a map showing the status of the test-ban treaty; green nations have ratified it, light blue ones have signed but not ratified it, and red ones haven’t signed it (sorry I couldn’t quite fit the whole map on my screen at once, so the screenshot cuts off some areas):

Gwen Sharp is an associate professor of sociology at Nevada State College. You can follow her on Twitter at @gwensharpnv.

Tom Megginson of Change Marketing and Kandirra sent us a stunning example of the objectification of women in advertising. It’s a commercial for Rosgosstrakh, the largest insurance company in Russia, advertising their car insurance. How do they do so? By painting pictures of vehicles on (headless) women’s breasts and showing various hands fondling/smushing/jiggling them.

Reader lizardbreath pointed out that showing breasts on TV wouldn’t be as shocking in a lot of cultures as it would be in the U.S., which I think is a valid point. What makes it seem objectifying to both of us isn’t just the breasts themselves, but the headless women (so you have disembodied breasts). I also noticed that at one point a woman pushes the (also disembodied) male hands away, which implies she’s being groped when she doesn’t want to be.

Gwen M. sent in a story about a performance by Oksana Domnina and Maxim Shabalin at the Russian National Figure Skating Championships:

The pair won first place and plan to use the routine at the Vancouver Olympics next month. They explained that the routine (video below) was inspired by clips of Australian Aboriginal dance on the internet. About the idea, Domnina wrote: “I thought it was just crazy, but once we have tried it, we immediately fell in love with it.”

Bev Manton, the chair of the New South Wales Land Council thinks it’s less “crazy” and more offensive. She says:

I am offended by the performance and so our other councillors… Aboriginal people for very good reason are sensitive about their cultural objects and icons being co-opted by non-Aboriginal people – whether they are from Australia or Russia.

It’s important for people to tread carefully and respectfully when they are depicting somebody else’s culture and I don’t think this performance does.

The routine:

Sources (text; image).  Via Racilicious.

Lisa Wade, PhD is an Associate Professor at Tulane University. She is the author of American Hookup, a book about college sexual culture; a textbook about gender; and a forthcoming introductory text: Terrible Magnificent Sociology. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

Even the most cursory discussion of the history of women’s paid employment in the U.S. will include the importance of World War II, when the scarcity of men meant many jobs became available to women for the first time.

The U.S. wasn’t the only place this happened, of course. In the face of a massive attack by the Nazis, the Soviet Union allowed women to occupy combat positions, including setting up three regiments to fly night bombing raids (according to Wikipedia, it was the first nation to allow women to do so). The regiments became known as the Night Witches:

“We slept in anything we could find—holes in the ground, tents, caves—but the Germans had to have their barracks, you know. They are very precise. So their barracks were built, all in a neat row, and we would come at night, after they were asleep, and bomb them. Of course, they would have to run out into the night in their underwear, and they were probably saying,—Oh, those night witches!’ Or maybe they called us something worse. We, of course, would have preferred to have been called ‘night beauties,’ but, whichever, we did our job.”

Members of the 588th Night Bomber Regiment:

Lilya Litvyak:

In this video, Lidiya Gudovantseva recalls working as a sniper, including the first time she had to kill a German soldier and later being injured herself:

When the war ended, many women in the U.S. were pressured to leave their jobs; similarly, female Soviet soldiers found that opportunities for promotion dried up during peace time. They were apparently even barred from military colleges, closing off many positions to them altogether, though the military’s draft policies stipulated that women should be called up next time there was a war. Women served as a reserve labor force for the military, to be called up when needed (and praised on Soviet propaganda posters) but pushed out of the ranks to provide room for men the rest of the time.